What do I charge as an on-call associate veterinarian?

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Q. My hospital would like me to take on call shifts of 10 to 12 hours, where Id return to the hospital from home as needed. Being called in would be unusual, as emergency work here is infrequent and our capabilities are limited. How should I charge for these shifts? The hospital cant afford my regular hourly wage, but if I charge on production, I wont make enough money.

Q. My hospital would like me to take “on call” shifts of 10 to 12 hours, where I'd return to the hospital from home as needed. Being called in would be unusual, as emergency work here is infrequent and our capabilities are limited. How should I charge for these shifts? The hospital can't afford my regular hourly wage, but if I charge on production, I won't make enough money.

One option for those on call at home is taking 100 percent of the emergency fee as payment for being on call, says Gary Glassman, CPA, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and partner at Burzenski & Company, P.C. in East Haven, Connecticut. If your hospital charges an after-hours office visit fee of $65 and an after-hours emergency fee of $85, then you'd be paid $85 plus your normal hourly rate for time spent in the hospital. In this example, the total paid to you would be $98-$85 + $13 (which is 20 percent of the office visit fee).

Options for on-call time

> Emergency fee plus percentage of office-visit fee

> Percentage of office-call fee (say, 20 percent)

> Two different fees: a small fixed payment for when you're on call, and a much higher one if you're on call and required to go in to see a patient

Another option-courtesy of Karen Felsted, CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM, CVA, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of PantheraT Veterinary Consulting in Dallas, Texas-is to break the shift into two pieces: 1) the on-call portion and 2) the time incurred if the doctor goes into the practice.

“I think there should be a small fixed payment just for the inconvenience of being on call and the limitations it puts on the veterinarian's personal time,” Felsted says. “This payment would cover a reasonable number of phone calls, maybe one or two hours at the hourly rate you agree upon.”

This way, you still get paid even if there aren't calls. And you're paid the hourly rate for time going into the hospital to see cases. Another option would be to have two flat rates: one for covering the shift without going in, and another for covering the shift if you do go in, Felsted says.

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