Don’t sign anything: Advice when hospital administration has you against the wall

If you think you are the only one being threatened by the chief medical officer (CMO) and/or the medical executive committee (MEC) think again.

If you’re thinking it is going to get better or that they have your best interests in mind, also think again.

You are in an unfortunate and common situation happening throughout the country. If you have been called into an abrupt and unannounced meeting and been told to “resign or else,” don’t be afraid to say no. It is a proven fact that most doctors, because of the horrors of residency, suffer from battered adult syndrome. Meaning all the fear and intimidation, statistically, doctors felt for his or her attending physician in residency, gets assigned to the administrators of the hospital. Doctors have become literally terrified of management, but they do not have to be.

If you are ever in this situation, remember, you have an employment contract. There are terms in that employment contract that dictate the circumstance and procedures for terminating your employment or privileges. In other words, a doctor cannot be forced to sign a resignation agreement or terminated on the spot. The grounds for termination are more than likely laid out in the employment contract. At the very least, read the employment contract before you sign an unprompted resignation letter. Hire an attorney to help you decipher your contract if need be. Whatever you do, don’t sign a resignation document you did not see coming.

By signing a document of resignation, you have increased the difficulty of pursing many legal actions against the employer — because in the eyes of the law you resigned. The reality is if management has pulled you aside in this way, it is probably time to seek new employment — but seek it on your terms, not theirs. Also, when you do decide to formally give notice, it would be wise to get a separation agreement on your way out. Doctors on average complete 12 credentialing applications a year. The last thing you need is your former employer disparaging you when your next employer makes inquiries to them about you and your performance. An attorney can assist you with this as well.

Doctors have the power to protect themselves against the whims of management; they should not be afraid to exercise those powers. Without medical professionals, a hospital is just a building filled with sick people. Doctors provide one of the most important functions in our society, curing our ailments. It’s time for doctors to put their foot down to hospital administration.

Shari Covington is an attorney, Physicians’ Advocates.

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