Professional Expense Accounts

 

For clinicians and clinicians-to-be

Imagine going to your Medical Director and saying, “As I work here day-to-day, I can see that burnout is going to be a real concern. I really want to stay for the long term. Since our organization doesn’t have a prevention program, I found one with CME . . . and I want to pay for it out of my professional expenses account.”

 

“Sounds like a good idea.”

 

“No”

 

That was the first clue that perhaps clinician well-being wasn’t a priority.

 

The above story is 100% true.

 

When things get rough financially, tightening the definition of “professional expenses” is the go-to move for the mediocre organization.

 

When recruiting you, many organizations will trumpet their “professional expenses account.”

 

This is usually a yearly expense account from which you can pay all manner of professional expenses. Commonly funded year-to-year, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

 

Licensure fees, approved CME, books.

 

They’re usually $3,000 to $5,000 dollars and are touted as a great benefit.

 

As long as the expense is approved, you won’t have to pay a thing.

 

As always, the devil is in the details.

 

In other words, don’t believe it.

 

Many clinicians who sign on find they are the victim of the ole’ bait and switch.

 

Once you’re hired, the broad description of what those monies can pay for gets very narrow, very quickly.

 

Suddenly, you can’t use it to buy books. Or more than one year of your board fees. And the definition of “appropriate” CME becomes very narrow indeed.

 

And when overall financial performance suffers, these funds are often the very first thing to get locked down.

 

Suddenly, “Anything professional” becomes “only licenses and yearly board fees.”

 

I’m not talking about clinicians scamming for dubious CME junkets to Hawaii. I’m talking about straightforward courses, books and subscriptions.

 

“If you can physically take it with you, you can’t expense it.” is a common mantra.

 

Another classic scam is to shift all the participation fees that you have to pay to be part of a Physician-Hospital Organization or an insurance network, get cost shifted to that account. You didn’t make the decision to join them (often they’re created for the financial engineering that benefits your organization), but you gotta pay.

 

It gets worse the closer you get to the end of your organization’s fiscal year. As administrators try to meet budget, lockdown gets really harsh.  So if you do want to try and use the funds, earlier in the fiscal year is better.

 

But your best bet with this benefit is to count on it for your license fees and nothing more.

 

I was never going to be there for anything else, so you’ve lost nothing.

 

Except respect for your employer.

 

And those who execute their policies.

 

 

 


 

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