7 Steps for Hospitals to Recruit Specialists in a Competitive Market

The market for recruiting physicians to hospitals has become competitive due to the shortage of physicians and the push to align with physicians for accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes and other collaborative models. Hospital leaders may have to be creative in how they attract specialists to their programs to get the candidate they want. Tom Florence, senior vice president of recruiting at Merritt Hawkins, offers seven steps hospitals can take to successfully recruit specialists in a competitive environment.

1. Verify the need. "The first step a hospital should take before embarking on recruitment is to verify the need," Mr. Florence says. He suggests assessing current hospital programs' volume to ensure that any specialist who is hired would be busy. He also recommends consulting with primary care physicians to determine which specialists have waiting lists and would thus offer enough business to sustain a new physician. 

2. Understand the market. The next step hospitals should take is studying the marketplace to gain an understanding of the number of candidates available for a specific specialty. For example, there are fewer oncologists than family practitioners to choose from, Mr. Florence says.

3. Develop a competitive financial package. After studying the market, hospitals should create a competitive financial package that includes a base salary, potential bonuses and benefits. The financial package should be competitive not only locally, but nationally to attract a greater pool of people. In addition, a hospital should prepare the contract before inviting a physician for an interview to show the physician upfront what the hospital is offering in writing, according to Mr. Florence. "[Physicians] are not going to accept a position until they see a contract they're comfortable with," he says.

Mr. Florence says hospitals can increase their chance of successfully recruiting specialists by being creative in their compensation package, such as by increasing housing assistance and stipends. For example, Merritt Hawkins has seen clients help physicians sell or take over payments for their current house to help them move to the hospital's community, Mr. Florence says. Hospitals can modify basic compensation plans to reflect a specialist's personal needs or preferences. "Make offers around the candidate," Mr. Florence says. "Be creative with packages to help that candidate [choose the hospital]."

4. Conduct a national search. "In today's competitive market, you have to do a national search," Mr. Florence says. He suggests hospitals use social media and other recruiting tools that can reach a broad audience. In addition, Mr. Florence says hospitals should search for a high-quality specialist that they need rather than an all-star. "If [hospitals] make their parameters small, they are really limited in the amount of candidates they can find."

5. Consider employment. Mr. Florence says hospitals may need to consider employing specialists when recruiting because of a growing desire among physicians for a certain lifestyle or security that hospital employment may offer. Employment may be particularly attractive to solo practitioners, according to Mr. Florence. Solo physicians take a big risk when moving into a community because they are without backups or assistance for on-call duty. "If you employ physicians, you take away a lot of the risk," Mr. Florence says.

6. Provide staff and technology support. Hospitals may be more likely to successfully recruit specialists if they offer adequate staff support and the kind of technology the specialists want. Some specialists, however, may come with their own support. "If you're looking for a top-notch cardiology or orthopedic surgeon, they may have staff they want to bring with them," Mr. Florence says. Hospital leaders may need to sign physician assistants and other personnel specialists have to make them feel supported in their position.

Having modern technology is also important when recruiting specialists, especially for hospitals in smaller communities. "Most specialty training is done in larger cities," Mr. Florence says. "There's a perception of fear when a candidate considers an opportunity in a smaller town, a perception that [the hospital] might not have back-up or that the equipment will not be on par."

7. "Roll out the red carpet" in the interview. "It's a physician's market; they can choose where they want to be," Mr. Florence says. "So when a [hospital] does identify a good candidate, you have to make sure that once you bring [him or her] in, you put on a really good interview process." Hospital leaders should allow the candidate to meet other physicians at the hospital and spend time with the candidate themselves. Organizing a social gathering with spouses can also make the candidate feel valued by the hospital and more comfortable in the environment, Mr. Florence says. He also suggests moving quickly with an offer after the interview, as hospitals that wait too long risk losing the candidate to another organization.

Learn more about Merritt Hawkins.

Related Articles on Hospital Specialty Programs:

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