4 Keys to Physician Recruitment During the Shortage

The challenge of physician recruitment is intensifying, as hospitals and health systems compete for a dwindling number of physicians. The number of primary care physicians in the market is slowly shrinking as fewer medical students enter the pipeline. In fact, the Association of Medical Colleges has predicted the nation will be short 62,900 physicians by 2015.

"As a result of the shortage, we’ve seen more hospitals in nationwide competition for the shrinking pool of physicians," says Tony Stajduhar, president of the permanent recruitment division of Jackson & Coker, a national physician recruitment firm. The increased competition means hospitals and health systems must be at the top of their game in order to recruit quality physicians.

Here, Mr. Stajduhar shares four keys to successful physician recruitment during the physician shortage.

1. Identify the need as soon as possible. It will likely take a minimum of one year to recruit, sign and get a physician to start his or her new position, according to Mr. Stajduhar. Hospitals should anticipate six months to advertise the position, interview and sign a physician.  Then it may take six more months for the physician to shut a practice down, move and obtain a new license.

Done correctly, long-term planning and identifying physician needs can pay off during the physician shortage. Mr. Stajduhar recommends planning for physician recruitment two to five years in advance. "If you do it year to year, you will always be putting out fires," he says. When making the long-term list, hospitals and health systems need to be sure the needs on the list are legitimate. "It's not just a wish list," he cautions. Instead, the list should be physicians the facility or system absolutely will need.

2. Recruit with a sense of urgency. Along with planning in advance for future physician needs, once a physician is found, hospitals need to move quickly to sign him or her. "When it is time for action, whether for a call, setting dates, providing sample agreements, etc., [hospitals] need to be all over it," Mr. Stajduhar says.  

Part of moving with urgency is having the C-suite make timely follow-up calls and having a boilerplate contract already drawn up before interviews, so the candidate can have a contract in hand as soon as possible. "I'm not [suggesting] to come up with something quickly; do due diligence," Mr. Stajduhar cautions. "But there should be no hold up. The leg work should be done on the front end to avoid delays." That way, quality physicians are locked down before they can be offered a position elsewhere.

3. "Wow" each candidate.
With remaining physicians in high demand, impressing each and every candidate becomes more important. "Physicians and [their] families are like everyone else, they need to feel wanted and needed both professionally and personally," explains Mr. Stajduhar. "[Recruitment] success stories are those that bring people into the interview process and make the entire family feel needed and welcome." In order to impress the entire family and make candidates feel special, hospitals should tailor the interview process for each candidate when possible.

Mr. Stajduhar emphasizes that physicians are much more likely to take a position at a hospital that takes steps to impress them. "If you're not doing this, and they're interviewing elsewhere and someone else is, I can promise you the other hospital will win."

4. Be financially competitive. It's a physician's market, so to speak, and since they are in such high demand, they expect to be compensated competitively. "It's out there everywhere, they know the competitive salary range," Mr. Stajduhar says, so hospitals must be able to compete financially in order to attract quality physicians. If a hospital or health system doesn't compete financially, "it's a hard sell to even get the interview," Mr. Stajduhar says.

Even though the physician shortage has recruitment competition on the rise, hospitals and health systems that adhere to these four keys are more likely to be successful in today's market.

More Articles on Physician Recruitment:

Telemedicine Fills Physician Recruitment Gaps at Nantucket Cottage Hospital
The Year Ahead: 10 Challenges That Will Shape Hospital Strategy
How Has the Rise of Physician Employment Changed Hospitals' Recruitment Strategies?

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