Recruit Physicians Like an Academic Medical Center: 3 Tips for Community Hospitals

Physician recruitment has always been a competitive arena for hospitals and health systems, and it is poised to become more competitive as the supply of physicians dwindles. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that the nation will be short more than 91,000 physicians by 2020.

For small, rural and community hospitals, the competition can be even fiercer, as many physicians prefer to practice in urban settings, and those who desire to perform research tend to be drawn to larger academic medical centers.

But community hospitals shouldn't give up hope in attracting the primary care and specialty physicians they need. While offering competitive compensation, a loan repayment program or housing assistance have been go-tos for many smaller hospitals, these hospitals do have other tactics or approaches they can take when recruiting physicians that will give them more equal footing with academic medical centers. Below are three that are becoming more common in the industry.

Bring in support through midlevel providers
Having a robust residency program can be a selling point for many physicians, according to Joshua Yedvab, vice president of network development at Oceanside, N.Y.-based South Nassau Communities Hospital. "In many cases, physicians are looking for an academic environment and the support that comes on an inpatient unit from a residency program," he says. However, most community hospitals have a limited number of residents available or no residents at all.

But lacking residents doesn't necessarily have to put community hospitals out of the running. Instead, these hospitals can invest in hiring and using advanced-practice clinicians who can provide support, according to John Staley, MD, president of recruitment and retention TeamHealth.

Mr. Yedvab notes this approach has been put into practice at SNCH. "We have midlevel providers assigned to units that aren't covered by our residents," he says, which makes the hospital more attractive to physicians who want academic stimulation and practice support.

Look for affiliates
Just because many community hospitals don't have the resources to maintain some of the programs common in their larger, research-minded counterparts, does not mean offering those attractive programs is impossible. For example, SNCH has an academic affiliation with the Hofstra NorthShore LIJ School of Medicine which offers faculty appointments to those members of SNCH’s medical staff that apply. For physicians looking for the opportunity to teach medical students and stay active academically, it helps attract and keep physicians on the medical staff. SNCH also participates in a shared  pediatrics hospitalist program with Winthrop University Hospital, and the pediatrics unit is also supported by rotating residents from Winthrop.

"The things that you don't have that your larger counterparts do have, look for affiliations and partnerships where you can align and provide the highest quality service to the communities you serve," Mr. Yedvab urges.

Don't discount communications
Many hospitals, even large ones, struggle to maintain a robust website and social media presence. But small or community hospitals especially should make a point to attempt a strong Internet presence, as it can have a large impact on their physician recruitment efforts. "It is an important aspect of promoting physicians professionally," Mr. Yedvab says.

In other words, hospitals should be able to show physicians how they will support their practice and promote them to the community. That could be through the hospital's website or social media platform as well as through publications, newsletters or arranging interviews with local magazines and newspapers. "My physicians love when they're asked to do that," Mr. Yedvab says, and it can be a big selling point during recruitment.

By using advanced practitioners, affiliating when possible and offering creative ways to promote physicians professionally, community hospitals can compete with academic medical centers to attract quality physicians to serve their patients.

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