As Dr. L enters his final year of training as a sports medicine fellow, he is excited to begin his physician job search in Chicago. He plans to move back to the neighborhood where he grew up, and he already has his eye on a physician-owned practice that works with a few of the area’s sports teams. Of course, he will consider other opportunities in Chicago, but he keeps reading about the physician shortage, so he assumes he will have multiple offers from which to choose.
Are Dr. L’s physician job search expectations realistic? He is certainly right about the physician shortage. The latest data from AAMC projects the nation will experience a shortage of up to 48,000 primary care physicians and an additional 77,100 non-primary care specialists by the year 2034. So, in light of this news, physicians should feel confident in their ability to find a job…as long as they keep an open mind about how and where they practice.
The demand for physicians varies greatly by specialty and location. For Dr. L, the need for physicians trained in sports medicine in Chicago will not be as high as the need for primary care physicians–and the need in Chicago may not be as great as the need in the upper Midwest. Does this mean he should give up on his dream of working with athletes and building a sports medicine practice in the Windy City? Not necessarily–but there are some worthwhile reasons he should remain open to other locations and types of physician jobs.
If you are like Dr. L and have a very specific idea of how and where your physician career should progress, we propose the following three reasons to consider broadening your physician job search parameters.
1. Higher Physician Compensation
With the cost of living generally higher in major metros, one might assume physician compensation would also be higher. However, healthcare organizations in urban areas have far more physician applicants than those in less populated regions. So, employers in bigger cities may not offer as many incentives to attract quality physicians. Even the salary guarantee may be on the lower end. In an article for the NEJM Career Center, JPS President Tony Stadjahar reports an average pay difference of 5%-10% more at rural organizations. However, considering the lower cost of living in rural areas, the impact may be far more than the percentage indicates.
Okay, so physicians seeking jobs in urban areas may not see as many incentives as those searching in rural areas, but when building a practice, the earning potential is likely much bigger in a more populated area, right? Not necessarily. The higher population does not equate to a higher volume of patients due to the saturation of the market.
“For most physicians, location is the biggest driver of their job search,” says Tara Osseck, VIce President of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search’s Midwest Division. “They are so focused on a specific city, but they’ll often find the market is saturated, so their earning potential is not what they hoped.”
Bigger cities have a higher volume of physicians of every specialty, so patients have more options. For this reason, it may actually be harder to build a solid patient base and earn a competitive income in an urban area.
Takeaway: If compensation is a top priority, consider expanding your search outside of major metro areas.
2. Less Competition
The physician shortage is a well-documented threat to our nation’s healthcare infrastructure, and yet, it may not feel like there is a shortage when competing for jobs in a major metro area. Many physicians focus their job search on one city and find themselves competing with other physicians who have their minds made up about the same location. These physicians will find significantly less competition if they broaden their geographical search parameters.
But location isn’t the only area to expand. Physicians who are set on a certain scope or type of practice will run into more competition than those who are flexible about the types of patients they see. For example, Dr. L is completing a fellowship in sports medicine, so of course he wants to limit his scope of practice to this field. But the demand for sports medicine physicians is far less than the need for physicians who are willing to see a wider variety of patients.
“The biggest need right now is for physicians who can be flexible and provide a wide scope of practice,” says Director of Recruiting, Katie Moeller. “Of course it’s okay to share your preferences for the types of patients you hope to see, but a willingness to take cases outside of your sub-specialization will make you a more attractive candidate.”
If Dr. L plans to only pursue sports medicine jobs, the opportunities will be few and the competition will be high. On the other hand, if he agrees to treat cases that were aligned with his residency training too, he will find more physician job openings and far less competition.
Takeaway: If your physician job search is stalling, it may be due to high competition for the jobs to which you are applying. Consider broadening your job search parameters to include more opportunities that may be less competitive.
3. More Rewarding
While physician compensation is extremely important, most physicians also enjoy the personal rewards that come with improving the lives of patients. The feeling of goodwill that comes with acts of service may be compounded in physicians working in medically underserved areas. While these could be urban or rural, it’s worth considering the benefits of practicing rural medicine when you think about expanding your physician job search outside of urban areas.
In a joint study from LocumTenens.com and Jackson Physician Search on Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing, rural physicians reported the most common reason for choosing to practice in a rural area was improved work-life balance, followed closely by higher compensation, and a more affordable cost of living. So in addition to the satisfaction of treating the underserved, a healthy work-life balance and a reduced chance of burnout are rewards that few physicians in urban areas can claim.
The Takeaway: Keep an open mind about the various directions your physician career could take. You may find greater happiness in unexpected places.
While it’s normal to have a vision of the type of practice you want to build and where you want to live, it’s important to keep an open mind and investigate opportunities outside of your current vision. Work with a trusted physician recruiter who will take the time to get to know you and understand what it is you want most in a job. If this recruiter presents you with an opportunity they think will be a good fit, trust their instincts and give it the consideration it deserves.
If you are a physician preparing for a job search, talk to the healthcare industry professionals at Jackson Physician Search. Our recruiters have the experience and nationwide network to help you find the opportunity that best fits your personal and professional needs. Contact us today or download the Physician Job Search Playbook for everything you need to know to get started.
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