3 Ways to Support and Retain Women Physicians

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Dr. B stared blankly at her patient as she considered his comment: “I just think I’d like to hear a male doctor’s opinion if you don’t mind.” Well, actually she did mind. In fact, she minded a little more each time she heard it–or some variation of the same comment. Hadn’t she gone to medical school just as long as her male colleagues? Worked as many hours in residency? Treated three times as many patients as some of her younger male peers? But Dr. B didn’t say any of that. Instead, she left the room and moved on to her next patient. 

You may read this story and think, surely, this sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore–at least not in my organization. Perhaps you’re right, but according to an article for the AMA, 70% of women physicians reported experiencing some form of gender discrimination. Whether it’s coming from a patient who assumes she’s a nurse, a manager pushing back on her maternity leave, or a peer talking over her in a meeting, discrimination against female physicians is not as uncommon as most of us would hope. 

According to a January 2022 article from Harvard Business Review, women physicians are also dealing with higher rates of burnout, lower levels of professional fulfillment, and higher rates of depression than their male peers. So perhaps it’s not hard to imagine that as physician turnover increases, women may be more likely than men to be among those changing jobs, cutting their hours, or leaving the profession entirely. 

The trend is especially concerning when you consider that women make up one-third of the physician population, and they outnumber male students in medical school. As female representation increases in medicine, this trend will cause an already dire physician shortage to get significantly worse.

Even before the pandemic, studies documented that women were more likely than men to leave the profession or decrease their hours. So the question is not if they are more likely to leave, but why? And what can be done to prevent them from leaving? 

Why Are Women Leaving Medicine?

The aforementioned article from Harvard Business Review explores precisely this question. The authors cite evidence to suggest medicine takes a greater toll on women for multiple reasons: 1) Women spend more time with patients and more time charting than men, 2) They have more obligations outside of work than their male peers, and 3) They receive less recognition, respect, and compensation for their efforts. Consequently, many female physicians would not choose the career again nor would they recommend it to a prospective medical school student.

It doesn’t have to be this way. By identifying–and addressing–the unique challenges women physicians face, employers can improve the female physician experience, increase retention rates, and take a critical step in combating the worsening physician shortage.   

How to Support Women in Medicine 

Work-life balance, equity, respect. While all physicians need these things, the data indicates women are more likely to report dissatisfaction in these areas, likely contributing to the elevated turnover among female physicians. Employers must adequately respond to the specific challenges women in medicine face by taking steps to improve in the following areas: 

1. Improve Work-Life Balance

The importance of work-life balance appears to be increasing with each new generation, but for women especially, who spend more time on non-professional work outside of the office, work-life balance often continues to be out of reach. The pandemic worsened the problem, with one study showing women physicians were more than 30 times as likely to be responsible for childcare and schooling during that time. Employers that recognize this challenge and offer ways to help women achieve their ideal work-life balance will be more likely to retain those physicians.

The ideal work-life balance looks different for everyone, so talk to your physicians–male and female–about what is most important to them. Some may prioritize a more flexible schedule, but here too, what is ideal will vary for each individual. Whether it’s a 4-day work week, 7 days on / 7 days off, job sharing, part-time, or working telehealth or admin days at home, employers must recognize that a flexible schedule is just that–flexible–and if they hope to improve work-life balance, employers will need to offer a variety of options. 

Of course, work-life balance isn’t only about the schedule. Providing increased administrative support can do wonders to improve a physician’s experience at work. Hiring a medical scribe to help with charting and other administrative burdens, will put precious hours back in a physician’s day.

2. Commit to Equal Pay and Opportunity

According to a December 2021 study published in Health Affairs, male physicians earn an average of $2 million dollars more than women over the course of a medical career. Additionally, women receive fewer awards, are invited to speak less often, are published less frequently, and hold fewer leadership roles. Studies suggest the COVID-19 pandemic worsened these disparities.

Organizations should commit to pay transparency and productivity models that factor in the nuances of treating different types of patients. The HBR article points out that female physicians are more likely than men to treat female patients, whose preventative care (pelvic and breast exams) require longer visits. Risk-adjusted panel payments should take these complexities into account.

Employers should also pursue diversity in leadership and ensure women have equal access to current leaders and the opportunity to train and learn from them. Develop a leadership program specifically for women and assign female mentors when possible. Additionally, provide coaching for male leaders and physicians so they learn to identify and overcome their own unconscious bias.

3. Increase Support and Respect

There’s no doubt that practicing medicine today is not easy for anyone. However, studies indicate the job may take a greater toll on women. Not only do women have a harder time decompressing outside of work, they often spend more time with patients, more time charting, and may experience more empathy for patients than their male peers. While some studies suggest these qualities may result in better outcomes, they can also take a greater toll and lead to higher rates of burnout. 

The solution here mirrors the prior points. Flexible schedules, help with administrative burdens, and a mentorship program will go a long way to decrease the toll practicing medicine takes on women. Show further support by encouraging them to take time off, pursue hobbies, or get involved with a charity–anything to help them disconnect from the stress of practicing medicine. 

And finally, in addition to your support, women physicians need your respect. Show it to them by asking questions and including them when making decisions.    

Taking steps to address these challenges will not go unnoticed by your women physicians. By providing improved work-life balance, equal opportunity, and increased support, you will lift job satisfaction, improve retention rates, and ease the impact of the physician shortage. 

If your organization is seeking physicians or advanced practice providers to support your current team, the Jackson Physician Search Recruitment team is happy to offer our expertise. Contact us today.

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3 Challenges Female Physicians Face–And How to Overcome Them

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Dr. S pulled her car into the garage at nearly 8 pm. Her husband had relieved the nanny hours ago and likely fed the kids dinner already, but there were still school folders to go through, homework to help with, tomorrow’s lunches to make, and of course, bedtime to contend with. She wasn’t complaining–she enjoyed these tasks of motherhood–but she was just tired.  And of course, there was still charting to do once the kids were in bed. She knew her work as an oncologist was important, as was her job as a mother, but there simply weren’t enough hours in the day to actually enjoy either one. 

Dr. J tried to mask her irritation with her colleagues during their weekly meeting. As an orthopedic surgeon, she was used to being outnumbered by the men in her field, but even after more than a decade of working alongside them, she still didn’t always feel comfortable. The resentment she felt toward her male peers contributed to her discomfort, of course. She repeatedly watched them get invited to speak at conferences and win awards and promotions for which she was just as worthy. She suspected they earned more than her too, but she had no proof. She knew it was best not to dwell on it–just focus on her patients and do her job.  

Dr. B stared blankly at her patient as she considered his comment: “I just think I’d like to hear a male doctor’s opinion, if you don’t mind.” Well, actually she did mind. In fact, she minded a little more each time she heard it–or some variation of the same comment. Hadn’t she gone to medical school just as long as her male peers? Hadn’t she studied just as hard? Worked as many hours in residency? But Dr. B didn’t say any of that. Instead, she left the room and moved onto her next patient. 

Dr. S, Dr. J, and Dr. B are not alone in the challenges they face as female physicians. But for now, they are resolved to keep doing the work despite the difficulties. However, an increasing number of their female peers are not. They are cutting their hours, leaving their jobs, or sometimes leaving the profession altogether. Employers should take steps to better support their female physicians, but female physicians must be proactive in seeking solutions if they hope to enjoy lasting, fulfilling medical careers.

Female Physicians Most Likely to Cut Hours or Leave

According to a recent article from Harvard Business Review, women make up one-third of the physician population, and they outnumber male students in medical school. While female representation is increasing in medicine, the authors suggest women physicians are cutting their hours and leaving the profession in concerning numbers. If the trend continues, the already dire physician shortage will get significantly worse.

So why are women leaving?  What specific challenges are making it so difficult for women to practice medicine? And how can female physicians overcome these challenges? 

The Ever-Elusive Work-Life Balance 

Work-life balance is increasingly important to both genders, and yet, it may be more out of reach for women than men. Physician-focused studies indicate the bulk of the non-professional work at home still falls to women. As a result, female physicians experience more work-family conflict than their male counterparts.

In a small study of how physician parents coped with work-family conflict during the pandemic, the researchers found women were significantly more likely to be responsible for childcare or schooling and household tasks. They were also more likely than men to work primarily from home during the pandemic or to reduce their work hours. Women also reported more depressive and anxiety symptoms.

Of course, the pandemic only magnified a pre-existing problem. Multiple pre-COVID studies point to the difference in time spent on household tasks reported by men and women. A 2019 study published in the National Academy of Medicine found fully employed female physicians spend 8.5 hours per week on childcare and other domestic activities, including caring for elderly parents. Female physicians whose spouses are also fully employed spend an additional 2 hours per day on domestic work. This is three times the amount of time reported by male physicians whose spouses also work. 

How to improve work-life balance?

With so much attention on the importance of work-life balance, many employers are willing to find ways to improve in this area for their physicians, however, they may not know what changes would be most helpful. Now is the time to ask for what you need. Whether it’s a four-day work week, job sharing, reduced call, more administrative support, or incorporating telehealth appointments, your employer is likely willing to try and accommodate you if it means you will stay. That said, if your employer is unable or unwilling to work with you, it may be time to look for a new physician job.  

Fewer Rewards for Female Physicians

A December 2021 study published in Health Affairs found a persistent 25% pay gap between male and female physicians resulted in a $2 million dollar difference in earnings over the course of a medical career. If this pay gap alone wasn’t discouraging, female physicians also feel less involved with decision-making than their male peers. Additionally, women receive fewer awards, are invited to speak less often, and hold fewer leadership roles. Studies suggest the COVID-19 pandemic worsened these disparities.

Women are underrepresented, underpaid, and often disrespected by patients and staff who still don’t think “physician” when they see a woman. According to an article for the AMA, 70% of women physicians reported some form of gender discrimination. Is it any wonder they are leaving their jobs at higher rates than their male colleagues? 

How to achieve equity?

As we indicated earlier, smart employers are more focused than ever on retaining the physicians they have, so now is the time to ask for what you deserve in terms of both compensation and opportunity. These conversations can be tough to navigate, so it’s important to also seek out a seasoned female physician mentor or professional coach for advice. She can also work with you to identify a path to achieving your goals–from speaking engagements to leadership positions to a seat on the board.

Practicing Medicine Takes a Greater Toll on Women

There’s no doubt, that practicing medicine today is not easy for anyone. However, studies indicate the job may take a greater toll on women. Women often spend more time with patients, more time charting, and may experience more empathy for patients than their male peers. While some studies suggest these qualities may result in better outcomes, they can also take a greater toll and lead to higher rates of burnout. 

The previously mentioned article for Harvard Business Review uses the results of a Press Ganey physician engagement study to further explore the experience of female physicians. Women gave lower ratings than men when asked about their staff support, time for patient care, involvement with decision-making, and job stress. Women also reported having more difficulty decompressing when not at work. All of these indicators explain why many female physicians would not choose the career again nor would they recommend it to a prospective medical school student.

How to reduce the pain of practicing medicine?

The solution here ties back to the former points. A flexible schedule and increased administrative support would give physicians more time to decompress and recover from the toll of treating patients. Likewise, a female physician mentor may be helpful in setting an example and advising on how to manage patients in a more sustainable way. 

All of these solutions rely on female physicians finding employers that recognize the unique challenges women face and being willing to make adjustments to overcome them. Female physicians should seek out employers that offer flexibility, transparent compensation models, administrative support, and ideally, have women in leadership positions. 

Women in medicine face multiple challenges, but employers should be more open than ever to making adjustments that will improve retention rates. So think through what you need, and ask for it! Of course, if your employer is unwilling or unable to adapt, it may be time to look for a new physician job. Contact a Jackson Physician Search Recruitment Consultant to discuss your physician job options or start a physician job search now. 

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Rural Hospital Client Wins Big with 3 FMOB Placements in 1 Month

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When Jackson Physician Search Director of Recruiting Katie Moeller first met with her new client, a 100-bed, rural hospital in Iowa, they needed help recruiting an OB-GYN to support the current (and only) OB-GYN on staff. Katie knew all too well the challenges of recruiting a rural OB-GYN physician, but she was prepared to do whatever it takes to find the right candidate. 

Just as the OB-GYN search got underway, the client came back to her with a second request. They also needed to find an Internal Medicine physician. This too, would be especially challenging in a rural setting, but Katie diligently took down all the details and prepared to launch a search for the second opening. 

A Market-Driven, Outside-the-Box Idea

When the client came to her with a third request, however, a lightbulb came on in Katie’s head. This third search would be targeting a Family Medicine physician, so Katie asked her client if they would be open to a Family Medicine physician doing Obstetrics. She knew from her recent work with Family Medicine residents that there was a small but notable number of trainees who were eager to incorporate OB into their future practices.

The client considered her question and didn’t see any problems with the idea. They also discussed that hiring a Family Medicine physician who could also do Obstetrics would ease the call burden on the current OB-GYN as well as the new OB-GYN they sought to hire. Katie could highlight the reduced call in her still-open search for a second OB-GYN.

“Family Medicine With On-the-Job Obstetrics Training”

It was all well that the client was open to hiring an FMOB, but would the current OB-GYN on staff be willing to mentor a Family Medicine physician without any formalized training in Obstetrics? When the staff OBGYN, Dr. S, was presented with this question, the answer was a resounding, “Yes!” Not only was he willing to train a Family Medicine physician, he was excited about the idea. 

His enthusiasm, coupled with the influx of strong candidates responding to the revised FMOB job ad, allowed Katie to think even bigger. She had found multiple strong candidates for the Family Medicine position but had very few applicants for the OB-GYN and Internal Medicine openings. She wondered if these Family Medicine candidates, eager to learn Obstetrics, could offer similar services as both the OB-GYN and Internal Medicine physicians. 

A True Understanding of the Client’s Needs

Katie spoke to the client regularly so she could understand and adapt to their needs. She knew her client’s patient population skewed older, and the Internal Medicine physician would likely need to have experience with geriatrics and patients with comorbidities–something not all Family Medicine physicians necessarily relish. However, since Katie knew this was an important criteria, she could screen her Family Medicine candidates for it. Many of them had this experience, thanks to attending inpatient medicine-heavy residency programs. 

Ultimately, Katie presented three strong Family Medicine candidates who were eager to learn Obstetrics. None were from Iowa, something the client had on their wishlist, but the client was willing to overlook it. The administration recognized the candidates’ talent and appreciated their passion to learn. The client extended three offers in one month.

As for the candidates, they were thrilled to have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of  Obstetrics under the tutelage of Dr. S. Each one’s desire to further develop their OB skills  was motivated by different things–a lifelong dream, a love of babies, etc.–but all of them understood the magnitude of the opportunity. Finding an employer that needed a Family Medicine physician to “do it all”– and a mentor willing to train them — was truly a gift for these three eager physicians. 

Secrets of Rural Physician Recruitment Success

How did Katie do it? Katie credits the client for their flexibility and willingness to leverage her as a consultant and consider her ideas. However, it was Katie’s deep understanding of the market that allowed her to detect the small but still significant trend of Family Medicine residents wanting to incorporate Obstetrics, especially under the eye of a willing mentor. She suspected there would be no shortage of Family Medicine candidates if the client could offer them advanced Obstetrics training–and she was right.

It was also critical that Katie had a full understanding of her client’s needs. 

“I was on the phone with the VP every other week for at least half an hour,” Katie says. “I was always asking questions to learn more about how things were going in primary care–patient volumes, who was taking call, how the physicians were feeling about the workload. I needed to really understand what was motivating the search for these three different types of physicians. This allowed me to consider other ways we might meet their needs.”

The client’s needs were certainly met. Instead of waiting the standard 1-2 years to find an OB-GYN, an Internist, and a Family Medicine physician, they have 3 FMOBs starting this summer. These results can be attributed to a creative physician recruiter with market insight and the client’s flexibility and openness to consultation.  

If you are struggling to find candidates to fill a current need, contact the Jackson Physician Recruitment team today. Our market expertise and creativity may be just what you need to help you find the best physician for your organization.

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How to Navigate the Physician Retirement Conversation

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A leader in the pediatrics department for over a decade, Dr. J has an obvious passion for what he does. As a result, he is a favorite among patients and an impactful mentor to a number of other pediatricians. As he nears retirement age, administrators at the hospital are starting to worry about replacing him. They certainly don’t want him to retire, but if he’s considering it, they need time to plan. Is it okay to ask him directly? No one is sure…

These administrators are not alone. A record number of physicians are nearing retirement age, and organizations around the country are faced with this same dilemma–how to navigate the physician retirement conversation and the process that follows. It can be an uncomfortable topic, but in light of the impending wave of physician retirements, it’s imperative we answer the question of how to navigate the physician retirement process.

Physician Retirements on the Rise

According to a 2021 report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), nearly half (45%) of practicing physicians are over the age of 55. This means more than 2 of every 5 active physicians will reach 65 in the next ten years. While 65 isn’t necessarily the magic retirement number for everyone, it is the reported median physician retirement age. This would suggest nearly half of all physicians who are currently practicing will be retired by 2030. Unfortunately, even this may be a conservative estimate. According to a 2019 study published by AMA Insurance and highlighted by the American Medical Association, 30% of physicians retire between the ages of 60 and 65 and 12% retire before the age of 60. All of these looming retirements are one factor contributing to the worsening physician shortage.

Of course, retirement isn’t driven by age alone; factors such as physician burnout and decreasing physician job satisfaction have the potential to increase an already high volume of physician retirements projected in the coming years. A recent whitepaper from Jackson Physician Search and MGMA,  Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices, reveals the results of a study that support this claim. In the survey, 43% of physicians said, over the past year, they had considered taking early retirement. Additionally, in an October 2021 MGMA STAT poll, one in three medical practices reported a physician had left or retired early in 2021 due to burnout.

The Importance of Physician Succession Planning

With so many physicians expected to retire, physician succession planning has never been more important. If following an effective succession plan, physician leaders–regardless of their retirement plans–are tasked with detailing their responsibilities and developing talent in preparation for a potential need. A good succession plan also includes regular conversations with all physicians about their job satisfaction and future career plans for the purpose of forecasting–and preparing for–potential departures.

The reality, however, is that most organizations struggle to make succession planning a priority. In the aforementioned study by MGMA and Jackson Physician Search, the survey results make it clear that while healthcare administrators are worried about rising physician turnover, very few (16%) have a formal physician succession plan to address the issue.     

3 Questions to Consider Before Initiating the Physician Retirement Conversation

Initiating a conversation about a physician’s retirement plans may feel intrusive and perhaps even inappropriate. However, clear communication on this sensitive topic is critical. In preparation for the conversion, ask yourself these three questions.    

Who Should Start the Conversation?

In a 2019 physician retirement survey, 80% of physicians said they felt it was their responsibility to initiate a conversation about their retirement, but only 52% said they felt comfortable doing so. In the same survey, 40% of physicians said it was sufficient to give six months’ notice to an employer when retiring. Conversely, 50% of administrators said a one to three-year notice period was ideal.

Certainly, the more time an employer has to plan for a physician’s retirement, the smoother the transition will be for all parties involved. Administrators who wait for physicians to initiate the retirement conversation may rob themselves of valuable time. 

Knowing this, if you are still hesitant to start a conversation about retirement, try to make physicians as comfortable as possible and provide them with ample opportunity to initiate the conversation with you. Ideally, you already have regular check-ins with your physicians in which questions about their job satisfaction and goals are the norm–regardless of their stage of life. If these types of meetings are infrequent at your organization, it may be time to consider ways to improve physician communication overall.

What is the Motivation for Starting the Conversation?

If you do decide to initiate the conversation, be sure to first consider your motivation. It is acceptable to ask about retirement for planning purposes, but be certain you are not attempting to nudge your physician towards retirement due to poor performance or as a result of other changes occurring inside the organization. Retirement should be a personal choice for the individual physician.

Because repeatedly asking about retirement could be construed as age discrimination or harassment, the Society of Human Resources Management advises seeking legal counsel before initiating a retirement conversation. 

What are the Next Steps for Each Possible Outcome?

If you are asking physicians if and when they are planning to retire, you must be prepared to support them however they answer. If retirement is not on their radar yet, great! Express appreciation for their commitment and ask them to please let you know as soon as anything changes. 

On the other hand, if they admit they have started thinking about retirement but their plans are uncertain, this is an opportunity to show support by presenting them with options. In the aforementioned JPS retirement study, only 17% of physicians said they expect to take a full-retirement and a third said they hoped to work part-time. Ask the physician about their intentions and offer physician retirement alternatives such as a shortened work week, opportunities to work telehealth, or job sharing. Be willing to make adjustments that would allow them to continue working in whatever capacity they prefer.  

If indeed the physician’s full retirement is imminent, offer congratulations and then ask for their help to make the transition easier for all involved, including patients. You’ll want them to document their duties and train another physician to take over those tasks if necessary. Consider how patients will be notified and what type of provider should be hired to replace them. The urgency of each step depends, of course, on the physician’s retirement timeline.   

If your organization is expecting a physician to retire in the next year or beyond, you may be wondering how soon you should initiate a physician search. The Recruitment Team at Jackson Physician Search would be happy to share recruitment trends by specialty so that you can more effectively plan. Contact us today.   

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Physician Recruiter Makes 42-Day Family Medicine Placement for Groundbreaking Clinic

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When a ground-breaking wound care clinic in a suburb of Atlanta lost its sole physician unexpectedly, the practice manager immediately reached out to Jackson Physician Search for help. He submitted a query through the website the day before Thanksgiving, not hopeful that he’d hear from anyone before the holiday. Much to his surprise, Business Development Manager Brittany Lee got in touch right away. The need was clearly urgent, so she arranged an in-person meeting the following Tuesday. 

At the meeting, Brittany outlined exactly what JPS could do to find the right physician for the clinic. The practice manager was impressed by the JPS 100% digital physician recruitment strategy, and he specifically appreciated how quickly it could be implemented. He felt the transparent fee structure was more than reasonable and signed a contract at that first meeting. The organization was motivated to do whatever it would take to find the right physician as soon as possible, and Jackson Physician Search was ready to support them.     

Searching for a Physician Leader

Brittany teamed up with Search Consultant Sydney Johnson, who visited the clinic right away to learn more about the need. The clinic specialized in administering cutting-edge wound care technology, and the physician would work with a large team of advanced practice providers to treat patients in nursing homes or other homecare settings.

They would also oversee the treatment of patients in the office for injections and diabetic infusions. As the leader of a large team of mid-levels, the ideal candidate would have solid leadership experience. However, the practice manager was clear that the right physician would be compassionate and inspiring in order to be a good fit for the team. 

While the practice manager was specific in what type of leader he wanted, he was very flexible with respect to the other qualifications for the job. He was open to a physician of any specialty as long as they were board eligible and had an interest in wound care. They were open to giving the position a Medical Director title, but this experience wasn’t essential. Sydney knew this flexibility would help her find more candidates quickly, and the fact that the position required no call and no weekends would make the job even more attractive. 

An Attractive Physician Job Opportunity

Sydney crafted multiple versions of the job posting to share on the JPS vast network of online physician job boards. Through the Jackson Physician Search partnership with the American Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. C saw the job posting on the AAFP job board. He was attracted to the “Medical Director” title, which Sydney had highlighted in one version of the job posting. Dr. C also liked that the job was 100% outpatient.

Dr. C reached out to Sydney by email, and she called him right away. During their conversation, they realized Dr. C had actually known and respected the physician whose role he would be assuming. The coincidental connection seemed like a sign, and the fact that he had experience as a Medical Director in a nursing home made him an excellent candidate. Sydney presented him to the practice manager the very next day.

The practice manager was eager to meet Dr. C, and since he was local, they arranged for him to come into the office the day after he was presented. He hit it off with everyone on-site, so they arranged a virtual interview with the clinic’s CEO, who lived out of state. This too, went well, so an offer was extended immediately. Dr. C signed the contract on January 11th, just 42 days after initiating the search. 

Secrets to Physician Recruiting Success

Sydney credits the recruitment success to her client’s flexibility and speed of response.

“They weren’t fixated on finding someone with a given specialty or level of experience. As long as the candidate was compassionate and had a genuine interest in their mission, they were willing to consider them,” says Sydney.

The urgency of the need meant they were also motivated to act quickly. The speed of response allowed the search to move forward even through the holiday season.    

The fact that the job came with a competitive salary and great perks also made Sydney’s job easier. However, Sydney’s masterful skill in crafting the job posting and ensuring it was seen by the ideal audience was essential. Together, Sydney’s digital recruitment expertise and the client’s flexibility and responsiveness ensured a successful search on a timeline that beat all expectations.

If you have an urgent need to fill a physician vacancy, the Jackson Physician Search team has the expertise and experience to produce results quickly. Contact a Recruitment Specialist today. 

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3 Things to Consider Before Physician Retirement

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Are you one of the many physicians expected to retire soon? According to a 2021 report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), more than two of every five physicians will reach age 65 within 10 years. But of course, retirement isn’t driven by age alone; factors such as physician burnout and decreasing physician job satisfaction are likely to increase an already high volume of physician retirements projected in the coming years.  

Recent data from a Jackson Physician Search and MGMA study supports the claim. In the survey, 43% of physicians said, over the past year, they had considered taking an early retirement and an October 2021 MGMA STAT poll found one in three medical practices saw a physician leave or retire early in 2021 due to burnout

Physicians certainly have reason to feel burned out. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, physicians were dealing with long hours, administrative burdens, lack of autonomy, and productivity pressures. Like so many things, COVID-19 only intensified these existing problems. However, if burnout is the problem, is retirement really the solution? For some, the answer may be “yes,” but before you make this life-changing decision, you may want to ask yourself the following questions and consider a few physician retirement alternatives.  

If My Work Circumstances Improved, Would I Still Want to Retire?

Many of the headlines about physician retirement aren’t focused on an aging physician workforce, but rather, how the stress of COVID-19 and other forces have increased physician burnout, resulting in an unexpected spike in retirements. Is burnout at the root of your retirement plans? If so, would you reconsider if your circumstances improved? 

Consider Dr. J, an Emergency Medicine physician who spent his career working at a Manhattan hospital. He always felt his intense personality was well-suited to the high-stress job, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the stress to a level even he found impossible to manage. Nevertheless, he powers through each day, triaging patients. Now, at just 54, he is considering retirement. Even if the worst of the pandemic is over, the way he feels about the job and the whole organization has changed. He has given everything to his work, and now, he simply has nothing left to give. 

It’s understandable that Dr. J would feel this way. However, he may be making a decision based on the extreme circumstances of the past two years. Before he ends his career early, it is worth exploring the question, “If my circumstances improved, would I still want to retire?”

Dr. J may feel he’s been through too much to continue with his current employer. Retirement seems like the most logical option. After all, he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and thanks to smart financial planning, it’s a viable option. On the other hand, perhaps Dr. J simply needs time to recover from the trauma he’s endured in recent years. Instead of retirement, his employer may be willing to offer a sabbatical to give him time to rest and reflect on the positive aspects of practicing medicine. Management may also be open to making changes that would improve physician job satisfaction in the department and improve physician retention. 

If your current circumstances are unlikely to improve, it may be time to look for a new physician job–perhaps in a rural location. According to a Rural Physician Recruitment study from Jackson Physician Search and Locum Tenens, “improved work-life balance” is the most common reason rural physicians say they decided to practice rural medicine. Rural physicians are also more likely to say their organization is “patient-focused.” The autonomy, flexibility, and slower pace of life reported by many rural physicians could be exactly what you need to renew your love for practicing medicine.

Alternative #1: Change Your Circumstances / New Physician Job

Approach your manager to discuss your feelings of burnout and propose options for improving current circumstances. If they are unable or unwilling to make changes, you may want to connect with a physician recruiter to learn about other physician jobs that might rekindle your desire to practice. 

Would My Employer Support a Partial Retirement or Other Alternatives to Full Retirement?

According to a 2019 JPS retirement study, only 17% of physicians surveyed said they planned to take a full retirement, and nearly a third said they intended to continue working part-time. In the same study, administrators estimated 40% of their retiring physicians wanted to take full retirement. This indicates a disconnect between what physicians want and what their employers expect. However, in light of the physician shortage, most employers would be happy to take whatever level of work they can get from their physicians. This may be especially true in rural areas.    

Consider Dr. G, a Family Medicine physician who has spent the last 20 years working in a rural hospital treating patients of all ages and ailments. He moved his family to the small community when his kids were young, but now, they’ve grown up and started their careers in bigger cities. As he nears retirement age, he and his wife discuss their plans to travel more and perhaps move to be nearer the kids. He knows it’s time to stop working so much, but is he ready to stop working altogether?

For Dr. G, a partial retirement seems like the ideal option, one that his employer may indeed be willing to entertain. Whether it means simply cutting his hours, job sharing, or adopting telemedicine, Dr. G should initiate a discussion with his employer to discuss how those options might work for them. 

Alternative #2: Part-time Physician Job

Don’t be afraid to approach your employer about your desire to work less. They will likely be happy to hear you want to keep working in some capacity. Start the conversation early and keep an open mind as you discuss your options. If your current employer can’t provide what you need, enlist a national physician recruitment firm to help in your part-time physician job search. 

What Will I Do With My Time Post-Retirement?

Physicians spend countless hours training to practice medicine, and once certified, they often devote 50-60+ hours per week to the job. If anyone has earned the right to put their feet up and relax in retirement, it’s physicians. And yet, this hard-working, high-achieving group often has a difficult time coming to a full stop after devoting so much time and energy to their work for so long. 

Consider Dr. L, as Chief of Surgery at a busy suburban hospital, she can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t working towards a goal–first medical school, then residency and fellowship, her first job, and then slowly climbing the ladder to her current position. She had achieved success at every step of her plan, and the next step, thanks to savvy financial planning, was retirement at 60. By retiring relatively early, Dr. L intends to really enjoy her retirement, but will she succeed with this plan too?

Though Dr. L may not admit it–she may not even be aware of it–it’s likely she holds some unconscious fears about what exactly “enjoying retirement” will look like for her. Before making the decision, she should think through exactly what she will do with her time post-retirement. Perhaps she has a plan for a “second act,” a business venture, teaching opportunity, or non-profit work. However, she might also consider keeping her license active so she can pursue locum tenens assignments or even medical mission work–abroad or in one of the many healthcare deserts across the US. 

Alternative #3: Locum Tenens 

Make sure you know what you need to do to keep your license active in the first years of full retirement. If or when the initial excitement of retirement wanes, you may want to explore locum tenens jobs through our sister company LocumTenens.com

Retirement is a big decision and it’s never too early to start planning. Whether you’ve been dreaming about your retirement for years or you are just starting to think through the idea, a Jackson Physician Search Recruitment Consultant can help you understand your options as you transition to retirement. Contact us today.

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[Infographic Guide] Address Key Generational Differences to Improve Rural Physician Recruitment

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The results of the recent Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey show that 90% of physicians are open to considering a rural physician job if conditions are right. Physicians are drawn to rural medicine for a number of reasons, and the report suggests those differences often vary along generational lines. By discovering what each generation is most attracted to about rural medicine, organizations can more effectively market their open positions to physicians of every stage of life. Keep reading to learn how to address key generational differences to improve rural physician recruitment results.

Address Key Generational Differences to Improve Rural Physician Recruitment Results

An encouraging 90% of urban and suburban physicians are open to rural medicine if conditions are right, according to the 2022 Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey. A deeper look at this new data reveals what appeals most to each generation, so you can more effectively market rural medicine jobs to physicians at every stage of life.  

90% of physicians would consider rural practice if the conditions are well-aligned with their most important wants and needs.

  • 64% want higher compensation, bonuses, and benefits
  • 47% want flexible hours
  • 46% want improved work/life balance

Money Talks…to Everyone

Compensation is overwhelmingly the top reason physicians in every generation would consider rural medicine. 

  • 62% Baby Boomers
  • 63% Gen X
  • 72% Millennial

Promote Flexibility and Patient-centered Culture to Attract Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers

Most likely to already work in a rural setting 

55% of urban / suburban Baby Boomers say the ability to work part-time or have flex hours would prompt them to consider rural medicine

44% of Baby Boomer physicians say a flexible schedule or a part-time one would entice them to stay at their current organization for the next five years

37% of Baby Boomer physicians say “patient-focused” is  the most important attribute of an organization’s culture 

36% of Baby Boomers already practicing rural medicine chose to do so because it allowed them to spend more time with patients. 

To Win Over Gen X, Highlight the Ability to Make in Impact (and Have the Time and Finances to Live a More Balanced Life)

Gen X

Most likely to say they are personally (47%) and professionally (43%) unfulfilled

51% of urban / suburban Gen X physicians say improved work / life balance would make them consider rural medicine 

39% of Gen X physicians say physician autonomy is the most important attribute of an organization’s culture

For the Gen X physicians already working in rural practice, money is a huge motivator. 49% chose it because of higher compensation and 52% were swayed by a more affordable cost of living. 57% said compensation is the best way to retain them for the next five or more years.

Focus on a Healthy Work-Life Balance and a Family-friendly Environment to Recruit Millennials

Millennials

Most likely to be married to a physician (18%) 

30% of Millennials say student loan payoff could entice them to work in rural medicine

40% of Millennial physicians say supports work / life balance is the most important aspect of an organization’s culture

Most likely to say visa assistance and proximity to family / friends / colleagues would prompt them to consider a rural job

 

Visit our thought leadership page for more helpful presentations, case studies, and infographics. Or, reach out to a Jackson Physician Search representative for more information.

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It Takes a Village: Physician Recruiters Team Up to Help Physician Find the Perfect Fit

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After serving a rural community in Idaho for more than twenty years, Dr. M and his wife were ready to move south to be closer to family in Texas. As a family medicine physician, Dr. M knew there would be plenty of family medicine job openings, but it was important to him that he find the right fit. He wanted to work for an organization where he could make a real impact.  

When he received a marketing job email from Jackson Physician Search regarding an attractive family medicine job in Texas, Dr. M reached out to the recruiter, David Isenberg. David was quick to respond and the initial conversation proved to be the first of many. The two had instant rapport, and David felt Dr. M would be a good fit for his client. 

Ultimately, the opportunity did not pan out for Dr. M, but David asked if they could stay in touch. Dr. M agreed. In the meantime, he planned to start the process of getting a Texas medical license so he could work as locum tenens until the right opportunity came along. Dr. M thanked David for keeping him in mind for future Family Medicine job openings.

A Commitment to Serving Physicians

David would do more than just keep him in mind. He had formed a connection with Dr. M and genuinely wanted to help him take the next step in his career. Though David did not have any current Texas clients with a Family Medicine job opening, he knew that others in his Jackson Physician Search regional office might. David reached out to several of our recruiters and made the introductions. 

When David introduced Dr. M to JPS Senior Search Consultant Don Evans, Don did not have an active Family Medicine search open but knew it wouldn’t be long before he did. He reached out to Dr. M for a “get-to-know-you” call. The two instantly hit it off. They were in similar stages of life, and Don understood Dr. M’s motivation for change. 

A Client with an Urgent Family Medicine Need

A few weeks later, Don received a client in rural Texas, about an hour outside of Houston. The organization had been searching for a Family Medicine physician for over six months, and they were ready to enlist the help of a national physician recruitment firm. The need had become urgent, and the CEO was clear about wanting a Texas-licensed physician who could start right away.    

When Don met with the new client, Dr. M immediately came to mind. Dr. M was clinically qualified, interested in working in that part of Texas, and Don knew from their initial conversation that Dr. M would be enthusiastic about the scope of the specific role. He also had the experience to expand the service line of the clinic to do more women’s health, something Don hoped the client would find appealing. 

A Perfect Fit

“I just knew Dr. M was right for this role,” says Don. “But he didn’t check every single one of the client’s boxes, so I picked the right moment and said, ‘You gotta see him. This is the one.’”

The administration agreed to meet with Dr. M, and Don’s instinct proved to be right–they fell in love with him. Even the CEO, who rarely spent any length of time with candidates, spent half a day with him. Dr. M was qualified, enthusiastic, and extremely personable–everything they needed in the role.

Dr. M was equally impressed. He felt he could make an impact at the clinic, and its location put him within an hour of his mother, the primary reason he was moving to Texas. When the organization extended a generous offer, he didn’t have to think twice before accepting, and he started the job almost immediately.

An “Others First” Culture of Teamwork

The culture of teamwork at Jackson Physician Search played a critical role in Dr. M’s physician job search success. When David introduced Don to Dr. M, it was because he truly had Dr. M’s best interests at heart and knew his teammate, Don, might be able to help. David’s “others first” mentality allowed him to put Dr. M’s needs before his own desire to secure the placement. This is a core value of Jackson Physician Search and one that carries through everything we do. 

Don also attributes the success to his own ability to fully understand both the needs of the client and the needs of Dr. M, who had become a good friend. 

“It was an honor to work with Dr. M,” says Don. “He’s such a genuine person, and I was thrilled to find him an opportunity where I truly believe he will be happy for the rest of his career.” 

If you want to work with a physician recruiter that will keep your best interests in mind, the team at Jackson Physician Search would love to get to know you and find out how we can help. Contact a physician recruiter today to learn more.

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Worth the Wait: Physician Recruiter Finds Perfect Resident for Rural Hospital

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The physician shortage continues to be top of mind among healthcare leaders around the nation, but perhaps nowhere is it felt more deeply than in the nation’s rural areas. Intensifying the problem is the fact that rural physicians are retiring in droves and the number of medical residents who grew up in rural areas is declining. These, of course, are the physicians most likely to return to rural areas to practice. 

Fortunately, a new report from Jackson Physician Search, Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey Results, suggests the tide could be turning for rural physician recruitment. In the recent survey, 90% of physicians and advanced practice providers said they would consider practicing in a rural location if conditions were well aligned. 

The physicians are willing if the right opportunity is presented to the right person at the right time, but it takes a true recruitment expert to successfully combine these factors. A recruitment expert at Jackson Physician Search recently demonstrated her expertise in doing exactly this for a rural hospital in Arkansas. Learn how recruiter Tonya Hamlin helped her client secure two specialists to practice rural medicine.

A Reputation for Successful Rural Physician Recruitment 

When the CEO of a 90-bed facility in northwest Arkansas met with Gary Seaberg, Regional Vice President of Business Development at Jackson Physician Search, he was aware of the firm’s reputation for successful rural physician recruitment. The facility had an existing relationship with a competing physician search firm, but the CEO had concerns about their ability to fill an urgent general surgery vacancy. 

Gary pointed to the JPS track record of rural physician recruitment success and explained the 100% digital physician recruitment strategy that worked so well for their clients. The CEO was eager to move forward, so Gary turned the search over to Tonya Hamlin. Tonya applied her digital recruitment magic and found the perfect General Surgeon in just 90 days.  

The client was thrilled and wondered if Tonya could produce similar results with an OB-GYN vacancy that had been open for over a year. He canceled the search with the competing firm, and entrusted it to Jackson Physician Search.  

The Search for a Rural OB-GYN

To ensure full transparency and help set the client’s expectations, Tonya was forthright about the challenges involved with placing an OB physician in a rural market. She discussed the supply and demand data for OBs, which showed more vacancies than qualified physicians available.

The odds may have been against them, but Tonya was not discouraged. She had visited the location and was impressed by the breathtaking mountain views and the engaging people, both at the facility and in the community. The facility itself was impressive and she knew potential candidates would find it attractive if she could persuade them to give it a chance. The hospital was one of the premier employers in the area and was located just 90 minutes from a major metropolitan area.

Tonya utilized a comprehensive digital search strategy focusing on the quality of the facility, the salary potential, and the organizational culture. She wanted to find a candidate who fit and would be successful in the position long-term. The opportunity would be right for someone, but who? 

A Commitment to Rural Medicine

Healthcare administrators in any setting–rural, urban, or suburban– recognize the value in hiring a physician with ties to the area. So, when a young resident, originally from Arkansas, responded to the online job posting, Tonya set aside her concerns about the timeline and investigated further. She learned the candidate was committed to practicing in a rural area upon completing her training.  

The resident’s commitment to practice rural plus her ties to the area made her an extremely attractive candidate, but the fact that she still had over a year to complete her residency was not ideal. Tonya made the case for her, and in presenting her, they learned that the candidate already knew one of the OB physicians on staff. With so many factors in favor of this resident, the facility invited her to an on-site interview. 

Once the candidate met the team, it was clear she belonged. The CEO ultimately decided that it would be worth waiting for her to finish residency. She was such a good fit for the facility and the community that any time lost would be more than made up for in better retention and fit.

Secrets to Rural Physician Recruitment Success

Tonya’s success with her client stems from her commitment to finding the right fit and keeping the client updated throughout the process. Also, by spending time at the facility, Tonya was able to paint an accurate picture of the opportunity for potential candidates, knowledgeably answering questions about the location and the quality of the facility. 

In the end, the candidate’s ties to the state and her commitment to working in rural medicine gave her the best chance of lasting success in the position. The existing OB truly believed the resident was the best fit, and she was instrumental in convincing the CEO that she would most certainly be worth the wait. 

If you are looking to find a physician search partner who prioritizes finding candidates who will find lasting success with your organization, contact Jackson Physician Search today. Our recruitment team has access to the latest tools and technology and can provide you with the nationwide reach to find even the most difficult specialties.

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Physician Compensation 101: What Residency Didn’t Teach You

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Show me the money. While most physicians don’t go into medicine solely for the high compensation, the six-figure income doesn’t exactly hurt. That said, physician compensation can range significantly depending on a number of factors. A physician’s specialty obviously impacts income, as does geographical location, but what many residents don’t know is how the different types of physician compensation models can also influence income.

Residents spend years learning their profession, but when it comes to getting paid, many have no idea what to expect. Sure, they may have seen average salaries referenced online or heard their attendings talk about what they earn, but as for what part of the compensation is guaranteed versus what is based on production or a percentage of profits–these details aren’t typically shared.

The complexities of physician compensation models could be covered by a semester-long class in medical school. Instead, it is often left to physician recruiters to explain the various nuances of how a physician gets paid–perhaps while presenting a resident with their first offer of employment!

So, in an effort to introduce the concepts earlier in the physician job search process, we present to you this primer on the two primary physician compensation models.

Hospital Employed Physician Compensation Model

According to a 2021 report from consulting firm Avalere Health, 69% of working physicians are employed by hospitals or other corporate entities, a figure accelerating significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These physicians, when first hired by a large healthcare organization or hospital group, typically receive a guaranteed base salary for a set time period (one or two years) and then, presumably after the physician has established enough patients to be productive, compensation shifts to a productivity-based model.

Productivity is measured using wRVUs (work Relative Value Units) which are accrued for every exam or procedure a physician performs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services assign an RVU for each Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code. The more complex the procedure, the greater the corresponding wRVU.

Accrued wRVUs are multiplied by an established dollar amount to calculate how much a physician earns. Some compensation plans offer a sliding scale to incent physicians to accrue more RVUs, that is, to be more productive. For example, the first 4,000 wRVUs are paid at a conversion factor of $40 per RVU, and then, the next 4,001-8,000 wRVUs are paid at $42 per wRVU. The amount employers will pay per wRVU varies, however, Medicare sets the amount they will reimburse per total RVU (total RVU takes into consideration an organization’s expenses and insurance), which is typically lower than what is billed to private insurance. For 2022, the Medicare rate per total RVU is $33.59.

Are you starting to see why a course in med school might be necessary to fully understand physician compensation models? In lieu of that, you can find further details in this Definitive Guide to Physician RVU Compensation from the advisory group Physicians Thrive.

As most physicians are employed by large health systems or hospital groups, it is worth digging into the nuances of wRVU compensation models, but at a high level, here is what you need to know.

Pros

  • The salary guarantee offers stability for new physicians and alleviates the pressure to ramp up in an unreasonable amount of time.
  • Productivity-based compensation gives physicians a sense of control over their income. The harder they work, the more income they will receive.
  • RVU compensation is typically not impacted by how much or how little the organization is able to collect from patients or their insurance companies. The payer mix also does not impact the physician’s income.

Cons

  • wRVUs do not account for time spent on administrative work, meetings, mentoring other physicians, and other tasks without a CPT code.
  • RVU-based compensation can create a culture of competition that prevents physicians from collaborating and supporting each other.
  • Productivity-based physician compensation puts a physician’s focus on the quantity of procedures rather than the quality of care. Some reports suggest this type of compensation is at odds with the movement toward Value Based Care.

Questions to Ask

Is the salary guarantee a minimum base or is it also a cap? That is to say, if a physician exceeds wRVU expectations during the guarantee period, can they receive more than the base salary?

How many wRVUs do most physicians in this practice produce? How does the productivity of physicians here compare to national norms?  

Is there a cap on RVU bonuses? 

Private Practice Physician Compensation Model

“While the percentage of physicians in private practice is waning, it is still an attractive option for many residents, especially those with an interest in business or those who simply want more autonomy in their work,” says Director of Recruiting Katie Moeller. Like hospital-employed physicians, physicians hired by a private practice may also receive a salary guarantee, but the expectation is that the physician will eventually become a partner whose income will be largely tied to the performance of the overall practice. For this reason, physicians want to be sure they are joining a practice that is financially viable.

Private practices, like any business, calculate profitability by deducting expenses from revenue. Profits are then distributed among the partners, perhaps with some percentage paid as bonuses to non-partner physicians.

When interviewing for private practice physician jobs, physicians should look beyond the initial salary offered and focus on the specifics of the track to partnership and the details of how the practice is run, including its expenses. The efficiency of the practice has a direct impact on how much the partners earn, so it is important to ask questions.

Pros

  • Physicians in private practice have a clear view of the factors contributing to their income, that is, the revenue and expenses of the practice. Once a partner, the physician will have some role in influencing those factors in order to increase income.
  • Unlimited income potential. Employed physicians are limited to the hospital’s bonus structure, but as a practice owner, you have the ability to grow your business to the level you need to achieve the income you want.

Cons

  • Research shows that Medicare reimburses physician services billed by hospitals at a higher rate than those billed by independent practices. This is one of many reasons hospitals can afford to pay higher starting salaries.
  • Because Medicare reimburses at a lower rate than private insurers, the practice’s patient mix will impact its profits, and thus, partner income.
  • Practicing medicine is already a stressful job. Physician partners in private practice have the added stress of running a business.

Questions to Ask

As noted, physician compensation will be tied to how well the practice performs, so ask enough questions to gain a full understanding.

How busy is the practice? What is the patient mix?

How effective is the billing department in collecting payment?

What are the overhead costs? How are staff levels determined? What salaries are given to administrators? 

What can I expect to earn as a partner? Are there any opportunities for ancillary income, such as investing in an outpatient surgery center, real estate, or imaging? Is there a “buy-in” cost associated with becoming a partner?

Do all physician owners hold equal shares in the business?

Is there an accelerated track to partnership? 

Are the partners currently considering selling to a hospital or corporate entity? 

Why You Should Do Further Research on Physician Compensation Models 

As residents and fellows enter the physician job search, it is important to have an understanding of physician compensation models. You have invested considerably in training to become a physician, and now that your training is complete, you are more than ready to reap the rewards. However, it can be difficult to weigh employment offers if you don’t have a clear understanding of how physicians are compensated beyond those first years when a minimum is likely guaranteed.

A good physician recruiter has invaluable insight to share with you regarding physician compensation. Physician recruitment firms often have access to proprietary data about physician compensation, bonuses, production, benefits, and time off. They can help you interpret this data to better understand what you can expect depending on your specialty, location, and other circumstances. Physician recruiters can also share what trends they are seeing in the market that may not yet appear in the data.

A physician recruiter can provide a wealth of information to better set your expectations in the beginning and more effectively negotiate your physician contract as your search comes to a close. The more information you have, the more confident you will feel when ultimately making your decision.

If you are embarking on a physician job search, the team at Jackson Physician Search is eager to share our insight with you and ensure you are set up for success. Search physician jobs now or contact us today.

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