3 Ways to Support and Retain Women Physicians

By

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.

[Infographic Guide] 7 Tips to Improve Physician Retention, Engagement, and Burnout

In this infographic, we dive into seven things that healthcare organizations can address now in order to increase physician retention, improve physician engagement, and mitigate the negative effects of physician burnout

[Whitepaper] Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover

This whitepaper explores the results of a joint study by MGMA and JPS investigating physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

Why Every Rural Healthcare Organization Should Recruit Advanced Practice Providers

By

The 2022 Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey from Jackson Physician Search and LocumTenens.com gave rural organizations yet another reason to feel optimistic about their physician recruitment efforts. The data indicates 90% of physicians are open to rural opportunities if the conditions are well-aligned with their most important wants and needs.

While it’s certainly encouraging that physicians appear to be more open to rural opportunities than they have been in the past, the demand for care is also intensifying–putting increased stress on rural physicians.

Fortunately, rural healthcare organizations do not have to depend solely on full-time physicians to serve their communities. The aforementioned study found advanced practice providers (APPs) are also increasingly open to rural job opportunities.

While nearly half of rural healthcare organizations already employ at least one APP, this new data suggests organizations should consider expanding their care teams with a mix of physicians and APPs. A well-balanced rural staffing mix ensures patients have adequate access to high-quality care without overloading providers and putting them at risk for burnout, while also potentially reducing the cost of care.

If your organization needs additional clinical providers, keep reading to learn more about the many benefits APPs can bring to your community and to your facility.

Rural Healthcare Organizations are Already Utilizing Advanced Practice Providers.

According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, non-physician primary care providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants make up 46% of all providers at rural, federally qualified health centers. As mentioned, other data shows nearly half of all rural primary care practices employ at least one NP, and one in four rural healthcare providers are nurse practitioners.

Takeaway: Citizens in rural communities are already receiving care from advanced practice providers and are not likely to resist the addition of non-physician providers if it means easier access to care. In fact, a full 11% of patients in rural areas were seen exclusively by these providers.

Advanced Practice Providers are Eager to Work in Rural Medicine.

Advanced practice providers in the 2022 rural survey were highly likely to say they would consider practicing in rural locations on a full-time, permanent basis or as a locum tenens provider. As for what conditions would motivate them, like physicians, the most common answer was ”higher compensation, bonuses and benefits” followed by “the ability to work part-time or work flexible hours.”

Advanced practice providers in the survey were nearly three times as likely as physicians to say the opportunity to use telehealth would prompt them to consider a rural job (45% vs. 17%). They were also more likely to be motivated by loan repayment (43% vs 18%) and the chance to spend more time with patients (33% vs. 15%).

Takeaway: Advanced practice providers are attracted to high compensation and flexibility, but the chance to use telehealth and/or loan repayment may help to seal the deal. 

Advanced Practice Providers Proved Their Value Long Ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent demand for healthcare services for which the US was unprepared. In response to the shortage of healthcare providers, federal COVID-19 legislation broadened the scope of practice for advanced practice providers, where it was also permitted by the state. Nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other APPs were ready to answer the call, and now, some say their success is proof the expansion should be permanent.

Regardless of the scope of practice debate, few would dispute the importance of advanced practice providers in the delivery of patient care. Whether working independently or alongside a physician, advanced practice providers increase access to care, while easing the burden on physicians and increasing revenue at healthcare organizations. It’s been reported that APPs bring significant cost savings to an organization—up to 30%.

Takeaway: It may be time to rethink what healthcare delivery looks like at your organization. APPs are trained to perform many of the same duties as physicians, often at a lower cost. They have the potential to be a key part of the healthcare staffing mix at any organization. 

Care Teams with Physicians and APPs Promote Work-life Balance.

For COVID-weary healthcare providers, work-life balance has never been more important. In the 2022 rural survey, both physicians and APPs ranked “improved work-life balance” among the top three factors that would prompt them to consider practicing in a rural location.

Better work-life balance is certainly in reach with a team-based approach to healthcare delivery. The presence of APPs allows for more flexibility in scheduling, providing better work-life balance for all providers. A collaborative care team where everyone performs to the full extent of their training will free up physicians to focus attention where most needed, give advanced practice providers appropriate autonomy, and help to mitigate burnout among all providers all while improving healthcare outcomes within a community.

Takeaway: What was once the responsibility of one, overworked physician might now be shared between a physician and nurse practitioner or a nurse practitioner and physician assistant under the supervision (if required) of a practicing physician. A flexible staffing mix will expand your candidate options and make your organization more attractive to potential candidates as you recruit.  

Technology Facilitates Well-balanced Clinical Care Teams. 

COVID-19 expedited the adoption of telehealth even in rural communities. According to a report from Rural Health Information Hub, though there are still barriers to usage, the adoption of telehealth is increasing in rural areas. The report goes as far as to say that the use of telehealth to provide specialty services is more feasible than staffing rural organizations with specialty and subspecialty providers. Thus, telehealth allows organizations to expand care teams to include physicians working remotely. An on-site APP may work virtually with an off-site specialist to coordinate patient care.

Takeaway: Telehealth and virtual meetings enable a team-based approach to healthcare that eases staffing challenges and expands access to care. 

Advanced Practice Providers Create Stability Within the Care Team.

Half of the advanced practice providers who responded to the 2022 rural study said they planned to work at least 16 more years before retiring. This suggests the potential for longevity and consistency when incorporating APPs into your rural healthcare staffing mix. This is especially pertinent considering that 2 in 5 physicians are nearing retirement, with the figure being even higher in rural healthcare.

APPs are also more likely to have ties to a rural community. Among the survey respondents, 38% had grown up in a rural community and 33% said they had extended family in the same area they work.

Takeaway: Advanced practice providers are less likely than physicians to be nearing retirement and are more likely to have roots in rural areas. Thus, it may be easier to attract advanced practice providers to your rural location, and once you do, they are likely to stay for a longer tenure, bringing stability to the care team and your patients.

Leveraging Locum Tenens Providers Ease the Burden for All. 

The occasional addition of a locum tenens provider on your care team allows providers to take time off, whether for an extended vacation or family leave, without disrupting patient care or placing additional burdens on existing members of the care team. Though administrators may worry about the expense of a locums provider, the benefits of maintaining patient access to care and keeping provider workloads stable typically outweigh the cost.

The other benefit of locum tenens usage is that it may serve as a recruitment tool. The Jackson Physician Search and LocumTenens.com rural physician recruitment and staffing survey found a majority of both physicians and advanced practice providers would be interested in trying out a rural location as a locums provider. If the experience is positive, they may be willing to stay.

Takeaway: Adding a locums provider to care teams when needed keeps both patients and providers happy. It may also serve as a “trial” for a provider undecided about whether or not rural practice is for them.

If your organization is struggling to recruit physicians or to meet growing patient demand, it is advised to strongly consider incorporating advanced practice providers into the staffing mix. For more details about how to formulate an effective recruitment strategy, please download our latest survey results.

If your rural health organization is considering adding a physician or advanced practice provider to your staffing mix, the Search Consultants at Jackson Physician Search would be happy to help. Contact us today.

advanced practice provider

Are Advanced Practice Providers a Solution to the Growing Physician Shortage?

Advanced Practice Providers heroically answered the call during the height of the pandemic, and now, healthcare leaders are wondering if APPs could they be a viable, long-term solution to the growing physician shortage…

[White Paper] Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey Results

We surveyed physicians currently working in urban, suburban, and rural settings to better understand their specific needs and wants in regard to choosing to practice in a rural location…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

Finding the Why: Consider Generational Differences to Improve Rural Physician Recruitment Results

By

Rural healthcare organizations saw an early “silver lining” from the global pandemic in that an increasing number of physicians, burned out and exhausted by the stress of COVID-19, expressed interest in rural physician jobs. In the Jackson Physician Search whitepaper on how COVID changed the physician job market, several recruitment leaders noted the influx of physicians seeking jobs in small towns, expressing a desire to be closer to family or to find what they hoped would be a slower pace of life.  

Physicians seek jobs in rural medicine for a number of different reasons, and a new Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey from Jackson Physician Search and LocumTenens.com suggests those differences often fall along generational lines. By discovering what each generation is likely attracted to about rural medicine, rural healthcare organizations can capitalize on the surge of interest and more effectively market to physician candidates at every stage of life.  

Best Practices in Generational Targeting  

Marketers have long used generational targeting to strategically engage with consumers in every age demographic. While caution is needed when making broad generalizations, where the data shows similarities, savvy marketers will target their messaging to appeal to that segment.   

It follows that marketing physician jobs to specific generations, where the data shows similarities, could be a savvy physician recruitment tactic. So, what does the data say about what each generation wants in a rural job? The JPS and LocumTenens.com survey explores the employment needs and wants of Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millenials in an attempt to answer this question.  

Approaching Retirement, Baby Boomers Seek Flexibility & Patient-focused Culture

At 63, Dr. T knows retirement is just around the corner, and yet, as much as his wife would like him to retire, he doesn’t feel quite ready. Of course, he’s tired of long hours at the hospital and speeding through patient visits, but if he could find a job that would allow him to scale back his caseload, maybe even work part-time, he thinks he and his wife could both be happy–for another 5 years at least.  

Nearly half (48%) of all Baby Boomers will retire in fewer than five years, and another third will retire in six to ten. Physicians of this generation have worked 30+ years, adapted to multiple phases of healthcare reform, and now endured a global pandemic. It’s fair to say, they are ready to slow down–though not necessarily retire. In fact, 44% say the ability to work part-time or have flexible hours would motivate them to stay at their current organization for another five years. But what would they need to consider a rural physician job? 

Interestingly, Baby Boomer physicians are most likely to already practice rural medicine. Many chose the opportunity because of the flexibility and the opportunity to spend more time with patients. The desire to work for a patient-focused organization is strongest with this generation, and the perception that rural physician jobs allow more time with individual patients is part of the draw.  The ability to work fewer hours–or perhaps part-time–is also attractive for physicians wanting to ease into retirement. 

Tips for Recruiting Baby Boomers: 

Does your rural position come with flexible hours? Is your organization focused on the patient? Assuming the answer to both questions is “yes,” promote these facts at every stage of the recruitment process–highlight it in the physician job posting, discuss it during the phone interview, and have the physicians they meet during the on-site visit reinforce these qualities by sharing stories of their own flexible schedules and quality interactions with patients.     

Gen Xers Want Better Personal and Professional Fulfillment

For Dr. M, retirement is still a distant idea–a finish line at the end of a still-long road ahead. She took a job with her current employer six years ago when they made an offer she couldn’t refuse. But now, at 49, she’s not sure the competitive compensation is enough to justify the long hours, demanding patients, and constant stress. With two kids in college, she can’t afford an early retirement, but unless something changes, she’s not sure she’ll last another 15 years.

The JPS and LocumTenens.com survey found Gen X physicians to be the least fulfilled–both professionally and personally. They’ve spent the better part of their lives pursuing a medical career, and now, as their children begin to leave the nest and they consider the next phase of their lives, they may be second-guessing what it was all for. They may question the impact they’ve had on their patients and wonder if they could have chosen a path with greater influence. Or perhaps they imagine who they might have been if they had made time to pursue other interests–and wonder if it’s not too late to try. 

There could be many reasons to explain Gen X’s lack of fulfillment, but the “why” is less important than the “what” they can do about it. Rural physician jobs typically offer higher levels of physician autonomy, improved work-life balance, and more time with patients–all factors likely to improve physician job satisfaction and fulfillment. Of course, with kids in college or nearing college age, competitive compensation is still a must, and rural medicine ticks this box as well. 

Tips for Recruiting Generation X:

If your rural physician job offers a healthy work-life balance, physician autonomy, and competitive compensation, emphasize these qualities at every interaction with candidates. As you learn more about a candidate’s professional goals and personal hobbies, help them envision a life in your community where they can both make an impact professionally and still have time to explore personal interests. 

Family-focused Millennials Need Work-Life Balance 

Hired out of fellowship by his current employer, Dr. J and his wife, also a physician, work long hours for their respective organizations. While they have been mostly happy these past four years, they know their current schedules won’t be sustainable when they start a family. Still, with double the student loan debt of most couples, they can’t afford for one of them to go part-time. They are willing to make some big changes in order to create the life they want for their future family, but will they consider rural medicine? 

It won’t take decades of working long hours for Millennials to recognize the value of work-life balance. In fact, they place more importance on work-life balance than any other generation. They have grown up with messaging about the importance of self-care, and as a result, they aren’t afraid to prioritize their own mental health. That said, the weight of student loan debt is heavy on this generation, and they can still be swayed by big bonuses or the promise of loan repayment.

Rural physician jobs may be the answer to Millennial physicians’ desires for a healthy work-life balance, flexibility, a family-friendly community, and of course, competitive compensation. An opportunity that also presents leadership opportunities and promises them a voice in the decision-making process is likely to keep them there long-term.  

Tips for Recruiting Millennials:

Millennials are most likely to be in an active job search, so find ways to connect with them online through social media and email. Emphasize the healthy work-life balance the job allows, and help them imagine a life in your family-friendly community. Keep in mind that nearly 1 in 5 Millennial physicians is married to another physician, so get creative in thinking about how a physician spouse might fit into your organization or that of a neighboring community.

Putting Generational Targeting Into Practice

It’s likely your rural physician job has attributes that would appeal to all three generations. So, should you choose a few to emphasize and focus on targeting one demographic? Only if you want to limit your candidate pool! The better option is to partner with a national physician recruitment firm with a vast database of physicians of every age and specialty. At Jackson Physician Search, we are able to create multiple versions of a single job posting to target specific segments of the physician audience. The digital marketing magic doesn’t stop there. Through social networks, email, and paid advertising, our search consultants and marketers ensure the physicians you want to reach notice the parts of your job that they’ll find most attractive–and most likely to persuade them to apply. 

Still not sure how generational physician recruiting works? Contact a JPS Search consultant today and they’ll be happy to share more. 

5 Ways to Improve Physician Satisfaction…Before It’s Too Late

If your healthcare organization hasn’t felt the impact of the Great Resignation yet, it may be coming. In a July 2021 survey conducted by MGMA and Jackson Physician Search, 48% of physicians said they had considered leaving their employer…

[White Paper] Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey Results

We surveyed physicians currently working in urban, suburban, and rural settings to better understand their specific needs and wants in regard to choosing to practice in a rural location…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

[White Paper] Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey Results

By

A new survey from Jackson Physician Search and LocumTenens.com – both part of the Jackson Healthcare family of companies – shows hope for rural healthcare organizations to make progress in resolving their physician staffing challenges.

We surveyed physicians currently working in urban, suburban, and rural settings to better understand their specific needs and wants in regard to choosing to practice in a rural location. When those in urban and suburban locations were asked what factors might influence their choice to practice in a rural location, only 10% said they would not consider a rural location at all. The reality that 90% would consider rural practice if the conditions are well-aligned is welcomed news. Interestingly, 72% of urban and suburban physicians reported they would be open to considering ‘trying out’ rural medicine via a locum tenens assignment. Not only does this strategy fill gaps in coverage in the short run, but it could present another path towards permanent recruitment.

This report includes:

  • Physicians’ sentiments on what they want in a permanent rural opportunity
  • Physicians’ views on rural locum tenens and recommendations for its strategic use
  • A snapshot of how COVID is impacting physician retirements and rural recruitment
  • Tips to more efficiently and effectively recruit physicians to rural healthcare by addressing key generational differences when marketing job opportunities

 

State of Rural Healthcare

The U.S. continues to face a severe physician shortage, and unfortunately, the impact of this is often multiplied in rural communities. Around the country, “healthcare deserts” exist, meaning that people who live in rural locations – a disproportionate number of whom live under the poverty level and in poorer health – often must travel long distances to seek anything from routine care to treatment for chronic conditions.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, “Approximately one-fifth of the nation’s population lives in a rural area, but only about 10 percent of the nation’s physicians are located there. This is considered to be one reason rural Americans have higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease than their urban counterparts.” And, of the 7,200 federally designated health professional shortage areas, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that 60% are in rural areas. A few trends are converging to make the challenge of recruiting and retaining physicians for rural healthcare positions even more challenging:

  • Physician retirements are imminent, with 40% of active physicians across the nation reaching age 65 within the next decade. Compounding this anticipated exit is the reality that the percentage is even higher in rural areas.
  • The Great Resignation is likely to hit rural areas hard. According to Jackson Physician Search’s own research in mid- 2021, 43% of the physicians surveyed said they were considering early retirement and 46% said they were considering leaving for a new healthcare employer. This particular study addressed physicians working in all geographic areas, rural included.
  • Rural-raised medical students have sharply declined, while overall medical school enrollment has increased. A 2019 study found that fewer than 5% of incoming medical school students came from rural areas. This is significant because we know that these are the ones most likely to practice in rural areas.

Every signal we’re receiving from both physicians and administrators tells us that it’s time to shake up the status quo in how rural healthcare organizations approach physician recruitment. If we’re going to realize the goal of creating better access to healthcare and improved health outcomes for rural Americans, then healthcare leaders need to reimagine how they source, recruit and retain physicians.

With that in mind, Jackson Physician Search and LocumTenens.com fielded this new research in October 2021, asking 1,311 physicians, 169 administrators, as well as 158 advanced practice providers, a series of questions to better understand the specific dynamics of working in rural, urban and suburban healthcare settings and what could be done to entice more providers to go rural. Of particular interest is sentiment broken down by the needs and desires of physicians by each generation, and our recommendations for recruitment and retention that take these differences into account.

With a focus on learning what it would take to increase the success of physician recruiting and physician retention practices in rural settings, we asked questions such as:

  • What would prompt you to work in a rural setting?
  • Would you be open to a locum tenens assignment that would enable you to “try out” practicing in a rural location?
  • What are the top attributes of your organization’s culture that appeal to you?
  • What factors would motivate you to stay at your current organization for at least five more years?

Additionally, COVID continues to influence the decisions physicians are making about their careers. Questions we asked included:

  • Has the experience of working in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated your plans for retirement?
  • For those working in rural healthcare, was COVID-19 the reason you chose it?

Download the White Paper to Get More Insight Into Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing

 

For more information about how your healthcare organization can use the results of this survey to improve your physician recruitment and retention strategy, contact Jackson Physician Search today. Our team is made up of healthcare industry professionals who have spent decades recruiting physicians, physician leaders and advanced practice providers for healthcare organizations coast-to-coast.

And for more information about locum tenens staffing, please contact LocumTenens.com. Since 1995, LocumTenens.com has been a full-service locum tenens agency. The need has never been greater to connect great clinicians and great healthcare facilities. LocumTenens.com recruiters work on specialty teams and focus only on one specialty. This way, LocumTenens.com medical recruiters learn the ins-and-outs and become recruiting specialists in each area.

About Jackson Physician Search

Jackson Physician Search is an established industry leader in physician recruitment and pioneered the recruitment methodologies standard in the industry today. The firm specializes in the permanent recruitment of physicians, physician leaders and advanced practice providers for hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers and medical groups across the United States. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., the company is recognized for its track record of results built on client trust and transparency of processes and fees. Jackson Physician Search is part of the Jackson Healthcare® family of companies.

About LocumTenens.com

LocumTenens.com specializes in the temporary placement of physicians, advanced practitioners and psychologists at healthcare facilities across the U.S. through onsite and telehealth services. As the industry’s most-visited job board, LocumTenens.com helps healthcare organizations connect with the medical professionals they need to ensure patients have access to quality care. Founded in 1995, LocumTenens.com is a leader in the healthcare staffing industry, helping place clinicians who deliver care to more than seven million patients in over 2,400 healthcare facilities in the U.S. LocumTenens.com is a Jackson Healthcare company. Learn more at http://www.locumtenens.com/about.

[White Paper] Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices Survey Results

Jackson Physician Search and MGMA recently surveyed physicians and administrators to gain insight into physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning within medical practices…

[White Paper] On the Verge of a Physician Turnover Epidemic: Physician Retention Survey Results

Review the results of our recent Physician Retention Survey, which also provides insight into physician engagement, physician burnout, as well as how COVID-19 is affecting physicians’ career plans now and into the future…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

5 Ways to Improve Physician Job Satisfaction…Before It’s Too Late

By

As Dr. L handed in her resignation letter, she felt a weight lifting off of her shoulders. The strain of the pandemic had certainly contributed to the load, but the stress began to mount long before 2020. She had grown weary of working around the clock, the endless hours of charting, and the administrators always asking for more, more, more. She only had so much to give, and by way of a resignation letter, she was letting them know she had nothing left. Dr. L wasn’t exactly sure what her next steps would be, but she knew she couldn’t go on as she had been. If the pandemic had taught her anything, it was that life is too short to be unhappy.

Unfortunately, Dr. L’s story is not unique. It reflects the current experience of thousands of physicians across the U.S. While their specific job complaints may vary, the result is the same. They are changing jobs, cutting their hours, or retiring from the profession completely–and for organizations still battling an unrelenting pandemic, the timing couldn’t be worse.

What, if anything, could Dr. L’s employer have done to make her think twice before calling it quits? Discovering the answer to this question has never been more important.

A Mass Exodus of Physicians

If your healthcare organization hasn’t felt the impact of the Great Resignation yet, chances are, it’s coming. In a July 2021 survey conducted by MGMA and Jackson Physician Search, nearly half of physicians said, over the past year, they had considered leaving their employer (48%) or taking early retirement (43%).

Considering an exit is one thing, but more recent data suggests this desire to quit or cut back is more than a passing thought. An October 2021 MGMA STAT poll found one in three medical practices saw a physician leave or retire early in 2021 due to burnout. According to a survey published in December 2021 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, one in five physicians report they are planning to leave their current practice in the next 24 months. One in three plan to reduce their hours.

Why are Physicians Leaving Their Jobs?

While it’s easy to point to COVID-19 as the reason for the mass exodus, those who monitor industry trends know that physician burnout is not a new problem. A 2019 article by the AMA reported burnout data for physicians, as well as the general population, between 2011 and 2017. While the levels of physician burnout improved over that time period, in 2017, 44% of physicians who took the survey reported at least one symptom of burnout. For perspective, during the same time period, 28% of the general population reported feeling burnout in their jobs. Fast forward to the present, and the levels of physician burnout are even higher. In the MGMA and Jackson Physician Search study, 61% of physicians reported they were currently experiencing burnout.

The correlation of increased physician burnout and the presence of COVID-19 is not to be discounted. However, physicians have long lamented their lack of independence, diminishing influence, lack of support, administrative burdens, pressure to produce, and of course, long hours. COVID didn’t create these problems, but like so many things, it has compounded them.

How to Improve Physician Job Satisfaction

The problems driving physicians to leave their jobs didn’t happen overnight, and there is no quick solution. That said, there are a few immediate actions healthcare administrators can take to help physicians feel heard in this moment of crisis and give them hope of improved circumstances.

1. Focus on Communication

“How are you holding up?” These five words, when asked regularly and followed by active listening, could be the difference between a physician who feels heard in the organization and one that feels like a cog in the wheel. In the MGMA and JPS survey, physicians ranked 2-way communication as the most important driver of their own job satisfaction.

While it’s nice to be asked how they’re doing, physicians need more from leadership than casual conversations about their professional well-being. In the blog post, 4 Ways to Improve Communication and Increase Physician Engagement, we discuss the importance of talking to physicians, encouraging honesty, inviting participation and solutions, and measuring results. Focus on improving communication between physicians and management, and you will address a core need that too many healthcare employers are not meeting.

2. Reward and Recognize

While money can’t solve all problems, it can certainly help. In the aforementioned survey, 85% of physicians said additional compensation was very or somewhat important to their job satisfaction. If at all possible, consider rewarding your physicians for their perseverance with a performance bonus or salary bump. The amount may not be as important as the recognition itself.

While additional compensation may be the preferred form of recognition for a job well done, if that’s not possible, find other ways to recognize the efforts of your physicians. Time off, paid sabbaticals, and reduced call are all ways to reward a job well done and improve job satisfaction. Of course, if your physicians are stretched thin to meet patient demand, these types of rewards may also prove to be impossible. If this is the case, consider a formal letter of recognition from leadership to acknowledge the physician’s extraordinary efforts and provide assurance of the steps being taken to improve circumstances.

3. Review and Modify Burdensome Administrative Processes

If you are listening to physicians, you will most likely learn that some of their frustration stems from the excessive administrative burdens placed upon them. In the 2022 Medscape Physician Burnout and Depression Report, “too many bureaucratic tasks” topped the list of burnout causes with 60% of physicians listing it as a cause. In the MGMA and JPS survey, 72% of physicians said reducing the administrative burden in their jobs was very or somewhat important to improving satisfaction. If employers hope to retain physicians, they must be willing to review and modify the processes creating undue strain on physicians.

4. Implement a Physician Retention Plan

The job of a physician is tough, and employers must anticipate the challenges they will face and have a plan to support them every step of the way. It begins with offering a personalized physician onboarding program and provides a clear path to increased compensation, bonuses, and leadership opportunities. This type of planning should be the basis of a formal physician retention program, something offered by only 5% of employers, according to the JPS whitepaper: On the Verge of a Physician Turnover Epidemic.

5. Recruit Support

If your physicians are stretched thin, the most helpful thing healthcare administration can do may be to hire providers who can support the current team. Whether that’s rounding out the care team with advanced practice providers or recruiting additional physicians, partner with a national physician recruitment firm to help you develop a medical staffing plan that ensures your practice has enough providers to adequately support the community demand.

Improving job satisfaction for physicians is critical to stopping the recent wave of resignations and retirements. While organizations are scrambling to recruit replacements, they are missing opportunities to address the circumstances of their current physicians, likely causing job satisfaction at the organization to further decline.

In the case of Dr. L, if her manager had acknowledged the need for change and taken steps to improve the situation, she may have given the job another chance. After all, most physicians don’t want to uproot their lives and start over in a different job. If the current employer is willing to make changes, the physician will be more willing to stay.

If you are struggling to recruit and retain physicians to support your current team, Jackson Physician Search would love the opportunity to help. Contact us today.

[White Paper] Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover In Medical Practices

This survey uncovers what efforts exist within medical practices to influence better physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning, and how the clinical and administrative sides perceive these efforts…

Physician Compensation and Hiring Trends: What to Expect in 2022

As healthcare professionals gear up to begin year three of a global pandemic, what can administrators expect in terms of demand for physician services and compensation for their unending efforts?

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

Physician Compensation and Hiring Trends: What to Expect in 2022

By

What a year…again. As healthcare professionals gear up to begin year three of a global pandemic, what can administrators expect in terms of demand for physician services and compensation for their unending efforts?

While no one can say exactly what 2022 will bring in terms of the pandemic, without a doubt, the need for healthcare providers will persist. Long before COVID, a looming physician shortage threatened access to care, and the pandemic only worsened the problem, increasing physician burnout and sending many marching toward early physician retirement. As a result, organizations around the country are ramping up physician recruitment efforts.

The basics of supply and demand suggest the members of a shrinking workforce can name their price. While there is some truth in this assumption, healthcare organizations simply can’t pay physicians more than they take in. Still, most employers are doing whatever possible to offer attractive compensation packages that will win the talent they so desperately need.

It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict that healthcare hiring and compensation will continue to trend upward, but what else can administrators and physicians expect in the months ahead? We asked two Vice Presidents of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search to tell us a little about what they are seeing and hearing from clients and candidates with respect to physician job openings and compensation. If you are actively recruiting physicians, you’ll want to take note of these physician hiring and compensation trends in 2022.

Increased Retirements and Turnover Causing Healthcare Organizations to Open More Searches

“We are seeing a record number of new organizations retaining us for recruitment support,” says Tara Osseck, Regional VP of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search’s Midwest Division. “We also have longstanding clients opening up a higher volume of searches than in years past. Some are hiring with the expectation of growth, but also, of course, in response to provider attrition. We see a little bit of everything driving recruitment, so we are busier than ever.”

Osseck’s observation of increased business at Jackson Physician Search reflects the fact that healthcare organizations are hiring in record numbers. Back in March of 2021, an MGMA STAT poll reported 72% of medical practices were hiring physicians. Since then, an October of 2021 STAT poll found one in three medical practices saw a physician leave or retire early in 2021 due to burnout. These physicians must be replaced, and of course, any growth the organization expects must also be accounted for with additional hiring. Medical staff planning has never been more important – or more difficult. Organizations know they need to hire physicians, but the when and who can be overwhelming.

In a Tighter Market, Healthcare Organizations are Extending More Competitive Offers

The volume of physician job openings is increasing, and yet, the number of residents coming out of training remains similar to previous years. In order to win talent from this limited pool, organizations will be forced to make more competitive offers, especially as they increasingly feel the impact of the physician shortage.

“While compensation is dependent on specialty and location, we’re seeing some offers starting to outpace the industry benchmarks,” Osseck explains. ”It’s not always enough to be in line with the MGMA or Sullivan & Cotter data. Organizations often need to go beyond those figures in order to set their offers apart.”

Another MGMA STAT poll supports Osseck’s observation. In June of 2021, one in three practices reported adding or expanding bonuses as a means of attracting and retaining physicians. Inflation is also driving increases. In December of 2021, 50% of practices said they are budgeting more than usual for cost-of-living adjustments in 2022.

Regional challenges with the housing market are also impacting physician compensation. Helen Falkner, VP of Recruiting for the Western Division explains:

“As housing costs rise around the country – and housing availability becomes a challenge – some organizations are including a temporary housing stipend in the initial offer to ease the burden of relocation for new physicians. This is likely to become the standard – especially in areas with extreme housing challenges – until the housing market begins to reverse or at least stabilize.”

Increased Value of Work-life Balance

Increased salaries, bonuses, and cost-of-living adjustments are appreciated, but money isn’t the only thing physicians want. Following the 2020 spring shutdown, recruiters saw an increase in physicians prioritizing work-life balance and autonomy. In a JPS whitepaper covering the impact of COVID-19 on physician jobs, several VPs of Recruiting reported seeing physicians prioritizing quality of life, proximity to family, and better work-life balance. While money will always matter, this shift in priorities seems to be more than a passing trend.

Some organizations will be surprised to learn that the most competitive offer isn’t always the one with the biggest number. Benefits such as four-day workweeks, minimal or no call, or the ability to practice via telehealth are increasingly the deciding factors for physicians weighing offers. Organizations are getting creative with additional paid time off – offering scheduled sabbaticals or dedicated time for physicians to participate in medical missions, either local or abroad.

“In our efforts to find physicians, we have to constantly ask ourselves, ‘What is going to make a physician apply to this job over some other job? Why should they consider this location when they were dead set on something else?’” says Falkner. “Historically, the answer to that question is some sort of eye-catching compensation. So, we highlight the signing bonus or loan repayment in the job ad, but more and more, it’s also a shorter workweek or the opportunity to practice via telehealth that can make the difference.”

The job ad must catch attention, but when it comes time to craft an offer, both Falkner and Osseck discussed the importance of customizing it to meet the specific needs of the candidate. The physician interview process gives candidates the chance to be clear about their priorities. If an organization is listening, they will know what to offer to win the physician’s acceptance.

Rebalancing the Ratio of Compensation to Productivity and Its Importance

While trends from the previous year often inform compensation plans for the future, the circumstances of 2020 were cause for exception. For example, the MGMA data shows physician compensation was relatively flat in 2020, but the dip in productivity – forced by the lockdown and patient hesitancy to seek treatment – caused the ratio of compensation to wRVUs to appear much higher than years passed. Thus, organizations won’t likely use the 2020 ratios as a benchmark for future expectations.

That said, the circumstances of 2020 caused providers once happy to accept a productivity-based compensation model to rethink the security of those plans. The pandemic put physicians in a situation where they had very little control over their own productivity, causing many to feel productivity and wRVUs should carry less weight in the compensation plan. As physicians have increasing power in the job market, we may see less emphasis on wRVUs in physician compensation models.

“Most compensation plans specify a minimum salary regardless of productivity,” Falkner explains. “But of course, the expectation to see a certain number of patients is still there. Then, of course, there are bonus opportunities beyond that. Productivity bonuses are still common, but we are increasingly seeing bonuses for quality, retention, or even access to care.”

Begin to See the Impact of the Shift to Value-based Care

Also contributing to the declining importance of wRVUs is the increased attention on value-based care. Studies show this model benefits the provider, the patient, and the health of the overall population, and yet, moving from fee-for-service reimbursement to value-based care has proven to be complicated.

While both Helen and Tara said they are seeing more clients incorporating a quality component to compensation packages, productivity continues to be the most significant factor, in part because it is easiest to measure, but also because it continues to be the basis of how organizations are reimbursed.

The unique circumstances of the moment may provide some momentum for value-based care, however. An article from consulting firm Deloitte explores how fee-for-service reimbursement and productivity-based compensation are intertwined. The author proposes that shifting the focus to quality of care rather than quantity could not only improve patient outcomes but also bring more meaning to physicians’ work and help reduce burnout.

Better Times Ahead?

The pandemic has pushed physicians to their limits, and an increased number of them are seeking to improve their circumstances with new employers. Healthcare organizations are working with physician recruitment firms to attract these candidates with the promise of better employment opportunities. Of course, what constitutes “better” is relative. Organizations must customize offers to win talent, and more importantly, they must deliver on promises made if they hope to retain their physicians.

“There’s a sense among some of the physicians I speak to that they are just another cog in the wheel and their entire worth is based on how many patients they can see in a day,” explains Osseck. “Organizations are experimenting with compensation models to counter this mentality. Ultimately, though, physician job satisfaction comes down to more than the compensation package. It will require a well thought out physician retention program – something most organizations are still lacking.”

While no one can say for sure what lies ahead in terms of physician hiring and compensation, it’s safe to say that physicians have the upper hand in job negotiations.

If you are actively recruiting and finding candidate acquisition more challenging than in the past, reach out to Jackson Physician Search today.

[White Paper] Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover In Medical Practices

This survey uncovers what efforts exist within medical practices to influence better physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning, and how the clinical and administrative sides perceive these efforts…

Medical Staff Planning: 4 Things to Consider

The much-discussed Great Resignation is hitting the healthcare community particularly hard. The impact of COVID-19 has caused physicians and other healthcare providers to rethink their careers…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

Medical Staff Planning: 4 Things to Consider

By

Medical staff planning has never been more important. The much-discussed Great Resignation is hitting the healthcare community particularly hard. The impact of COVID-19, along with other factors, has caused physicians and other healthcare providers to rethink their careers. In a 2021 Jackson Physician Search whitepaper on physician retention, 54% of physicians said the COVID-19 pandemic had changed their employment plans. Some report seriously considering switching to a new employer, while others may retire early or leave the profession altogether. Whatever the reason, physicians are on the move, and organizations must plan for how they will deal with it.

Of course, the shortage of physicians is not the only reason to prioritize medical staff planning. Organizations must ensure they have the staff they need to meet the changing needs of the community. The basics of supply and demand apply here. A healthcare organization must be adequately staffed to meet the demand for healthcare services. If it hopes to be financially viable, it can have no more physicians than necessary. Alternatively, to keep wait times to a minimum and patients satisfied, it can have no less.

Achieving the right balance requires regularly conducting a community needs assessment. This exercise is sound business practice for a myriad of reasons, including the design of successful physician recruitment strategies and compliance with Stark Law. Organizations must be able to document the community need for a recruited physician, which not only encourages buy-in among current physician staff, but it also shows physician candidates that the community need will enable them to achieve their productivity and financial goals.

In this post, we’ll examine four key considerations of medical staff planning and touch on how to apply them as you develop and adapt your medical staffing plan.

4 Considerations of Medical Staff Planning

The how-tos of medical staff planning will vary significantly depending on the size of the healthcare organization. However, regardless of size, all organizations have similar points to consider as they create a medical staffing plan, as well as when they regularly revisit and adapt the plan.

1. Projected Departures

Medical staff planning begins with collecting data to gauge the volume of departing physicians in the coming years. Some departures are easier to predict than others. Leadership should start a dialogue with physicians nearing retirement age and request transparency as they begin to shape their retirement timelines. Ensure they don’t feel they are being pushed out or pressured to stay, but rather, they should feel supported and encouraged to make leadership aware of plans to scale back or retire, no matter how tentative or distant.

Of course, physicians leave organizations for many reasons–retirement being just one of them. In fact, recent studies put the average annual rate of physician turnover at 7%. Some physicians leave due to personal or family circumstances–a spouse relocation or a relative with failing health–while others are simply seeking greener pastures. These scenarios can be difficult to project, though the possibility of the latter may be detected through regular one-on-one conversations between physicians and managers. If a manager senses a physician is especially burned out or dissatisfied at work, they should know the physician is not likely to stay in the job and can start preparing for the departure.

How To: Conduct an environmental scan to forecast recruitment needs. Gather data on physicians currently on staff to understand their demographics, specialties, skill sets, and patient volumes. Use the data to create a timeline that estimates the number of physicians likely to retire in each specialty for the foreseeable future. Consider industry data on physician turnover trends as well as feedback from managers to help estimate non-retirement turnover. A good physician recruitment partner can help you use these projections to create a physician recruitment timeline. Review updated data regularly and revise the plan and timeline as needed.

2. Anticipated Growth

A medical staffing plan must address physician turnover, but this is just one consideration. It must also factor in the organization’s plans for growth. A strategic medical staffing plan ensures the organization is properly staffed to meet growth targets. Whether aiming for a specific revenue goal, a certain patient volume, or both, the organization must have the right number of healthcare providers on staff to deliver the care that will allow it to achieve those goals.

Ideally, the organization’s growth targets align with the community’s projected healthcare needs. To ensure accuracy, the organization must regularly assess the surrounding area’s population and demographics, as well as how many other healthcare organizations are available to meet demand. A deep dive on patient wait times and the need for different specialists in the area can inform both organizational goals as well as the medical staffing plan. Finding alignment in these areas is key to success.    

How To: Calculate the population of the organization’s primary service area and estimate the share of the market served. Analyze population and healthcare trends to project the needs of the community and determine staffing levels required to meet those needs. A healthcare consultant and/or software application may be useful in analyzing the data to make these complex projections. Healthcare consultant SullivanCotter offers a thorough Physician Needs Assessment tool for more robust intelligence. 

3. Potential of Internal Talent

Who among the current staff is capable and interested in stepping into a bigger role? What training would be needed to prepare current staff for promotion? Reviewing the potential of physicians already employed by the organization is an essential step in medical staff planning. Not only will it save the time and cost of recruitment for the higher level position, but internal hires are likely to reach full productivity faster than an external hire. Across industries, multiple studies suggest that internal hires outperform external hires, have better retention rates, and save the organization money.

How To: Regular, open communication between physicians and leadership is essential for improving physician engagement, physician job satisfaction, and managing burnout. Communication is also the key to identifying potential leaders among current staff. Once potential leaders are identified, managers must ensure these physicians have access to the training and development they need to ready them for the next step. In the JPS physician retention survey, only 26% of physicians said their employers offered a leadership development program. Make sure you are giving physicians the training they need to reach their full potential.

4. Changes in Care Delivery

Organizations should also consider how changes in care delivery could better serve the patient population and inform the medical staffing plan. For example, the COVID-19 impact has shone a light on how effective Advanced Practice Providers can be in the delivery of patient care. Even before COVID, experts pointed to Advanced Practice Providers as a valuable tool in solving the physician shortage. Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are trained to provide many of the same services as physicians, often at a lower cost to the insurer and lower overhead for the organization.

Another example of changes impacting medical staffing is the emergence of telehealth. Though possible prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth visits became a widely accepted channel for care delivery. Now that face-to-face visits are deemed safe, the convenience of telehealth makes it an attractive option for patients and providers alike. According to research from McKinsey & Company, as of July 2021, the volume of telehealth visits is 38 times greater than prior to the pandemic.

Organizations must determine how increased telehealth visits will impact medical staffing plans and recruiting. According to the JPS whitepaper on how COVID-19 changed the physician job market, during the pandemic, many physicians discovered a preference for practicing via telehealth, so adjusting for this shift in your medical staffing plan may improve recruitment efforts.

How To: Monitor changing trends in care delivery with an eye for how it might impact your staffing plan. A permanent physician recruitment partner can assist in this area. They have relationships with organizations all over the country and are thus attuned to how others are adapting and can advise accordingly.

If you need assistance creating a recruitment timeline or determining the appropriate staffing mix for your organization, Jackson Physician Search is eager to help. Contact us today to learn how we can assist with medical staff planning at your organization.

[White Paper] Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover In Medical Practices

This survey uncovers what efforts exist within medical practices to influence better physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning, and how the clinical and administrative sides perceive these efforts…

Four Ways to Improve Communication and Increase Physician Engagement

Hospital administrators know all too well the importance of physician engagement. Study after study confirms its significance, and yet, a troubling disconnect…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

3 Mistakes To Avoid In Your Physician Succession Planning

By

Does it feel like recruiting and retaining physicians is more challenging than ever? Whether due to the impact of COVID-19 on physician jobs or increasing physician retirements, a perceived spike in physician turnover weighs heavily on the minds of healthcare leaders.

So, how are medical practice managers and healthcare administrators coping with the changing physician workforce? A recent survey, commissioned by Jackson Physician Search in partnership with Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), aimed to discover what efforts exist within medical practices to improve physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning. The resulting whitepaper, Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices, details the findings of the survey.

Not surprisingly, both physicians and administrators acknowledge high levels of physician burnout, attributed to a variety of causes. However, physicians and administrators have differing views on how burnout is addressed. With respect to physician succession planning, administrators acknowledge its importance, rating it a 7.5 out of 10, and yet only 16% of respondents have a written, formal succession plan. Thus, 84% are overlooking the most proactive step they can take to prepare for inevitable physician turnover.

In recent articles, we’ve discussed the importance of physician succession planning as a way to defend against the negative impact of physician turnover. We discussed the 3 types of succession plans every organization needs as well as the 8 steps to physician succession planning. Here, we will review what we’ve learned and discuss common mistakes to avoid when developing physician succession plans.

Physician Succession Planning: Why, What, and How

Nothing raises the temperature in a practice like a physician giving notice. The burden is felt at every level of the practice. From office staff calling patients to reschedule future appointments, to physicians taking on additional responsibilities, to leadership screening and interviewing candidates – everyone feels the stress of physician turnover. A physician succession plan allows organizations to prepare for turnover before it happens. By forecasting physician hiring needs and detailing the actions required when a physician gives notice, the organization lessens the burden felt throughout the practice and ensures continuity of patient care.

Organizations should have three types of succession plans: 1) a physician leader succession plan, 2) a general succession plan, and 3) a short-term/emergency plan. Creating the plan is a multi-step process, primarily involving researching and forecasting trends, crafting detailed job descriptions, pairing potential leaders with mentors, and partnering with a recruitment firm. The process will look a little different for every organization, though there are some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid.

3 Common Physician Succession Plan Mistakes

1. Thinking It’s All About Recruiting

While it’s true that successful physician recruitment begins with succession planning, don’t make the mistake of thinking a physician succession plan is all about recruiting. Research and forecasting is a critical first step that will allow you to better understand your physicians’ retirement timelines. Gathering information to create job descriptions and implementing a training or mentor program are also important pieces of physician succession planning that organizations often forget. In the MGMA and JPS study, fewer than half of those administrators who reported having a succession plan, said the plan included a mentorship program. Succession plans that only focus on external recruitment will come up short when it comes to promoting internal candidates and developing leaders.

2. Not Partnering With a National Physician Recruitment Firm

On the other hand, while it’s not all about recruiting, you don’t want to overlook the need for a respected, national recruitment partner. Having an established relationship with a physician recruitment firm allows you to nurture a pipeline of candidates and launch a search quickly if needed. Using your research and retirement timeline, your recruitment partner can also advise on how long it takes to recruit and hire physicians in a variety of specialties and levels of leadership, so you will know when to launch the search. (Spoiler alert – it’s likely much sooner than you think.)

3. Underestimating the Duties of Physicians

When a physician resigns, the immediate concern is coverage for that physician’s patients, however, chances are good that your physician wears a lot more hats than you realize. A critical part of succession planning involves collecting detailed information about what each physician does so that you know 1) what responsibilities will need to be delegated or outsourced until a replacement can be found, 2) what kind of training is needed for potential internal candidates, and 3) what exactly should be listed in the posted job description. This step is important not only for physicians in leadership positions but for physicians at every level. Most physicians do a lot more than treat patients, and it’s best to know exactly what they are juggling before those balls are dropped.

Of course, the biggest mistake of all is not having any kind of physician succession plan in place. Even prior to COVID-19 and the recent surge in retirements, the average rate of physician turnover was estimated at 7%. That means 7% of physicians leave their jobs each year, so it’s likely that every practice will be impacted to some degree every year. Why wouldn’t you want to prepare for the inevitable? By forecasting likely turnover and charting the course of action accordingly, healthcare organizations can avoid a disruption to patient care and ease the additional stress placed on physicians and staff, ultimately improving their job satisfaction and retention.

If you are seeking a recruitment partner as part of your physician succession planning, Jackson Physician Search is ready to assist. Contact us today.

Also, learn more about creating effective succession plans by downloading the whitepaper: Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices.

[White Paper] Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover In Medical Practices

This survey uncovers what efforts exist within medical practices to influence better physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning, and how the clinical and administrative sides perceive these efforts…

8 Steps to Create a Physician Succession Plan

If it’s true that “the best defense is a good offense,” then succession planning is the most proactive way to defend against the impact of physician turnover. What exactly is a physician succession plan and why is it important to have it?…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

8 Steps to Create a Physician Succession Plan

By

Across industries, the global talent shortage is disrupting business as usual. However, it’s nothing new to the healthcare industry, specifically as it relates to physicians. Concerns about a physician shortage have been mounting for decades, but an aging and increasingly burned out physician workforce may be creating a spike in physician turnover and making physician recruitment more challenging than ever.

Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices, a whitepaper by MGMA and Jackson Physician Search, shares the results of a recent survey covering physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning. The findings make it clear that while healthcare administrators are worried about rising physician turnover, very few (16%) have a formal physician succession plan in place to address the issue.

If it’s true that “the best defense is a good offense,” then succession planning is the best, most proactive way to defend against the negative impact of rising physician turnover. But what exactly is a physician succession plan and why is it so important to have it in the playbook? More importantly, how does one create an effective physician succession plan?

In a previous article, 3 Types of Physician Succession Plans (And Why You Need All 3), we explored the “what” and “why” of physician succession planning. Here, we’ll review what we learned and then outline 8 steps for creating this essential physician recruitment tool.

Physician Succession Planning: What It Is & Why It’s Important

When a physician leaves – for any reason – it creates stress in the practice. How quickly can they be replaced? Until then, who will cover their patients? How will other responsibilities be delegated? Physician succession planning addresses these questions before the physician leaves. It is a written plan that both forecasts physician hiring needs and details the actions required when a physician gives notice. By planning for inevitable turnover, the organization does not have to sacrifice continuity of care or burden the other physicians with additional stress when a physician leaves.

Organizations should have three types of succession plans: 1) a physician leader succession plan, 2) a general succession plan, and 3) a short-term/emergency plan. The first accounts for what happens when a board member or C-suite physician retires or departs for other reasons. The second, general plan addresses the departure of physicians with few or no management responsibilities whose absence would still disrupt the organization. The third, emergency plan serves as an interim plan for when, despite best efforts, an organization is still left with a gap in coverage.

With these three different types of physician succession plans, organizations experience fewer and shorter gaps in coverage, so the business of patient care continues without placing additional stress on physicians. In this way, succession planning not only saves the organization money but also protects its physicians from increased burnout.

8 Steps to Create a Physician Succession Plan

Now that you know what it is and why you need a physician succession plan, it’s time to create one.

Step 1: Goal Setting

Identify the goals of succession planning in order to make a business case for why it is important for your specific organization. In the MGMA and Jackson Physician Search survey, the most common objective of a physician succession plan was to meet patient demand. While this is obviously important, a succession plan can also serve to alleviate the burden felt by remaining physicians when one departs. In this way, succession planning is also an element of a good retention program.

The scope of this early stage will largely depend on the size of the organization, how many people need to buy into the process, and what resources are required to proceed. If everyone is on board with the need for and purpose of succession planning, the process can get underway.

Step 2: Research and Forecasting

Conduct an environmental scan to forecast recruitment needs. Gather data on physicians currently on staff to understand their demographics, specialties, skill sets, and patient volumes. Use the data to create a timeline that estimates the number of physicians likely to retire in each specialty for the foreseeable future. Consider industry data on physician turnover trends to help estimate non-retirement turnover.

Prioritize and forecast recruitment needs based on these estimates, as well as the organization’s plans for growth. Physician recruiting serves to both replace departing physicians and grow the practice with new physicians. Recruitment forecasting should consider both goals.

Step 3: Meet with Stakeholders and Develop Job Descriptions

Succession planning requires consistent and transparent communication with stakeholders. Reach out to physicians nearing retirement age to gauge their short- and long-term plans. When do they expect to retire? Before or after 65? Are they interested in transitioning to part-time or a more consultative role as they ease into full retirement? Make sure they feel supported in their choices and encourage them to be open with you as their timeline and intentions change.

Of course, the physicians left behind when others leave are also stakeholders. Be sure to seek input from them on how they feel about turnover, what they would like to see happen when one of their colleagues gives notice. Seek out their opinions and use these conversations to identify future leaders who may be interested in stepping into a bigger role when a physician in a leadership role retires. Consistent communication with physicians may also help gauge individual job satisfaction and thus allow you to identify those physicians most likely to leave.

As part of the ongoing communication with stakeholders, be sure to develop a complete understanding of the responsibilities each physician holds. Create job descriptions containing the full scope of what each physician does. The written description could be used by a recruiter to quickly post the role to a network of physician job boards. More importantly, the full list of responsibilities will guide what training is required to get potential internal successors ready for the job.

Step 4: Implement Mentorships and Leadership Training Programs

The term “succession” suggests one physician taking over for another, so it is surprising that most succession plans do not include a mentor or training element. In the MGMA and JPS survey, only 43% of the administrators who reported having a succession plan, said their plan included a mentor program.

This element is critical for smooth transitions. In an article for the Jan/Feb 2020 Physician Leadership Journal (published by the American Association of Physician Leadership), Quint Studer, healthcare consultant and founder of the Studer Group, noted that most of the nation’s leading healthcare systems develop their leaders internally: “All of them have a wide, aggressive, robust leadership development [program] that creates a wider pipe-line than others. That’s really the key.”

A robust leadership and mentor program is something to strive for, but it’s okay to start small. Use the job descriptions created in step 4 to identify where training is needed and focus on filling in those gaps.

Step 5: Identify a Physician Recruitment Partner

Even if your program is successful in replacing physician leaders with internal candidates, those physicians who are promoted will need to be replaced. Having an existing relationship with a national physician recruitment partner will ease (and speed up) this process.

A recruitment partner can also advise on the time it takes to fill roles depending on specialty and level of leadership. Using the data gathered in your environmental scan, the recruitment partner can help create a timeline for when to begin recruiting for key positions.

Step 6: Seek Legal Advice

For more complicated transitions, legal assistance may be necessary to outline the expectations and obligations of all parties. The legal advisor may need to draft a letter of understanding that includes requirements with respect to medical records, notification of patients, disclosure of financial statements, and more.

Step 7: Create a Transition Checklist and Timeline

A thorough physician onboarding program will help newly hired physicians quickly reach productivity. However, the additional responsibilities that come with taking over for a departing physician may not be addressed in the onboarding process. The transition checklist and timeline should cover the specific actions required to transition patients and other responsibilities from one physician to another. It should be used in conjunction with the onboarding program when hiring a new physician or used alone when promoting a physician already on staff.

Step 8: Have a Contingency Plan

These steps outline the process for creating a physician leader succession plan or general succession plan. However, even with a well-thought-out plan, gaps in coverage may occur. It’s critical to have an emergency or interim succession plan that can be activated immediately if necessary. Ideally, you have an existing pipeline of potential candidates who are ready to work, but it’s important to also have an established relationship with a locums agency that can quickly fill the short-term need.

Effective Physician Recruitment Begins with Physician Succession Planning

A good succession plan includes a timeline of projections for what kind of physicians will be needed and when. As the physician shortage continues, having this timeline, and planning adequate time for recruitment, becomes increasingly important. Planning for eventual turnover and recruiting accordingly prevents a disruption in the delivery of patient care and also minimizes the stress placed on other physicians in the organization.

If you need a physician recruitment partner to assist with succession planning, Jackson Physician Search is ready to learn about your needs and share our expertise in this area. Contact us today.

[White Paper] Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover In Medical Practices

This survey uncovers what efforts exist within medical practices to influence better physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning, and how the clinical and administrative sides perceive these efforts…

3 Types of Physician Succession Plans. (And Why You Need All 3)

So what is succession planning? And how does it impact physician recruitment? This article will introduce the three different types of succession plans while highlighting the importance of each type…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

3 Types of Physician Succession Plans. (And Why You Need All 3)

By

At just 42, retirement was not on Dr. M’s radar, and yet, after 10 intense years of treating cancer patients, her resolve had grown thin. A big career change was in the best interest of her and her young family, and yet her employer, an academic institution where Dr. M wore many hats, was blindsided by her resignation. Though she provided six months’ notice, they feared it was not enough time to hire an oncologist in her field who could take over her patients, not to mention carry out her many other responsibilities.

Dr. O hated to be asked about his retirement plans. Though he was approaching 65, he found the questions insulting and responded that on his last day, they’d have to carry him out on a stretcher. This always garnered a chuckle, but the message was received. Dr. O did not plan to retire as CMO any time soon. The board was confident that they had plenty of time–until of course, a sudden heart attack required a stretcher to be called.

Hired out of residency, Dr. T had been at a busy pediatrics practice for three years. He was building strong relationships with patients, bonding with colleagues and staff, and learning from several mentors. He was on the path to become a leader and mentor himself, until his cross-country parents grew ill, and as an only child, Dr. T felt he had no choice but to uproot his life and move closer to them. With very little notice (and heading into flu season!), Dr. T’s busy practice found itself down a pediatrician.  

Physician turnover happens. Whether due to burnout, as with Dr. M; personal illness or death, as with Dr. O; or changing family circumstances, as with Dr. T; physicians leave their jobs every day–sometimes with adequate notice, but sometimes without. Studies estimate an average physician turnover rate of 7% annually. That is, 7% of all physicians will leave their jobs each year.

Recently, there has been an increase in discussions about a spike in physician turnover and physician retirements–some attributed to COVID’s impact on an already stressed physician population but most due to the high volume of physicians reaching retirement age. Experts will continue to debate the driving forces behind rising physician turnover, but regardless of the cause, administrators must prepare for it with 3 distinct types of physician succession plans: 1) a physician leader succession plan, 2) a general succession plan, and 3) a short-term/emergency plan.

2 Facts About Physician Succession Planning

Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices, a whitepaper by MGMA and Jackson Physician Search, reports the findings of a survey covering physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning. With respect to succession planning, two things are overwhelmingly clear. First, administrators recognize the need for succession planning, assigning it a level of importance of 7.5/10, on average. More qualitative conversations with respondents reinforced the fact that the repercussions of a physician’s departure weigh heavily on the minds of practice and hospital leaders.

The second clear takeaway is that most leaders don’t have a succession plan in place to ease the problems caused by physician turnover. In fact, only 16% of administrators surveyed have a formal written succession plan. An earlier MGMA survey found 58% reported having no plan at all and 71% said they were not prepared for a physician departure.

Whether you plan for it or not, physicians leave. And with the data on the physician shortage increasingly dire, the time it takes to find a suitable replacement is likely longer and longer.  Still, many administrators think the answer to physician turnover is simply recruiting, however, successful physician recruiting begins with succession planning.

So what is succession planning? And how does it impact physician recruitment? This article will introduce the three different types of succession plans while highlighting the importance of each type. In subsequent posts, we’ll dig into the how-to aspect of physician succession planning– including mistakes to avoid.

More Than a C-Suite Problem

Succession planning is important across industries, however, it is generally thought of and talked about with respect to high-level positions. Who will fill the shoes of a departing CEO or retiring President? In healthcare, these questions certainly apply to leadership positions, however, the shrinking physician workforce makes succession planning applicable to physicians at every level of an organization.

Who will see the patients of the departing physicians? How will other responsibilities be assigned or absorbed? An already overworked physician workforce may not have the bandwidth to take on the patients and other duties of departing physicians for any length of time, and if forced, it will likely increase physician burnout and negatively impact retention. The cycle perpetuates itself.

The need for succession planning is clear, but it is not a one-size-fits-all plan. Organizations should have three types of succession plans. One prepares for departing physician leaders such as a Chief Medical Officer or a Partner in a private practice; a second accounts for departing physicians in non-leadership roles. The third succession plan should address emergency needs in the short term.

1. Physician Leader Succession Plan

Succession plans for those in high-level leadership positions are not uncommon, however, as noted, very few healthcare organizations have any type of formal succession plan in place.  Succession plans for physician leaders should include a comprehensive documentation of the duties and responsibilities of each leader. The physician leader should be actively involved in creating this list. They should also be mentoring physicians identified as potential leaders on the execution of these responsibilities. Additionally, to gauge the timing of future transitions, board members and other leaders should have regular conversations about estimated retirement plans, if applicable.

2. General Succession Plan

Succession planning for physicians at any level should include documentation of responsibilities and training and mentoring if needed. Having physicians who are able to step in seamlessly when another physician departs eases the disruption to the practice, but it doesn’t eliminate the need to quickly hire a replacement. For this reason, forecasting potential departures is a key part of general succession planning. Taking the temperature of physicians’ stress and burnout levels may help predict departures, as will factoring in average turnover rates.

Leadership should not only consider what level of recruitment is needed to replace departing physicians, but also, what level is required to grow the practice (if growth is, indeed, a goal). Many organizations find some level of ongoing physician recruitment is necessary to build a pipeline of potential candidates who can quickly fill a need. They may choose to partner with a national physician recruitment firm to ease the in-house burden and find physicians who are both a professional and cultural fit.

3. Short-term Succession Plan

Even with thoughtful succession plans in place, an organization may still experience unexpected gaps in coverage. An emergency succession plan addresses these short-term needs. If there is no established pipeline of candidates from which you can accelerate the recruitment process, then the short-term plan may be as simple as establishing a relationship with a locum tenens staffing agency. Alternatively, a short-term succession plan may include reassigning the departing physician’s patients and responsibilities to other staff, however, this method has its risks, specifically, increasing stress and burnout for remaining staff.

The Value of Physician Succession Planning

In each of the opening scenarios, healthcare organizations were forced to deal with an unexpected physician vacancy. If those employers had active succession plans, they might have detected Dr. M’s increasing burnout and addressed her waning resolve before she made a move. In Dr. O’s case, the board would have already identified physician leaders with the potential to fill Dr. O’s shoes. Despite his reluctance to talk about retirement, they would have insisted he document his responsibilities and mentor those potential leaders. For Dr. T’s practice, a short-term succession plan would have positioned them to easily request a locum as soon as Dr. T gave notice and activate an existing network of physicians in their search for a suitable replacement.

By utilizing the three different types of physician succession plans, organizations ensure the business of patient care goes largely uninterrupted without placing an undue burden on other physicians. In this way, succession planning not only saves the organization money but also protects its physicians from increased stress and burnout, thus improving retention rates.

If your organization seeks a physician recruitment partner as part of an effective physician succession plan, Jackson Physician Search is ready to assist. Contact us today.

Also, learn more about creating effective succession plans by downloading the whitepaper: Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover in Medical Practices.

[White Paper] Getting Ahead of Physician Turnover In Medical Practices

This survey uncovers what efforts exist within medical practices to influence better physician recruitment, engagement, retention, and succession planning, and how the clinical and administrative sides perceive these efforts…

[White Paper] On the Verge of a Physician Turnover Epidemic: Physician Retention Survey Results

President of Jackson Physician Search, Tony Stajduhar, reviews the results of our recent Physician Retention Survey, which also provides insight into physician engagement, physician burnout, as well as how…

Need Help Recruiting Physicians?

Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.