Hire Physician Executives With These 5 Skills

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The pandemic may have driven some physician executives into early retirement, but for others, a sense of duty caused them to delay instead. Now, with the worst of the pandemic behind us, we may be seeing an increase in turnover among healthcare and physician executives. As administrators seek to replace departing leaders and hire physician executives, they should look both internally and externally for physicians who possess the skills and traits of an effective physician executive. So, what exactly should they look for? 

What are the Must-Have Skills for Physician Executives? 

Great physician executives need many of the same skills and traits that any strong leader possesses, regardless of industry. They should be solid decision-makers, have excellent communication skills, and know how to delegate. Certainly, the nature of being a physician requires some skills in these areas, but not all leadership skills are inherent to physicians. After all, medical school is almost solely focused on teaching future physicians how to care for patients. Leadership skills must be learned on the job — if they are learned at all. 

According to a September MGMA Stat poll, only 53% of medical groups provide any type of management training to staff. This means that many physicians seeking physician executive jobs must be trained externally. Those with foresight may have simultaneously pursued MD and MBA degrees in one of the many increasingly popular MD/MBA programs. For others, this may mean pursuing an MBA in the evening after a full day of seeing patients. 

Does every physician executive need an MBA? Not necessarily. Physician executives do need a strong understanding of the business of medicine, but this can be learned on the job from a strong mentor or in a management training program. It’s the soft skills of leadership that may be more difficult, but not impossible, to teach. 

Evaluating Soft Skills in Physician Executive Candidates

According to Dirk Jansson, Director of Physician Executive Search at Jackson Physician Search, the most effective physician executives lead by example and have the respect of their peers. While he acknowledges that the role of physician executive is different for each organization, ideal candidates have certain soft skills in common. They have high emotional intelligence and are active listeners, good communicators, and excel at developing relationships. 

Dirk’s list certainly seems like a good place to start, but how do you evaluate these traits in your physicians, or in physician executive candidates, for that matter? 

Hire Physician Executives Who…

…Lead By Example

When observing internal candidates, look for a physician who sets the tone for the whole group. He or she has the ability to energize the group simply by being energetic. Others may or may not seek his or her advice directly, but they watch his or her actions closely and follow suit. 

This quality may be difficult to evaluate in external candidates. Use behavioral interview questions and ask them to tell you about a time they led by example, or more specifically, a time they were tasked with implementing a new process and how they went about getting buy-in from the group. 

…Have High Emotional Intelligence

Look for physicians who are in tune with their own emotions and can recognize and adapt to the emotions of others. Put simply; they know how to “read the room.” Of course, in practice, it’s more complicated. A good physician executive knows that one’s words don’t always tell the whole story. He or she can perceive what lies behind a person’s words or even his or her countenance. An effective physician executive can adapt his or her style accordingly. 

Watch how physicians interact with each other and with staff, and you can often guess who has high emotional intelligence simply by their sense of ease as they adapt to different conversation partners. 

…Who are Active Listeners

Ideal physician executives listen more than they talk. They ask thought-provoking questions to learn more about the given topic. They don’t assume they are the authority on all subjects but rather exist in a constant state of learning. They seek out the opinions of others and make an effort to understand what is being said, even if they ultimately disagree. 

…Who are Good Communicators

Physician executives must be able to clearly convey ideas and information in a way that resonates with the listener. Clarity is critical — he or she doesn’t hide behind the message or use vagueness to ease the impact of unwelcome news. Rather, an impactful physician executive is transparent with information and welcomes feedback and discussion. 

…Who Know How to Develop Relationships

Perhaps above all else, physician executives must excel at building and maintaining relationships. Much of a physician executive’s value is in the respect they garner from other physicians and staff, so an effective leader will maintain those relationships and continue to act in ways that earn respect and esteem of physicians and staff.  

If you can identify a physician executive candidate with these five skills, you are certainly well on your way to hiring the ideal physician executive candidate. On the other hand, if you are struggling to find physician executive candidates who check all these boxes, it may be time to partner with a national physician recruitment firm with expertise in this area. Reach out today to learn more.

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3 Reasons to Hire Physician Executives

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According to a December MGMA article, healthcare and physician executives may be the next group to join the “Great Resignation.” The article references an ACHE report that found turnover among hospital leadership was slightly lower in 2020 and 2021 than it was in the prior eight years. The dip suggests that at least some healthcare executives delayed retirement so as not to abandon their organizations during the worst of the pandemic. Now, with circumstances related to the pandemic greatly improved, those executives who put off retirement or a new opportunity are likely ready to move on… but who will fill their shoes? 

The startling truth is that most organizations don’t have an answer to that question. According to the aforementioned article’s corresponding STAT poll, 61% of organizations report that they have no succession plan for leadership roles. A 2021 JPS study found the situation to be even worse, with only 16% of leaders reporting they had succession plans in place. Succession planning is essential for leadership roles, and one could make the case they are important to have for physicians too. 

Whether you decide to create a succession plan, or you simply start thinking about your next course of action, be sure to consider how replacing departing leaders with physician executives could benefit the organization as a whole. 

1. Physician Executives Improve Quality

According to a new whitepaper from the American Association of Physician Leaders, physician leadership is more valuable now than ever before. The whitepaper reports that seven out of ten of the nation’s top hospitals (named by U.S. News & World Report) are led by physician executives. The rankings are, in part, due to the higher quality scores associated with these physician-led hospitals. The whitepaper notes that hospitals see, on average, a 25% increase in quality scores when physician executives are in charge.

For administrators seeking to improve quality, adding a physician executive to the C-suite may be just the right move. Why do physician executives have this effect? It may be due to reasons number two and three on our list… 

2. Physician Executives Bring Clinical Perspective to the Boardroom

Physician executives have a unique understanding of the challenges facing healthcare providers and the patients they treat, as they have faced those problems firsthand. This empathy allows them to bring the perspective of physicians and patients to the decision-making process, ensuring the actions of the organization don’t undercut the needs of those it serves. 

With an understanding of both the organization’s goals and the challenges facing physicians, physician executives are the ideal liaisons between administration and providers, two parties occasionally at odds. In fact, in a recent JPS-MGMA study, physicians ranked two-way communication with management as the most important factor in job satisfaction – above compensation. However, when asked to rate their employers in this area, just one in four said two-way communication at their organization was “good” or “very good.” Physician executives have the ability to improve in this area and positively impact physician job satisfaction at their organizations.  

3. Physician Executives Get Buy-In From Medical Staff

Leaders make decisions for their organizations that impact staff at every level. When a physician executive presents an organizational change that will impact physicians and clinical staff, the fact that he or she has been in their shoes makes it more likely that clinical staff will see the change as something positive. The shared history and common language give physician executives credibility among not just physicians, but nurses, techs, allied staff, and all members of the direct care team. 

The AAPL whitepaper shares multiple examples of physician executives serving as positive agents of change both within the organization and the community. The whitepaper quotes Baxter C. Holland, MD, pediatrician and former vice president of medical affairs at Rutland Regional Medical Center in Rutland, Vermont:

“If you have physician leaders, you are more likely to have the medical staff follow the organization’s direction. They’re much more likely to follow other physicians than they are administrators.”

Hiring Physician Executives

As the healthcare industry faces unprecedented challenges, the need for physician executives is greater than ever. Organizations with more physician leadership are likely to have higher quality scores due to the clinical perspective physician executives bring to the boardroom and their ability to gain trust and buy-in from medical staff. However, hiring effective physician executives can be challenging. Most organizations do not provide leadership training to their own physicians, so they must look externally for physician executive candidates. 

Of course, connecting with physician executive candidates is only one part of the physician executive recruitment process. While there are several things you need for successful physician executive recruitment, perhaps the most important is a trusted physician executive recruitment partner to help you connect with candidates and identify the best person to fill this essential role on your team.     

If you are interested in adding a physician executive to your team, Jackson Physician Search can offer unmatched access to physician executives and valuable insight into the physician executive recruitment process. Reach out to the Physician Executive Recruitment team today to start your search.

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How to Fight Physician Executive Burnout

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Healthcare experts often point to rising physician burnout as the root cause of broader industry issues such as high physician turnover, low retention rates, and long recruitment cycles. When burned-out physicians opt to leave their jobs, it can cost their employers millions in lost opportunity and recruitment expenses. The cost to patients can be even greater, as studies indicate that physicians suffering from burnout are more likely to make mistakes.   

The negative impact of physician burnout is clear, but physicians aren’t the only healthcare professionals suffering from the physical and mental exhaustion that characterizes burnout. According to a September 2022 MGMA Stat Poll, 80% of healthcare leaders, including physician executives, report increased stress or burnout over the previous year. In contrast, an MGMA poll from four years earlier found that less than half (48%) of healthcare leaders reported feeling burned out. Of course, after a global pandemic and widespread staffing shortages, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that healthcare executives report increased burnout. But while the industry acknowledges and attempts to address the problem of physician burnout, the impact of burnout among physician executives and other healthcare leaders is less clear. The question remains, how is burnout among these leaders impacting organizations, and what can be done to mitigate the problem? 

3 Ways to Mitigate Burnout Among Physician Executives

We know burnout drives physician turnover, so it follows that burnout among physician executives contributes to increased executive turnover. This certainly seemed to be the case earlier this year. The monthly Challenger CEO Report, which documents turnover among CEOs in the US, showed record numbers of hospital CEOs leaving their jobs in the first few months of 2022. Fortunately, those figures stabilized in the latter part of the year, and yet, the challenge of developing and retaining healthcare and physician leaders remains. In an industry plagued with financial, regulatory, and staffing challenges, attracting and retaining leaders who are willing and able to take on these obstacles is an ongoing problem. 

Healthcare leaders face monumental challenges that make it especially challenging to remain motivated and engaged. For this reason, organizations must find ways to better support physician executives and healthcare leaders, and the leaders themselves must employ strategies to ward off the feelings of fatigue, self-doubt, and lack of empathy associated with burnout. Keep reading for three areas of focus for individuals battling burnout.  

1. Prioritize Wellness (and Sleep)

With Millennials now accounting for more than a third of the workforce, the values associated with their generation, such as personal wellness, work-life balance, and collaboration, are increasingly important. This is true across industries, demonstrated by the rise of Chief Wellness Officers at organizations globally. The healthcare industry is not exempt from these shifting priorities. According to a joint Jackson Physician Search and MGMA study, Back from Burnout: Confronting the Post-Pandemic Physician Turnover Crisis, physicians rank work-life balance among the top factors contributing to job satisfaction. In a study exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the physician job market, recruitment leaders at Jackson Physician Search reported a spike in candidates entering a job search in search of a better work-life balance.  

What is true for clinical physicians is also true for physician executives and healthcare leaders. Time away from work is essential. Studies show that adequate sleep is also critical in battling burnout. In fact, a key takeaway from an American College of Healthcare Executive study in the Journal of Healthcare Management was the importance of sleep in the reduction of burnout.    

Takeaway: Healthcare leaders and physician executives must obtain adequate sleep and take advantage of paid time off and flexible schedules to counteract burnout. Organizations should incorporate wellness into the culture by offering flexible schedules, encouraging employees to take time off, and developing programs to improve the physical and emotional health of employees. 

2. Seek External Collaboration 

Healthcare leaders face significant challenges — financial, staffing, and regulatory. This is true for organizations large and small, urban and rural, private and public. Instead of fighting the battles from the silo of a single organization, leaders will benefit from exchanging ideas, sharing triumphs and failures, and collaborating with other organizations. The state of Michigan demonstrates how this type of collaboration improves patient care and lowers costs. According to a Harvard Business Review article, a consortium that began with five hospitals grew to include fifty organizations sharing information about how they treated cardiovascular disease. This transparency led to improvements in the quality of care and a reduction in costs, complications, and readmissions. The success of the BCM2 led to more collaborative quality initiatives in the state, where the costs of care are now among the lowest in the country. 

Michigan proves collaboration benefits the broader industry, but it follows that a collaborative approach to problem-solving would also benefit the industry’s physician leaders by alleviating pressure and expanding their toolbox. For this reason, collaboration is high on the list of ways to combat executive burnout.  

Takeaway: Don’t face challenges alone. With respect for your organization’s information-sharing policies, seek allies at competing organizations to identify mutual challenges and develop solutions. This collaborative approach to problem-solving — at both the individual and organizational levels — can help everyone involved keep feelings of burnout at bay. 

3. Embrace a Purpose and Growth Mindset

An analysis of the ACHE study noted that lower professional fulfillment scores correlated with higher levels of burnout, indicating physician executives and healthcare leaders who feel their work is meaningful are less likely to experience burnout. For this reason, it’s imperative that these leaders find ways to stay connected to their broader purpose and focus on the ways the work they do contributes to their communities. 

Self-valuation is also factored into an individual’s level of burnout. The study identifies self-valuation as a measure of one’s tendency to respond to personal imperfections with the desire to learn and improve rather than with self-disparagement. Individuals responding with the former, often referenced as a “growth mindset,” reported lower levels of burnout. 

Takeaway: If healthcare executives hope to avoid burnout, they must adopt a growth mindset and find ways to stay connected to their broader purpose. Organizations should develop a culture in which employees are encouraged to learn from failure. The mission and impact of the organization on the surrounding community should be woven into the culture as well. 

Healthcare leaders, including physician executives, have spent nearly three years facing unprecedented circumstances, not to mention the longstanding issues that plague the industry. Rising burnout among leaders, while not surprising, must not be dismissed. Just as physician burnout has a rippling impact on the broader industry, burnout among healthcare leaders is also detrimental. While the solution to burnout is complicated and requires organizational intervention, leaders who prioritize wellness, collaborate with peers, adopt a growth mindset, and reconnect with their purpose may fare better than their peers. 

If physician recruitment challenges are contributing to your stress and burnout, reach out to the Search Consultants at Jackson Physician Search to learn how we can alleviate the burdensome tasks of physician recruitment.

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Following the Path to Physician Executive Jobs

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Most physicians thrive on challenges. Throughout undergrad, medical school, residency, and fellowship, they are striving to make good grades, impress their professor or attending physician, and acquire the knowledge and experience they need to move to the next level. When these hardworking physicians eventually complete their training and begin their first physician jobs, the need to achieve doesn’t fade away. It will likely be channeled into building a practice and/or amassing RVUs to meet productivity goals. Ambitious physicians will continue to find ways to impress leadership, win favor with patients, increase their earnings, and perhaps, take on more responsibility as a physician executive. If this describes you, you’ll want to keep reading for advice on how to prepare for physician executive jobs. 

The Path to Physician Executive

For most working professionals, the path to leadership involves climbing a fairly straightforward corporate ladder. You put in a few years as an associate and will eventually be promoted to manager. Do your time as a manager, and soon you’ll be on the path to becoming a director and eventually a VP. If you have an MBA (or earn it online after work), you may even make it to the C-suite. With each promotion, responsibility grows, and compensation increases.

For physicians, the path to leadership is not quite as clear, nor is it always quite as enticing. While a physician executive title holds some prestige, the notable challenges facing healthcare leaders today may discourage even the most driven physicians from pursuing this path. The fact that the path to becoming a physician leader is not well defined is also problematic. Even physicians who want to learn leadership skills and increase their knowledge of the business of healthcare don’t often receive this kind of training. In fact, according to a September MGMA Stat poll, just 53% of medical groups provide any type of management training to staff. 

The Need for Physician Executives

Despite the fact that half of medical groups don’t offer physician leadership training, organizations increasingly recognize the value that physicians bring to healthcare leadership roles and are hiring more physician executives. Physician leaders have firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing physicians and their patients. This empathy allows them to make decisions with an understanding of the organization’s goals, as well as the needs of physicians and patients. Their experience in both the business of healthcare and the delivery of patient care gives physician executives the ideal perspective from which to make decisions that impact the entire organization.

Physician executives may also serve as liaisons between providers and other administrators. In this role, physician executives have the potential to improve communication, which, according to a joint JPS-MGMA study, is a top desire of physicians and thus essential to mitigating physician burnout and increasing physician retention. 

Be Proactive in Your Own Development

If you are up for the challenge of physician leadership, don’t wait for a supervisor to approach you with a training manual. Even if your organization offers leadership development for physicians, you may need to use your voice to express your interest. You may begin by raising your hand to join committees and attend conferences. Offer to serve as a peer mentor to a new physician. Show yourself to be an engaged and helpful team member, then talk to your supervisor about your desire to lead and ask for his or her thoughts on the specific leadership skills you need to learn. 

According to Dirk Jansson, Director of Physician Executive Search at Jackson Physician Search, the most effective physician executives lead by example and have the respect of their peers. While he acknowledges that the role of physician executive is different for each organization, ideal candidates have certain soft skills in common. They have high emotional intelligence and are active listeners, good communicators, and excel at developing relationships. 

These types of skills aren’t covered in medical school and may not be innate to your personality, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be learned. If your employer does not offer a leadership development program, you’ll need to identify mentors who can help you learn those essential leadership skills. 

External Physician Executive Training 

Of course, leadership skills and business acumen can be acquired in other ways too. An increasing number of physicians are choosing to pursue an MHA or MBA–either in conjunction with an MD or after the fact. If you did not choose the former option, the availability of online graduate programs makes it possible to obtain an additional degree with minimal disruption to your practice. 

The American Association of Physician Leaders also serves as a valuable resource for current and future physician leaders. The organization is dedicated to preparing physicians to be influential and effective leaders. The AAPL offers a variety of self-study CME courses for physician leaders at every stage of their careers. Those completing the full curriculum are eligible to receive the Physician Executive Certification. Some classes may also count toward advanced degrees through partner universities. 

Get Involved

However you choose to pursue it, you will need a keen understanding of the business of healthcare if you hope to become a physician executive. Books, courses, and mentors can provide instruction and insight, but the best way to learn is to see it firsthand. Find ways to get involved in (or at least observe) the decision-making process at your organization. Ask questions to better understand the thought process leading up to specific changes in policy.

Healthcare organizations recognize the value of physician leaders, and most would prefer to promote from within rather than hire externally. So, even if your employer doesn’t specifically offer leadership training, you can easily make a case for why they should support you in your efforts to learn. By pursuing physician leadership skills, you can better serve the organization and the surrounding community. Not to mention you will be helping your employer build an internal pipeline of future physician leaders. 

Of course, if your employer simply cannot offer the professional development you need to put you on the path to a physician executive job, reach out to the Jackson Physician Search recruitment team today to inquire about opportunities that may be a better fit for your future goals. 

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Strong Access to Physician Executive Candidates Drives Quick Placement for a Healthcare Tech Company

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When a California-based healthcare technology company needed to hire a Vice President of Life Sciences, they were hoping to find an experienced physician executive to run the division. The company’s CEO knew Jackson Physician Search had strong access to physician executives and were experts in physician executive recruitment, so he brought the need directly to JPS President Tony Stadjuhar, whom he knew personally. Tony was intrigued by the company’s mission–to improve quality and lower costs by using technology to measure clinical practice–and he was confident his physician executive recruitment team could help them hire the leader they needed. 

A Unique Physician Executive Search

Because the position was with an industry business rather than a healthcare delivery organization, the assignment was unique for Jackson Physician Search. However, Regional VP of Recruiting Helen Falkner eagerly took on the challenge. She enjoyed getting to know the company’s leadership and digging into the corporate mission so she could fully understand the need. The new hire would be focused on scaling the business, so the ideal candidate would have not only clinical research experience but also a keen interest in business development and growth. Helen knew this combination of traits and experience was rare among physician executives, but she was confident that she could find the right person for the job.

Helen crafted the job ad to include the required skills and experience and also highlight the most appealing aspects of the opportunity. Though she had some concerns about the compensation, she hoped the unique and exciting nature of the role would draw the attention of the right candidates. She began her search by leveraging the JPS network of physician job boards to distribute the ad and posted it to broader healthcare industry job boards as well. 

Beyond Physician Executives

While the client originally sought a physician with a background in clinical research, Helen knew the top priority for the new hire would be growing the business. The client was also open to hiring a non-physician candidate, a Ph.D. with medical research experience. With the depth of resources at JPS, Helen would be able to connect with both types of candidates. The client requested Helen bring them candidates as she screened them, rather than wait for a slate of four or five. This way, they could provide ongoing feedback to help her discern what they liked and disliked as well as accelerate the search. 

Helen found several candidates whom she presented to the client. She connected with one physician candidate after seeing his profile on Doximity, the largest online networking site for physicians. She reached out to another whom she had discovered in the JPS physician database. Her most promising candidate, however, was a Ph.D. who had seen the ad on one of the industry job boards. He had a background in medical research and extensive experience working with government health services both at home and abroad.

“Dr. D had spent years working to improve healthcare in Africa,” Helen explains. “The COVID pandemic made him realize how much work there was to be done right in the US, so he moved back to the States where he was working as Chief of Epidemiology for a major metro. He helped the city manage the COVID crisis but was ready for a new challenge.”

After talking at length with Dr. D, Helen was convinced his experience was exactly right for the position. She presented him to the client, and they called him the next day.  

The Right Leader, the Right Opportunity

The candidate impressed everyone he spoke to over the phone. The client’s leaders agreed that he would be an excellent fit for the role and moved quickly to secure him for the role. For Dr. D, the growth-oriented role with an innovative company was exactly what he had been looking for. Even his compensation expectations were in line with what the client was offering. 

“Once they began talking to Dr. D, the process moved quickly,” Helen says. “They extended an offer and Dr. D accepted. The entire search took less than three months!” 

Helen credits the client’s responsiveness and open communication with the quick success. The leaders’ accessibility and transparency allowed her to hone in on what was most important in the role. Once she brought them the right candidate, their ability to act quickly–scheduling interviews and extending the offer–helped to reduce the overall time-to-fill.

“Both the CEO and the founder were very hands-on,” she explains. “We spoke every other week and they provided specific feedback on what they liked or did not like about a candidate. This allowed me to better understand what they wanted, so when I spoke to Dr. D, I knew he was the one.”

Helen enjoyed the unique nature of this healthcare executive search, and in the end, she found immense satisfaction in placing an effective leader with an innovative company making a positive impact on healthcare. 

If your organization is seeking a strong healthcare leader, the physician executive recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search has both expertise and unparalleled access to physician executives to identify the right candidates for the role. Contact us today to learn more about physician executive recruitment.

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Physician Executive Recruiting: Longtime Client Hires the Medical Director They Need

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Senior Director of Recruiting Sally Ann Patton is no stranger to the challenges of rural physician recruitment. Over the years, she has successfully recruited multiple physicians for a hospital client in rural West Virginia in a town about an hour from Pittsburgh. Leveraging a 100% digital recruitment strategy, she helped them identify strong physician candidates who would be willing to relocate and build their lives in the area.

In 2020, the hospital came to Sally Ann for assistance recruiting a Hematology-Oncology physician who could potentially fill the role of Medical Director. The current Medical Director would be stepping down in the upcoming year, and as part of their medical staff planning, they wanted to get started on the search for a replacement. 

Detailed Profiling for Physician Executive Search

Due to the existing relationship, Sally Ann was already well-versed on the client’s values and culture, but she wanted to make sure that she knew what they were looking for in an ideal physician executive candidate. To ensure alignment, she conducted several conversations with the board and other stakeholders. The ideal candidate would lead by example and serve as a liaison between physicians and administrators. He or she would be a natural teacher, as mentoring other physicians would be a big part of the job. Sally Ann emphasized these points as she crafted the physician job ad. Once this critical step was complete, the ad was posted to the JPS network of physician job boards.

The JPS Marketing Team also sent an email featuring the physician job ad to physicians in their vast database who matched the hospital’s criteria. Sally Ann ensured “Medical Director Opportunity” was included in the subject line, along with a reference to the nearest major city, Pittsburgh. She was confident that the right physician would see the ad and reach out for more information. 

A Successful Physician Seeking Work-Life Balance 

A Hematologist, Dr. B, was working in academia at a university in Ohio. Between the clinic and the classroom, her schedule was packed. The time she did spend at home with her young children was often spent writing or reviewing papers. She was regularly published in medical journals and was on track for a full professorship, but at what cost to her family? At what cost to her mental health?

It wasn’t only her young children that caused Dr. B’s concern. Her parents, who lived in Pittsburgh, visited often, but their ability to make multiple trips each year would diminish with age. And what would happen when they eventually needed her help? How could she care for them while living so far away? 

All of this was on Dr. B’s mind when she saw the email featuring the Medical Director job from Jackson Physician Search. The Medical Director opportunity appealed to Dr. B’s need for challenge and growth, and the location was ideal in proximity to her parents. 

Ready to Lead in Rural Medicine 

Dr. B reached out to Sally Ann, who immediately recognized that Dr. B. was more than qualified for the position. However, Sally Ann wondered if this highly lauded physician from the world of academia would seriously consider a position with a rural hospital. While the “Medical Director” title carried some prestige, there would be no publications or accolades for the physician in the role. The focus would be a balance of management responsibilities and clinical work. Would this be enough to satisfy a physician like Dr. B?     

Sally Ann conveyed the reality of the role to Dr. B. and asked her to consider if the Medical Director job, as described, could make her happy. Dr. B insisted that it could. She needed a better work-life balance and the location was ideal. Despite Sally Ann’s initial reservations, she began to think it just might be a perfect fit. She presented Dr. B to the facility, and they were eager to proceed.  

Making it Happen: Negotiating the Physician Executive Contract  

Due to scheduling challenges, it would be several months before Dr. B could visit the facility for an on-site interview and community tour. When she was at last able to visit, the hospital leadership and staff liked her right away and did their best to make her feel at home. Dr. B enjoyed her visit, and after spending a few days in the community, seeing several neighborhoods and schools, she began to picture a life there. 

Imagining herself in the Medical Director job was one thing, but signing a contract was another. Dr. B pushed back on the facility’s first offer, and Sally Ann and her contact at the facility went back and forth on several rounds of negotiations. In the meantime, the hospital was being acquired by a nearby university system. This complicated the contract’s progress, but Sally Ann wondered if the facility’s new ties to an academic institution would make the job even more appealing to Dr. B. 

As contract negotiations continued, the hospital’s current Medical Director officially resigned, making leadership at the facility even more motivated to come to an agreement. Dr. B’s motivation was intensifying as well. That fall, her mom suffered a health scare, shining a light on one of the primary reasons Dr. B wanted to relocate–to be available for her parents. 

Finding the “Why” for a Physician Executive Search

The story demonstrates the importance of understanding the reason the physician executive candidate is considering a job change. Despite increasing rates of turnover, physicians don’t take job changes lightly–especially at the physician executive level. Something specific drives the desire for change, and it is rarely compensation alone. In Dr. B’s case, the driving factor was a desire for a better quality of life and proximity to family. Knowing this was pivotal to Sally Ann’s decision to present Dr. B to the client. It also impacted how the client went about persuading Dr. B to take the job. They emphasized the low-stress environment and the flexibility she would have to spend time with both her children and her parents. 

Administrators should know and consider the physician’s “why” when planning the on-site interview and community tour. Afterward, they should think beyond compensation and tailor the offer to ensure the new job will satisfy the “why.” 

Dr. B’s reasons were clear from that first conversation with Sally Ann. However, she needed reminders along the way. “I just kept bringing her back to her why,” Sally Ann explains. “When the logistics seemed complicated or the contract still wasn’t right, I’d say, ‘Remember why you are doing this. For your kids. For your parents. For your peace of mind.’ She needed to focus on that to keep moving forward.” 

Finding Fulfillment as a Physician Executive in Rural Medicine

The process of placing a physician executive is more complex than traditional physician recruitment, with more potential complications in the contract negotiations. Sally Ann remained involved in the process, and when the contract was finally signed by all parties, she felt tremendous satisfaction. 

“It was an especially fulfilling placement for me,” she said. “The community desperately needs good physicians and strong leaders, and now, they are getting one of the best.”

“This placement reflects the mission we have at JPS,” Sally Ann continues, “We strive ‘to improve the lives of everyone we touch,’ and I really felt that with this placement. Not only will Dr. B’s life improve, but she will have a tremendous impact on the lives of everyone in that community.”

If your healthcare organization needs help identifying a physician executive who can make a lasting impact, the team at Jackson Physician Search is ready to help. Contact the Physician Executive Recruitment Team today.

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5 Must-Haves for Successful Physician Executive Recruitment

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Healthcare is facing tremendous challenges — staffing shortages, financial concerns, physician burnout, and more — and the industry will need strong leadership to guide it through these unprecedented times. Increasingly, healthcare organizations recognize the value that physicians bring to healthcare leadership roles and are hiring more physician executives. However, not all physicians will be interested in or successful at serving as leaders, so it’s critical that organizations have a well-defined process for identifying and recruiting physician executive candidates. 

Recruiting physician executives requires organizations to first have a well-defined vision for the role, and second, a vast network of potential physician executive candidates. Of course, this network won’t bring value without a recruiter focused on reaching out to the most promising candidates. Organizations must also have a well-organized on-site interview process to successfully evaluate (and win over) the top candidates. And lastly, a physician executive recruitment partner with a record of success will ease and speed up the entire process. Keep reading to learn more about the five must-haves of physician executive recruitment.  

Why Physician Executives?

While studies are inconclusive about the impact a physician CEO has on a hospital’s quality, most recognize that physician executives bring a unique understanding of the challenges facing healthcare providers and the patients they treat, as they have faced those problems firsthand. This empathy allows them to make decisions with an understanding of the organization’s goals, as well as the needs of physicians and patients. Their experience in both the business of healthcare and the delivery of patient care makes physician executives the ideal liaison between providers and administration. 

As liaisons, physician executives have the best chance of smoothing relationships between physicians and leadership, two parties occasionally at odds. In fact, in a recent JPS-MGMA study, physicians ranked two-way communication with management as the most important factor in job satisfaction–above compensation. However, when asked to rate their employers in this area, just one in four said two-way communication at their organization was “good” or “very good.” Physician executives have the ability to improve in this area and positively impact physician job satisfaction at their organizations.  

1. Defining the Physician Executive Role

Physician executives may be tasked with improving communication between physicians and administration or have a completely different priority set, like creating and standardizing protocols across a network of hospitals. It depends on the purpose and function assigned to the role by the organization’s leadership. Each organization will have a different idea of what role their physician executives should play. 

According to Dirk Jansson, Director of Physician Executive Search at Jackson Physician Search, each physician executive role is as unique as the hiring organization. Some physician executives will serve as a manager, solving physicians’ issues as they arise and keeping the team aligned with the organization’s culture and mission, while other physician executives may be hired to be transformative leaders, creating the organizational culture and leading by example among physicians. 

“The first step in physician executive recruitment is defining the role,” says Jansson. “The organization must come to a consensus on the purpose and function of the position, as well as the skills, experience, and leadership style required for the role. An effective physician executive recruitment partner will help the client organization define a single vision for the role and help tailor a profile of the ideal candidate.”

A good physician executive recruiter will visit the organization and meet with stakeholders to understand each individual’s thoughts about the role. The recruiter will take all of the input and help the group prioritize the skills and experience required for the role. When everyone is in agreement, the recruiter will craft a physician executive job ad that emphasizes the required skills and experience and highlights the most attractive features of the job, the organization, and the location.      

2. A Network of Physician Executive Candidates

Like digital physician recruitment, physician executive recruitment may also benefit from the distribution of job ads via online physician job boards, email, and text campaigns to relevant candidates in a vast database, and of course, online physician communities such as Doximity. For high-level searches, the number of qualified candidates will be slim, but the larger your network, the more likely the right candidate is already within reach.

Dirk Jansson believes this is why working with a recruitment firm whose focus is on physicians benefits clients searching for physician executives. 

“Most healthcare executive search firms conduct a heavy mix of non-physician administrative searches, so their databases and resources are mixed,” he explains. “On the other hand, Jackson Physician Search has spent over 40 years strictly focusing on the placement of physicians and physician leaders across the country, so quite often, we‘ll find the successful candidate is already within our system.” 

3. Physician Executive Outreach

Because most physician executives aren’t in an active job search, sourcing candidates for physician executive roles also requires a proactive approach.  It’s not enough to distribute the physician executive job ad to the database and wait for applications, because most physician executives aren’t applying for jobs. However, a physician executive search partner can build a pool of candidates most likely to be aligned with and attracted to the role.  They will prioritize their outreach efforts toward these candidates, and in many cases, network with those targeted candidates to identify additional leads.   

“A strong executive search consultant might make 20 calls and come away with 40 leads,” says Jansson. “By leveraging a strong network, the recruiter can identify and reach out to the best matches and potentially gain access to others who may be a good fit as well.” 

4. Interviewing Physician Executive Candidates 

Due to the busy schedules of candidates at this level, not to mention those of the executives and board members who will interview them, coordinating on-site interviews can be challenging. Conducting first-round interviews virtually allows stakeholders to meet and get to know candidates without the complicated logistics of bringing them on-site. Ideally, leadership can leverage virtual interviews to narrow it down to two candidates, who will then be invited to spend time at the organization and meet with leaders face to face. 

Just as they do with physician candidates, organizations must carefully plan on-site visits for physician executive candidates to demonstrate the best parts of the job, the facility, and the town. Leadership must present a unified message about the function and purpose of the role and how it will fit in with broader leadership goals. Physician executive candidates need transparency from leadership so they have an accurate picture of their potential role in the organization. Only then can both parties determine if there is a good match. 

5. The Case for a Physician Executive Recruitment Partner

Physician executives have the potential to not only impact their own patients but the entire patient population of the communities they serve. They recognize the value of human capital, lead by example, and have the ability to shape the culture of the organizations they lead.

When the stakes are this high, organizations will improve their odds by investing in a dedicated physician executive recruitment partner that has spent decades building relationships with physicians and physician leaders. Over the course of 10,000+ permanent placements, Jackson Physician Search has developed relationships with physicians all over the country, at all stages of their careers. Many of the physicians we placed 5 or 10 years ago have now moved on to leadership roles. When they are ready to grow again, they turn to the recruitment firm that took care of them in the past for help finding new physician executive opportunities–and we are happy to assist them. 

In addition to providing access to a vast network of physicians, a successful physician executive search firm will also serve as an extension of your team. Most internal recruitment teams do not have the bandwidth to dedicate a recruiter to physician executive outreach, but this is exactly what it takes to identify the best physician executive candidates. Our physician executive recruiters can also streamline the interview and contract process to ensure the process is moving in accordance with the desired timeline.  

Summary

As healthcare administrators increasingly seek to hire physician executives at their organizations, they must have five things for successful recruitment: 1) a unified vision of the function and purpose of the role, 2) a vast network of potential physician executive candidates, 3) a team member dedicated to physician executive outreach, 4) a well-organized physician executive interview process, and 5) a strong physician executive recruitment partner to fill in the inevitable gaps among the previous four.

The JPS Physician Executive Search team has the experience, network, and expertise required to provide you with the physician executive recruitment support you need. Contact our team today to learn more.  

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