[White Paper] The Realities of Physician Retirement: A Survey of Physicians and Healthcare Administrators

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One of the major factors of the impending physician shortage is the aging physician workforce. We recently conducted a survey including practicing physicians and health administrators to better understand the situation. This whitepaper includes our findings and conclusions. Feel free to download and share.

 

By 2020, one in three physicians will be over age 65 and approaching retirement. For hospital administrators, recruiting an experienced physician is a complicated process that takes significant time. An open position is costly in terms of lost revenue and the potential loss of both patient satisfaction and staff morale.

Given that a hospital can easily lose $150,000 per month if a specialist leaves and that a search for a medical or surgical specialist takes five to 10 months, the stakes are high. New research from Jackson Physician Search―that surveyed both practicing physicians and healthcare administrators―highlights the importance of creating the right culture and processes around physician retirement, including effective transition processes and ongoing recruiting efforts, to avoid the negatives of a vacancy or understaffing situation.

Among the key findings:

  • Physicians’ drivers for retirement include lifestyle, financial stability, burnout and frustration with the current state of medicine. While physicians cited lifestyle issues (44 percent) as the most important reason driving their retirement decision, followed by financial stability (23 percent), comments from nearly 20 percent of them noted burnout and frustration with the increased focus on paperwork and patient volume as well as decreased focus on patient care.
  • Physicians feel it’s their responsibility to initiate the retirement conversation, but they are less comfortable doing so than administrators. A large majority of physicians (80 percent) said it’s their responsibility to broach the subject compared with 37 percent of administrators, yet less of them (52 percent) are comfortable discussing retirement plans than administrators (74 percent).
  • Physicians and administrators have vastly different opinions on what the ideal notice period is for a retirement timeline. Almost 50 percent of administrators indicated the ideal notice was one to three years, while 40 percent of physicians felt six months or less was sufficient. Also, 34 percent of physicians said they weren’t required to give any notice of retirement, while 81 percent of administrators said they were required to give more than three months.
  • Administrators assume that many physicians will fully retire, but a number of them plan to work elsewhere. Almost 40 percent of administrators named full retirement as a top retirement transition method at their organization, but just 17 percent of physicians were planning to do so. In contrast, 28 percent of doctors say they will work part or full time somewhere else.

Although there is hesitancy about initiating a conversation about retirement, it is clear that both administrators and physicians feel that it’s a beneficial discussion for both parties. Differences remain on length of notice and whose responsibility it is to bring up retirement, but when handled respectfully and conducted in a non-discriminatory way, both parties can find the ideal way to transition the retirement with proper planning and processes.

Survey Methodology and Demographics

To find out how both physicians and hospital administrators approach physician retirement and transition planning, we surveyed both groups on a range of related topics. These included the age of retirement, drivers for making the decision, requirements and timeframe for giving notice, comfort with having the conversation and whose responsibility it was to initiate it. Other questions were related to the retirement transition itself and interest in employer retirement incentives.

A total of 567 physicians and surgeons from a wide range of specialties responded to the survey. Physician respondents were distributed throughout the United States, roughly based on state population. Half of them described their communities as suburban and just 15 percent noted rural. Most respondents (61 percent) were between the ages of 50 and 69, and the majority were male (71 percent).

There were 100 hospital administrator respondents to the survey, many of which were C-level executives, followed by directors and administrators in a variety of recruiting and human resources functions. The administrators were distributed across the country, but a larger proportion (40 percent) were from self-described rural communities. As with the physician respondents, most were between the ages of 50 and 69 (63 percent), although the majority of administrator respondents were female (55 percent).

Drivers for Physician Retirement

In the survey, administrators report the average age for retirement at their healthcare facility as 65, which is in line with the age of 63 as determined by analysis of U.S. Census data. Not surprisingly, physicians named lifestyle (44 percent) and financial stability (23 percent) as top drivers for retirement. Likewise, administrators also perceive lifestyle (48 percent) as a top driver, although they found health reasons (15 percent) the second most prevalent motive, which was close to three times more than what physicians cited. Administrators were also less likely to think that financial stability (14 percent) was the most common reason physicians made a retirement decision.

More than 17 percent of physicians indicated “Other” as the top reason for retirement, compared with just 10 percent of administrators. Many physicians indicated burnout and frustration with the state of medicine in the United States, as noted in the following comments:

  • Managed care, whether private or government, has made the practice of medicine too adversarial to enjoy enough to consider delaying retirement.
  • Medicine has turned into a quagmire of regulatory burdens, collecting data, and the destruction of physician’s autonomy and authority in individual patient care.
  • Doctors are no longer able to practice medicine with the primary objective of patient well-being!!
  • It has become too onerous to practice. The focus is on increasing volume with less and less pay. Also, the practices are running leaner which shifts more and more clerical work onto doctors. Add to these issues the increasing testing and “boutique” results reporting and you have a formula for high stress with diminishing satisfaction and diminished returns.

Having the Retirement Conversation

When it comes to initiating the retirement conversation, survey results show that the topic weighs more heavily on the physician, and that there is room for administrators to make the discussion more comfortable, both for the benefit of the physician and the organization. A large majority of physicians (80 percent) said it’s their responsibility to broach the retirement subject compared with 37 percent of administrators, yet less of physicians (52 percent) are comfortable discussing retirement plans than administrators (74 percent). One physician noted that “succession should always be a part of the hiring discussion and empowerment to plan and mentor over time.”

On the administrator side, almost 30 percent cited “Other” when asked whose responsibility it was to start talking about retirement. The following comments from physicians in this category indicated an acknowledgment that they had difficulty broaching the subject―and that there is a need for a more formal, yet inviting process, especially given the long lead time needed to recruit a physician:

  • MDs usually initiate, but if they are having trouble, the administrator or group president will initiate the conversation.
  • I believe our physicians are not very comfortable with the conversation, so we (HR) have provided them with a script and talking points to assist with these conversations.
  • Ultimately, it should be the physician, but there is a hesitancy to do so. Therefore, we have tried to make it a collaborative discussion between the physician and the physician leader.
  • We periodically send surveys to the physicians, asking that they let us know if they are considering retirement in the next 1 to 3 years, as the recruitment process is lengthy.
  • The organization views it as the physician’s responsibility. However, as a recruiter needing lead time, I’d like a plan to approach the physicians and have administration address succession planning. I’ve been pressing for this almost five years without success.

The Realities of Giving Notice

Physicians and administrators have vastly different perspectives on what the ideal notice period is for providing a retirement timeline, a finding that might partially be explained by the lack of conversation and practices regarding retirement in general. Almost 50 percent of administrators indicated the ideal notice was one to three years, while 40 percent of physicians indicated it was 6 months or less. Also, 34 percent of physicians said they weren’t required to give any notice of retirement at all, while 81 percent of administrators said they were required to give more than three months.

When administrators were asked how much notice they typically receive when a physician plans to retire, their answers ranged from a high of three years to a low of one month, with an average of 10 months. The most common notice period cited was six months, which was in line with what physicians reported as the ideal notice period. Given the timeline for locating a physician and the fact that 40 percent of physicians thought 6 months or less was an ideal notice, administrators should consider the practice of ongoing recruitment of candidates to make sure there are no gaps in care and revenue.

The Retirement Transition

Physicians in the survey indicated some differing ideas about the retirement transition than administrators might assume, which possibly indicates they are looking for greater flexibility in their transition process. Almost 40 percent of administrators named full retirement as a top retirement transition method at their organization, but just 17 percent of physicians were planning to do so and almost 28 percent of doctors say they will work part or full time somewhere else. Some of the doctors listing “Other” planned to pursue locum tenens work or pro re nata (PRN) and telemedicine options that let them dictate their own schedules, while others looked to potentially help with recruiting, mentoring and managerial tasks at their current practice.

Many physicians (47 percent) were interested in retirement information planning services, but only half of administrators indicated those are offered. Comments from physicians indicated the vast majority of them were, not surprisingly, most interested in financial and healthcare planning. Physicians in the survey were also looking for help with the general process of retirement, along with ways to explore part-time or non-clinical options, as noted in these comments:

  • There is a need for an outline and timeline of what needs to be done, as well as the contact people to facilitate the process.
  • I would like to know the steps for the retirement process and how/when to transition to Medicare health coverage. I am also interested in opportunities for part-time work with the same employer, along with pay/benefit information.
  • It would be helpful to know how to manage before full retirement age.
  • I would like to know what part-time work is available once I retire that may or may not include clinical care.

When asked if employer-sponsored incentives would induce them to start an early retirement process, 50 percent of physicians agreed it would, with most requesting financial and/or healthcare benefits. Others were looking for part-time employment opportunities. However, nearly all administrators (95 percent) indicated they offered no incentives to initiate an earlier retirement approach so that staff planning was more seamless.

 

 

Conclusion

The survey results indicate that there is a need for more formal processes surrounding physician retirement, especially given the ongoing shortage of doctors in the United States. To help both hospitals and physicians with the retirement transition, administrators should:

  • Develop non-discriminatory ways of approaching the retirement conversation. HR and physician leaders should work together to create a step-by-step process for when and how to approach the conversation, which might even occur as early as during the hiring process. Having such a process makes the physician feel less singled out for the discussion. In addition, routine surveys on retirement plans can open the lines of communication.
  • Offer incentives to initiate an early retirement process. To encourage earlier notice of retirement from physicians, administrator should consider incentives like a percentage of pay for earlier notice, health benefits for a specified time period, and relief from call duties.
  • Create flexible offerings like part-time or non-clinical work. For financial and other reasons, such as benefits, many physicians would like to continue working, which could ease the burden during the onboarding process for a new physician. Having a process for scheduled conversations about retirement can help prepare for a situation where several physicians retire at once, which would include extra scheduling activities and other administrative tasks. However, given the high costs of a full vacancy, these costs could easily be justified.
  • Adopt a continuous recruitment process instead of treating a physician vacancy as a one-off occurrence. This will ensure that the physician candidate pipeline is full in the event that one or more physicians are transitioning to retirement. By maintaining relationships with qualified candidates, the organization is not starting at the ground floor of recruitment and can quickly adjust to unforeseen issues with retirement transitions.

With the proper planning and processes built on more open communications, hospital administrators can avoid understaffing and continue to provide the best possible patient care. Starting early in a physician’s career with these processes can make the transition and succession planning more comfortable for all parties and support more optimal recruiting efforts.

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Proactive Retention for Today’s Physicians

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It is already well-documented how much physician vacancies cost healthcare systems and medical practices.  With as much as 40% of physician vacancies going unfilled as recently as 2017, retaining the physician staff that you already have in-house has become more important than ever.  Let’s review proactive ways that administrators can improve physician retention instead of filling endless vacancies.

Hire for Fit

The most effective way of reducing physician turnover is to hire physicians that are already aligned with your corporate mission, values, and culture. When your staff believes they are working for an organization that embodies the same values and culture, they are naturally more engaged in their workplace. According to a Gallup study, physicians who are more engaged not only avoid looking for new opportunities, they are also 26% more productive and generate 51% more referrals than their counterparts that don’t feel that same sense of engagement.

Embrace Flexible Scheduling

Today’s physicians are not the typical doctor of 30 years ago. If you want your physician staff to maintain a singular focus on treating patient after patient in an assembly line fashion, there is a good chance you are already in an unending cycle of physician vacancies. Today’s physician has other personal and professional interests that go beyond their love of healthcare. Whether it is research, teaching the occasional class, or spending several weeks a year on medical missions to underserved nations, cater to your physician staff’s outside interests, and they will repay you with loyalty.

Learn the value of EQ

When discussing someone’s intelligence, references are always made to their IQ, but just as important for retention purposes is EQ.  Emotional quotient (EQ) has been studied since 1990, and the results have shown that individuals with higher EQ, are more rewarding to work with, and are better at handling stress and workplace relationships. The good news is that EQ is something that can be developed in everyone.  EQ training is sometimes referred to as soft skills training, and when successful, the results are an improved workplace culture and environment. Another important consideration when EQ training is being implemented is that it needs to include everyone from administration to physicians to support staff.

Develop a Mentorship Program

Physician burnout is affecting up to 55% of doctors, according to the Stanford University School of Medicine.  When staggering numbers of physicians are reporting feeling the effects of burnout, it is not a stretch to imagine them looking for a new opportunity that doesn’t include the same amount of stress.  A mentoring program can help physicians who are struggling to manage the stress of their job and career.  Physician mentors have experienced the same types of job stress as their struggling counterparts and have valuable wisdom to share.

There is no single retention strategy that will help you avoid physician vacancies. But, losing sight of the factors that are contributing to your retention woes is the surest way to keep the vacancy cycle going.  Paying attention to the culture of your workplace and understanding how leaders with lower EQ contribute to stress and disengagement can help you set a course for improved retention and more success overall.

Jackson Physician Search is annually ranked in the top 15 Best Places to Work in by Modern Healthcare.  Our team of industry and recruitment professionals stands ready to help you find, hire, and retain the physicians and advanced practice professionals your organization needs.  Contact us today to get started.

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Building an Effective Search Committee for Physician Leadership Recruitment

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Recruiting a physician leader to a healthcare organization or academic medical center is often fraught with a slow and inefficient recruitment process. When coupled with the worsening physician shortage— between 42,600 and 121,300 by 2032 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)—losing quality candidates is a real risk.

The gap between what academic and community-based physician leaders demand in a new role and the recruitment process they’re willing to tolerate is fiercely closing with power transitioning from the traditional institution to the candidate in high demand. This is making the role of the search committee even more critical to physician leadership recruitment success.

The search committee represents the strategic direction of the organization and decides by vote which candidate to hire—Choose members wisely.

I am of the opinion that search committees should be called Leadership Transition Committees, as they single-handedly determine which physician leaders will steer the organization through clinical innovation initiatives, healthcare transformation processes, physician and resident retention strategies, and more.

When working with community-based healthcare organizations and academia, I’m often asked to advise on who should serve on the search committee, as well as strategies to ensure effectiveness. Setting up a search committee contains three key components: Preparation, Committee Mix, and Commitment. Let’s review.

  1. Preparation

This stage is the most overlooked and underutilized, yet it’s the one that will ultimately keep your committee on track throughout the entire search process. Before you set up your search committee, prepare the following three documents: Job Analysis, Committee Charter, and Activity Report.

The Job Analysis contains specific candidate parameters including experience, competencies, and soft skills. It also includes compensation information and position duties. Tip: Resist the temptation to recycle an old Job Analysis. Healthcare is constantly changing, so consult with direct reports, colleagues, and superiors who will interact with the chosen physician leader.

The Committee Charter defines the committee tasks and the chair obligations, as well as budget and deadline guidelines. It also includes a list of decision-makers involved in the recruitment process, the Diversity Policy or Affirmative Action Plans, as well as all EEOC, EOP, and other human resource forms. There is no room for ambiguity in the Committee Charter.

The Search Activity Report contains a step-by-step process that the committee will follow throughout the recruitment process, as well as a record of all activity to be certain the search is on track with regards to goals and deadlines. The commitment to diversity and equity is shown in this report as well.

  1. Committee Mix

Making recruitment decisions by committee can be very effective as long as the committee isn’t polarized—one that agrees on everything without due diligence or, worse, one that is riddled with conflict. To prevent this, decide who will lead as the committee chair first. This person is the liaison between the search committee, the hiring official and, when involved, the search firm. It’s important that the chair be the same level position or higher than for the role you’re recruiting and is a naturally strong leader.

To round out your search committee, here are some best-practice guidelines:

  • Keep the committee to an odd number as each person has voting rights.
  • Have no more than 11 members, ideally between seven and nine.
  • Reflect diversity in regard to gender, race, seniority, reporting levels, and departments.
  • Include a human resources or legal officer as an ex-officio member.

Also, keep in mind that for President or Provost searches, you will want to include stakeholders from the board, the foundation and, when relevant, the alumni.

  1. Commitment

The most common reason for ineffectiveness within a search committee is lack of commitment and engagement. When physician leadership searches extend from weeks to months, enthusiasm can dissipate. Schedule monthly or bi-monthly meetings to review search progress and set future expectations.

The main goal of the search committee is to review, screen, and host candidates, as well as check references. It can also be very tempting to discuss a candidate with a spouse or colleague, but to maintain search integrity, confidentiality is a must. This extends to voting procedures as well. Blind voting eliminates the potential for recruitment bias, and it extends respect for all candidates regardless of what stage of the recruitment process they’re eliminated.

Whether you use a recruitment firm or choose internal resources, building an effective search committee or Leadership Transition Committee is the optimal method for maximizing time, candidate fit, and recruitment investment. Remember, most importantly, the search committee is responsible for choosing the physician leader who will drive the future of your healthcare organization—Those are big shoes to fill and worthy of extra attention prior to launching a new search.

 

At Jackson Physician Search, we help healthcare organizations and academic medical centers to recruit physician leaders. Our innovative process includes rolling well-qualified and interested candidates as they become available versus waiting for a full slate, reducing the number of interviews with cutting edge technology, and providing transparent and frequent communication to search committees. This strategy reduces candidate attrition and time-to-fill while increasing recruitment return on investment. Please contact our physician leadership experts at Jackson Physician Search for more information.

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Survey Reveals Costly Disconnect Between Physicians and Hospitals About Retirement

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MGMA19 | The Annual Conference

New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

Booth 1427

 

ATLANTA and NEW ORLEANS ― (Oct. 14, 2019) — While physicians often feel it’s their responsibility to initiate a conversation about retirement plans with hospitals, many of them think much less notice is necessary than hospital administrators would find ideal. In a new survey from Jackson Physician Search, a firm specializing in the permanent recruitment of physicians and advanced practice providers to hospitals and other healthcare providers, many physicians felt that less than six months of notice was reasonable, despite hospital administrators preferring a one to three year notice period.

 

This week, during the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) Annual Conference in New Orleans, Jackson Physician Search President Tony Stajduhar will share key findings from the company’s newly released study, “The Realities of Physician Retirement: A Survey of Physicians and Healthcare Administrators.”

 

“Given that a hospital can easily lose $150,000 per month if a specialist leaves and a search for a medical or surgical specialist can take anywhere from five to 10 months, the stakes are high with this disconnect between physicians and administrators about notices of retirement,” said Stajduhar. “The findings in our study highlight the importance of creating the right culture and processes around physician retirement, including effective transition processes and ongoing recruiting efforts, to avoid the downside of a vacancy or understaffing situation.”

 

The survey, which was conducted in August of 2019, included responses from 567 doctors across a range of specialties and 100 administrators from throughout the country. Among the key findings:

 

  • Physicians feel it’s their responsibility to initiate the retirement conversation, but they are less comfortable doing so than administrators. A large majority of physicians (80 percent) said it’s their responsibility to broach the subject compared with 37 percent of administrators, yet less of them (52 percent) are comfortable discussing retirement plans than administrators (74 percent).

 

  • Physicians and administrators have vastly different opinions on what the ideal notice period is for a retirement timeline. Almost 50 percent of administrators indicated the ideal notice was one to three years, while 40 percent of physicians felt six months or less was sufficient. Further, 34 percent of physicians said they weren’t required to give any notice of retirement, while 81 percent of administrators said they were required to give more than three months.

 

  • Physicians’ drivers for retirement include lifestyle, financial stability, burnout and frustration with the current state of medicine. While physicians cited lifestyle issues (44 percent) as the most important reason driving their retirement decision, followed by financial stability (23 percent), comments from nearly 20 percent noted burnout and frustration with the current state of medicine and decreased focus on patient care.

 

  • Administrators assume that many physicians will fully retire, but a number of them plan to work elsewhere. Almost 40 percent of administrators named full retirement as a top retirement transition method at their organization. However, the study indicated that just 17 percent of physicians were planning to do so. In contrast, 28 percent of doctors said they will work part or full time somewhere else.

These and other findings in the Jackson Physician Search research are significant. By 2020, one in three physicians will be over age 65 and approaching retirement. That, coupled with the fact that recruiting an experienced, culturally-aligned physician can be a timely and complicated process for hospital administrators, adds to the complexity.

 

“Although there is hesitancy about initiating a conversation about retirement, it is clear that both administrators and physicians feel that it’s a beneficial discussion for both parties,” added Stajduhar. “Differences remain on length of notice and whose responsibility it is to bring up retirement, but when handled respectfully and conducted in a non-discriminatory way, both parties can find the ideal way to approach retirement transitions through proper planning and processes.”

 

The complete report on the survey results is available here: https://www.jacksonphysiciansearch.com/white-paper-the-realities-of-physician-retirement-a-survey-of-physicians-and-healthcare-administrators/

 

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 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. For more information, visit www.jacksonphysiciansearch.com.

 

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Media Contact:                                                                                                

Jan Sisko

Carabiner Communications

jsisko@carabinercomms.com

(678) 461-7438

Let Branded Recruitment Work for You

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Has your healthcare organization developed a brand that is recognizable to local consumers and gives them a glimpse into your values and culture?  If not, you may be missing out on consumers who would choose your facility for their healthcare needs, as well as physicians you are trying to recruit.  It is critical that you use your brand throughout your recruitment process, but remember that it’s more than just a logo and tagline. Rather, it represents an embodiment of your staff, your values, and the type and quality of care you provide to your patients.

As important as branding is for your organization, overall, it is just as important in attracting the right physicians to join your team.  Physicians today are much more likely to join organizations that they perceive to share similar culture and values. Jackson Physician Search understands the importance of branding and offers branded physician recruitment.  Branded recruitment is a level of partnership with a recruitment agency that goes to the next level. A recruitment agency’s resources and expertise are combined with the branding of the organization. Job postings and emails have the logo of the organization and include more detail about the opportunity.

How Branded Recruitment Works for You

Whether you are an administrator at a rural FQHC or a multi-facility health system, branded recruitment offers you an opportunity to expand and improve your recruitment process.  A smaller facility or health system may not have the resources to run a national recruitment campaign.  In many instances, those who are doing the recruiting are already wearing multiple hats. Finding a trusted physician recruitment partner who can manage a branded search for your vacancy immediately adds experienced resources to your search effort.  And, in the case of a large health system with an established team of recruiters, today’s hiring landscape is probably stretching them to capacity.  Large systems can utilize their recruitment partner for specific searches, for example, the primary care and internal medicine vacancies, while the in-house team focuses on all of the specialties.  Both of these scenarios creates a win-win situation because, with branded recruitment, the physicians only see your facility name and brand.  Let’s look at other ways a branded recruitment strategy can work for you.

  • Using a branded recruitment strategy with a trusted, experienced recruitment partner immediately provides you with reach and access to hundreds of passive and active physician applicants. Because candidates are more familiar with local healthcare organizations and the fact that AAMC reports physicians often stay in state, it pays to use your own brand. For example, AAMC reports that physicians in Georgia remain in the state at a rate of 49.8% and 62.1% in Texas.
  • Digital branding of your ads and emails seamlessly appear to the candidates as coming from your facility and location. Studies show that branded emails generate up to a 50% higher response rate than generic emails or job board postings.
  • Having a recruitment partner managing your brand presence for physician vacancies improves your brand awareness and visibility, helping you now and in future searches.
  • Your recruitment partnership is an exclusive agreement that takes the time-consuming vetting process off of your team’s plate, allowing them to focus on other critical matters of the business. You are only presented with the candidates who fit your organizational culture and values.

Your brand is important, and it should be a factor in your recruitment process.  Using a recruitment partner who understands the importance of brand and also has the capabilities to reach candidates, you may not otherwise have access to, is an important factor in finding a physician who fits your need.

Jackson Physician Search can manage your branded search campaign while providing you with access to proprietary digital tools, national exposure, and an experienced team of recruitment professionals.  Contact us today to learn more about how we can put your brand to work for you.

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Managers urged to broaden ‘recruitment parameters’ amid rheumatology shortage

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“My recommendation for practices who don’t want to just buy a rheumatologist — don’t want to just have any warm body filling the position — but have someone they want for the job who they can retain…”

“Sell the big picture. Have a competitive base salary. That first year is going to be the most important — just make it as attractive as possible. Also, remember that an incentive to one candidate might be different to another candidate. If there is one candidate who needs an extra week of vacation, or if someone needs extra CME, or student loans that need to be paid, make sure you are thinking outside the box to outthink your competitors.”

“I travel about 50 to 120 days out of the year. I’ve been everywhere, from small rural places to big places, and you have no idea what I have heard from administrations, from hospitals, private practices and medical groups. But this is what I am telling everyone — open up your recruitment parameters.”

“If there is a physician who can communicate and practice medicine well, and has a family who fits in with the community, you better take an extra look at that physician,” he added. “I understand concerns about communication, but if there is a physician who is willing to make a move, especially to a rural area, and move their family, and their communication skills are good, and you believe the family will fit in with the community, you hire that physician. It shouldn’t be a question.”

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The Shrinking Gap between Academic and Community-Based Physician Leader Recruitment

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Just a decade ago, physicians made a choice early in their career to be a teacher or a clinician and there was very little cross-over. Those that chose the academic medical path became physician leaders or clinical faculty who spent much, if not all, of their time teaching medical students, conducting medical research, and commandeering schedules, budgets, and strategic plans. Their clinician counterparts, however, were inspired to care for patients in medical clinics, acute care centers, or hospitals—possibly becoming physician leaders later in their career.

Academic versus private-sector physician leader used to translate to large title versus large pay—but no more.

It used to be that physicians who chose an academic career path could expect a large title and reasonable hours, but lower compensation. It was a tradeoff that physician leaders were willing to accept as there was an equilibrium of supply and demand. Academic Medical Deans and Chairs recruited with this knowledge, setting up large search committees, reviewing long slates of physician leader candidates, and conducting multiple interviews. The recruitment process often stretched well past the one-year mark, making it a painfully slow, inefficient, and expensive process. Worse, there was nothing candidates could do about it.

But the gap between what academic and community-based physician leaders demand in a new role is fiercely closing with power transitioning from the traditional institution to the candidate in high demand. With the worsening physician shortage—between 42,600 and 121,300 by 2032 according the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)—both academic and community-based healthcare organizations are recruiting from the same pool. Academia will need to adjust their recruitment strategy to win physician leaders—offering higher pay, more traditional sign-on incentives, and a faster, more candidate-friendly recruitment process.

What are the three reasons driving the shift that’s creating a new generation of physician leaders?

  1. Mergers, acquisitions, and collaborations. A decade ago, few would have predicted Duke University Health System and LifePoint Health would collaborate and form a joint LLC. Today, we’re seeing this more often as financially strong and centralized healthcare organizations are partnering with academic facilities to attract talent, retain residents, and keep patients from leaving the system.

As the proverbial lines blur between these organizations due to mergers, acquisitions, and collaborations, physician leader employment agreements are more centralized than ever before, leading physicians to view new job opportunities on either side of the table equally.

  1. Massive physician deficit. In addition to the total physician shortage, the AAMC is estimating a deficit of 55,000 primary care doctors and 66,000 specialists. Baby boomers (76.4 million people in the U.S. and our largest workforce) have a long life expectancy, and they’re starting to retire from medicine, only coupling the problem. The shortage doesn’t discriminate between practicing clinicians and physician leaders either, leading to an unforgiving supply and demand situation.

According to the American Association of Physician Leadership (AAPL), dual degree programs such as MD/MBA or MD/MHA have increased from six to more than 65 throughout the last decade—physicians are pursuing leadership training and they expect to be compensated for their efforts. In fact, dual-degreed physicians and physician leaders earn 13% more whether they choose the academic or traditional career path.

  1. Recruitment and retention of physician leaders. Traditionally, academic physician leaders rarely left their posts prior to retirement, allowing academia the luxury of long lead times on succession planning. It was not unusual—and it’s still the case—that a recruitment process could extend well beyond a year. With everyone competing for the same candidates now, those days are gone and both academia and physician leader recruitment firms need to modernize their recruitment strategy if they want to hire to clinically sound, resilient physician leaders who fit within the culture and desire to stay long term. Academia will need to increase their compensation packages and streamline their recruitment processes to attract talent, as well as provide physician leaders with new opportunities to lead and grow within the organization to retain them.

Today’s physicians and physician leaders are now in the recruitment driver seat. They want more control over new opportunities, and they won’t tolerate a cumbersome recruitment process. At Jackson Physician Search, we’ve found success in rolling well-qualified and interested candidates as they become available versus waiting for a full slate, reducing the number of interviews with cutting edge technology, and providing transparent and frequent communication to search committees. This strategy reduces candidate attrition and time-to-fill, while increasing recruitment return on investment. Need help recruiting a physician leader? Please contact our physician leadership experts at Jackson Physician Search today.

About Angela Henry, FACHE, Vice President, Physician Leadership

Angela Henry leads the physician leadership division for Jackson Physician Search. She advises healthcare organizations and medical schools on strategic workforce solutions to secure the right physician leaders using a transparent recruitment strategy.

Prior to joining Jackson Physician Search, Angela worked for other search firms that provided staffing solutions for acute care, outpatient, ambulatory, and academic organizations.  She brought cost savings to her clients by utilizing contingent labor and increasing retention of permanent clinical leaders.

Angela’s passion for healthcare began at a very young age after participating in medical mission trips to Mexico and Ukraine. She entered nursing school and owned and managed Green Country Surgical Arts, a cosmetic and general surgery clinic in Oklahoma.

Angela earned her Master of Business Administration from the University of Georgia, a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Business from the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and a Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma. She is the Co-Chair for the Program’s Committee at the Georgia Association of Healthcare Executives and, in 2019, earned her Fellowship in the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Act Fast to Get the Most Out of Your Recruitment Partner

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While most health care systems have in-house recruitment departments, the shortage of available physicians and the difficulty in reaching passive candidates have administrators bolstering their recruitment efforts with the services of an outside recruitment partner.  Once a relationship is established with a trusted physician search firm, there are several things that can be done to support your in-house recruiting team while getting the most out of your recruitment partner.

Foster an environment of trust.  If you speak with the front-line recruiters from outside physician search firms, one of the first challenges they tend to mention is that the in-house recruitment team sometimes view them as a threat to their job. While this is as much human nature as anything, nothing could be farther from the truth. Administrators can ease any initial concerns by discussing the reasons why the search partner has been contracted. The external team is not there because someone wasn’t performing, but more as a response to the competitiveness of the hiring environment.  Portraying the search partner as an extension of the team, with the same goal of finding the best candidates for the organization, goes a long way to set the foundation for a successful relationship.

Clearly define roles to create success.  When you are contracting with a search partner, you can utilize their expertise at finding the right candidates while your in-house team focuses on other important components of a successful search. In most cases, the in-house recruitment team is already stretched pretty thin, and in addition to finding candidates, they are probably involved in many other aspects of the process.  Using a search partner can be the ideal way to ensure that your in-house team is “nailing” all of the aspects of a physician hire, including managing the interview process, planning and attending the site visit meetings, assisting with contract negotiations, reference checks, credentialing, and onboarding.

“My most successful client relationships are ones where the organization truly sees me as an extension of the team. It works well when they allow me to do the ‘heavy lifting’ on the back end or behind the scenes while the in-house staff focuses on the important front-end candidate management activities.” ~T. O., Director of Recruiting

Success comes with a sense of urgency.  One of the most important aspects of a successful physician search is having a process that is conducive to moving quickly.  It is extremely important to understand that most candidates are going to be choosing from multiple offers.  This is another area where your external partner can help you keep things moving.  The key is to ensure that before any search, all of the individuals who have a say in the hiring process are already on-board and recognize the urgency of the situation.  Things to include are ensuring that presented candidates are acted upon quickly, in most cases, the first contact should be within 24 to 48 hours.  Build momentum by quickly setting up interviews and prepare a winning site visit.  Another way to feed that momentum is by having the basics of a contract already laid out and approved by key decision-makers.  The most disappointing aspect of any physician search is missing out on the perfect candidate because of an avoidable bottleneck.

“I’ve had situations where there has been a 3-week gap in between contact and scheduling an interview. Needless to say, most of those candidates chose other opportunities.” ~H.F., Recruiter

Lean on your search partner’s expertise.  When you have established a great relationship with your search partner, it is important to know that they can be relied upon in a variety of ways. The successful relationship has abundant two-way communication and allows you to lean on the external recruiters to help you close the deal with your desired candidate. You can always rely on your recruitment partner to confirm availability for interviews, insights into planning the perfect site visit, and even act as a liaison through the negotiation process when appropriate.

“When we are engaged as an extension of the team and there is open communication and transparency, the relationship is seamless.  We can customize our own process to meet the needs of the client, making it a true collaboration where we all have the same goals.” ~C.C., Senior Director of Recruiting

If your organization is looking for an experienced, trusted partner to help your recruitment operations, contact the professionals at Jackson Physician Search today.

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How to Best Support Your In-house Recruitment Team

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Healthcare organization administrators are all too familiar with the challenges associated with filling a physician vacancy in today’s ultra-competitive hiring environment.  Each month a physician position remains vacant, a hospital can lose as much as $150,000 in revenue.  These staggering costs drive home the importance of having an organizational recruitment plan that is both efficient and effective.  Here are several ways administrators can ensure they are getting the most out of their in-house recruitment teams.

  1. Have A Medical Staff Development Plan – Treating each physician vacancy as a one-off occurrence is the surest path to ineffective recruitment. Instead, create a strategic recruitment plan that incorporates best practices, is aligned with your organization’s vision and values and facilitates finding doctors who will fit, succeed, and stay. Effective recruiting is as much about retention as it is filling vacancies.
  2. Track and Monitor Your Recruitment Process Data – One of the biggest mistakes a healthcare organization can make regarding their recruitment process is not measuring or worse, not acting on their recruitment metrics. Data is your friend, and when you benchmark your recruitment processes, you can create incremental improvement and remove inefficiencies that drive up costs and increase time to fill rates.
  3. Invest In Your Recruiters – Only 11% of physicians are actively looking for a new job, while 76% are casually interested in hearing about potential opportunities. Giving your recruiters the tools and training they need to connect with these passive candidates is the foundation of a successful recruitment strategy.  Encourage your recruiters to join the The Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR) by offering to pay their membership dues and annual education conference registration fees. Since digital recruiting has become the “go-to” method for connecting with physicians, the recruitment team needs to develop the skills and proficiency to effectively reach potential candidates.
  4. Engage an Industry Expert – If your recruitment process is not improving or your organization is struggling to find/hire quality candidates, it is time to bring in a fresh set of eyes. A trusted consultant who objectively assesses your recruitment practices and recommends areas of improvement can be the jump start your team needs to get back on track.  Working with a recruitment firm that employees former in-house recruiters means they already are familiar with the process and know about common pitfalls. Whether using the industry expert to simply identify gaps or to completely overhaul your recruitment process, having an outsider’s perspective is a valuable tool that should not be overlooked.
  5. Utilize a Recruitment Partner – During times of high volume recruitment or as part of an overall strategic recruitment plan, establishing a partnership with a successful physician recruitment firm can help you access a broader candidate pool. A reputable physician search firm also provides you with access to information, technology, and systems that you may not otherwise be able to access.  Another overlooked aspect of using a search partner is that they can free up your recruitment team to focus more on other important duties like onboarding, preparing site visits, and more.

Keys to a Successful Relationship With a Search Partner

Once the decision is reached to establish a relationship with an external physician search firm to help shore up your recruitment needs, there are a few keys to making it as successful as possible.

  • Engage your recruitment team. It is important to ensure that your in-house recruitment team knows that the external search partner is just that, a partner.  It is human nature for individuals to feel threatened if an outside entity is brought in as a resource. Clear and open communication will go a long way toward easing any initial challenges and creating essential buy-in from your in-house team.
  • Establish clearly defined roles and timelines. Your search partner is an extension of your recruitment team and will bring with them a wealth of industry knowledge and expertise. To capitalize on that, it is important for administrators to establish standards for when candidates are presented for a vacancy. Things like fast turnarounds on establishing contact and setting up interviews, to timely offers will ensure that the candidates that are presented are not lost to competing opportunities.
  • Maintain communication with your search partner. As important as it is to clearly communicate with your team about this new relationship, keeping the lines of communication open with your search partner is equally important. Establishing trust through open and honest dialog about things that are working or things that can be improved is key to any successful partnership.

If your organization is looking for an experienced partner to perform an objective assessment of your recruitment operations or you want to tap into a resource with decades of successful industry experience, visit our clinical recruitment assessment page.

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Why an Experienced Recruiter is Invaluable

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A 15-bed, critical access hospital, in remote, rural Colorado contracted Jackson Physician Search to recruit a Family Practitioner who has additional training in Obstetrics (FPOB).  The story behind this search illustrates the advantages of partnering with seasoned physician recruiters like Brian Goldman.  The combination of Brian’s years of experience, a good relationship with the hospital, and above all else, the generous hospitality of the community were all factors in successfully finding a physician that is a great fit.

The first challenge of any primary care recruitment undertaking is the limited supply.  Add to this hurdle the very rural and remote nature of this town, coupled with having no local hotel to even accommodate candidates during an onsite interview, and the implications of this challenge were compounded.

Following a search kick-off phone call Brian was quickly able to find and contact an FPOB candidate, Dr. M.  One of the keys to a successful placement is to keep the recruitment process moving as quickly as possible. With the demand for physicians so high, physicians, whether actively seeking a new position or not, regularly receive job solicitations.

The next challenge occurred right after the introductory phone call between Dr. M and the hospital’s CEO.  The CEO resigned leaving the process at a standstill.  With his contact at the hospital no longer available, Brian did some investigating and reached out to the Hospital’s Board President to carry on the recruitment process with Dr. M.

Next steps included an onsite interview.  Dr. M has a family with three young children and had no one with whom she could leave her children to allow her and her husband to make the trip to Colorado alone.  With the closest hotel to the facility 40 minutes away, the Board President graciously offered to have Dr. M, her husband, and their three children stay with him and his wife. Their home was well equipped for littles having grandchildren of their own, and they even prepared home-cooked meals for the weekend.  As if playing host was not enough, they also watched the children throughout the weekend while Dr. and Mr. M explored the community.

As luck would have it, Dr. M’s interview was to take place on the same day the interim-CEO candidate was visiting the hospital. Even the greatest amount of strategery and best laid out plans are sometimes spoiled. Dr. M interviewed under the impression she would be joining a staff that included two other FPOBs; however, one of the FPOBs called out “sick” that day and ended up resigning shortly after Dr. M’s interview.

After the onsite interview, Brian spent a great deal of time working with the Board Chair, the interim CEO, Dr. M, and both party’s legal representation to keep the recruitment process moving forward. Given the position went from joining two to only one other provider, Dr. M was very concerned about the workload, call requirements and other issues created by being short-staffed. Miraculously, through trust, open communication, and professionalism by all parties, mutual interest continued.  Before making an official offer to Dr. M, the hospital needed to first onboard the interim CEO.

Working together as a team, the greatest contributing factor to this search’s success, Brian, the Board Chair, and interim CEO were able to alleviate Dr. M’s concerns.  4 months after the interview date Dr. M signed her employment agreement!

This successful placement story is a strong reminder of how an experienced recruiter can be such a valuable resource throughout the recruitment process. One of the difference makers in this scenario was Brian’s wherewithal to seek out and involve the Board Chair after the CEO’s resignation.  It was then the generosity and hospitality of the Board Chair, his wife, and the community that sealed the deal. Dr. M even commented afterwards that she had interviewed with large systems in the past, and to experience the level of community involvement in helping facilitate the site visit, was a breath of fresh air.

It is the genuine partnership between Jackson Physician Search and this hospital, each playing their respective yet collaborative roles, a small community in Colorado got new access to quality healthcare close to home.  If your physician recruitment process could utilize the experienced partnership of recruitment professionals, like Brian, contact Jackson Physician Search today, and learn more about what our national team of consultants can do for you.

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