Solving the Physician Shortage: Making Licensing Waivers Permanent

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The ongoing COVID-19 crisis in America has been a real test of the scope and resolve of our healthcare community, with physicians, nurses and support staff stepping up in even the most dangerous circumstances to help save patients’ lives.

It has also offered a unique opportunity for physicians to do what is often a tremendously difficult proposition – that is, to practice medicine in other states, without going through the often laborious process of re-licensing for each jurisdiction.

Temporary national licensing waivers allowed thousands of doctors to travel to virus hotspots like New York City and join the fight against coronavirus, not to mention scores of other physicians volunteering their services, far away from their homes. The pandemic has also relaxed rules to let out-of-state physicians provide much-needed telehealth visits to patients across the country, while their patients may be a thousand miles away, safely sheltered at home. And considering that telehealth usage jumped as much as 4,300% at one New York hospital in a six-week period, patients definitely appreciated the extra resources.

A Massive Doctor Shortage Lies Ahead

While these waivers certainly seem like easy ways to offer Americans care in a time of extreme need, they represent quite revolutionary changes for physician licensure. In a way, COVID-19 has led the industry to adopt a practical solution to one important aspect of our looming physician shortage, a massive demographic issue in the United States. One in three American physicians is currently over the age of 65 and approaching retirement, feeding into a shortage that could grow up to 139,00 doctors by 2033, in a study done by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

As noted by Tony Stajduhar, President of Jackson Physician Search, in his paper, Five Ways to Move the Needle on the Physician Shortage, making these licensing waivers a permanent solution might be a simple way to expand opportunities for international medical graduates to more easily practice where needs exist. Often, without getting caught up in endless regulatory red tape, or the sheer cost of applying for licenses in different jurisdictions.

-> Download Five Ways to Move the Needle on the Physician Shortage Paper

According to the Federation of State Medical Boards, 49 states at the time of this writing have temporarily modified their requirements for licensing, issuing waivers to allow physicians to perform in-person services or more easily obtain temporary license renewals, while 47 states have approved short-term measures allowing out-of-state physicians to perform telehealth visits.

A further 39 states have expedited licensing for inactive or retired physicians, allowing them to quickly rejoin the fight against COVID-19. Some 27 states have also modified their Continuing Medical Education requirements, allowing doctors to focus squarely on medicine, for the time being. In Arizona, for instance, a six-month deferral was issued for some medical license renewals in certain date ranges; as infection and hospitalization rates multiply there and in other states, it’s likely these waivers may be extended.

Simplifying the Path for New Doctors – and Some Bipartisan Agreement

Any movement to simplify the steps necessary for qualified doctors to more easily practice anywhere in the United States is welcome news, given other disruptions to the path for new doctors. Consider that thousands of medical students had been unable to complete the U.S. Medical Licensure Examiners’ Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge tests since the spring, as Prometric, the testing vendor was closed due to stay-at-home rules; we’re now seeing testing events create long-awaited additional testing opportunities for examinees.

There is more good news, as well. The pandemic has also shown some inspirational moments of bipartisan cooperation in Washington D.C., as politicians recognized the immediate impact of physician shortages on care for their constituents. That’s something which might bode well for further political support of permanent licensing waivers or similar governmental efforts to address and remedy America’s long-term physician shortage.

In May, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act was introduced by senators Todd Young (R-IN), David Perdue (R-GA), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Dick Durbin (D-IL). Recognizing that almost 25% of today’s American physician workforce are international medical school graduates, the legislation calls to repurpose some 15,000 available immigrant visas for qualifying physicians and 25,000 nurses – all in an effort to bolster healthcare resources. The senator sponsors even took the unusual step of exempting countries such as China and India from the existing per-country caps.

Working to Make It Easier to Work

These COVID-19 licensing waivers, to some extent, fast-track the work undertaken by the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, an agreement championed by the FSMB since 2013. Since officially being engaged in April 2017, the compact has allowed more than 7,400 physicians to secure more than 9,400 multi-state licenses in 29 participating states, plus the District of Columbia and Guam – with more introducing legislation.

The IMLC offered a model that emergency waivers could certainly help make permanent, providing much more flexibility to both veteran and newly graduated physicians. And while resistance to interstate licensure in the past has often focused on varying standards for education and experience, the compact ensures high standards by asking participating physicians to meet nine requirements of professionalism, in addition to holding an unrestricted license in their home state.

A time of extraordinary healthcare challenges has helped us see the immediate value of streamlining and simplifying the ability for doctors to practice where they are needed. And as the national physician shortage continues to grow, maybe this is the right time to make those waivers a permanent solution. For more information on other ways the healthcare industry will likely discuss solutions that will aid in minimizing the impact of the physician shortage, review the Jackson Physician Search paper Five Ways to Move the Needle on the Physician Shortage.

If your organization can benefit from partnering with an organization comprised of respected healthcare industry physician recruitment professionals, contact the Jackson Physician Search team today to learn how we can help keep you ahead of the recruitment curve.

Physician Recruitment Amid Coronavirus - Keeping Your 2021 Staffing Plan on Track

Physician Recruitment Amid the Pandemic – Keeping Your 2021 Staffing Plans on Track

For administrators who are understandably stretched thin during the pandemic, taking their eyes off physician recruitment could put their 2021 staffing plan at risk. Let’s take a deeper dive….

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Physician Recruitment Amid the Pandemic – Keeping Your 2021 Staffing Plan on Track

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Prior to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, a June poll conducted by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) showed that the majority of medical practices (87 percent) have recovered at least some patient volume since COVID-19 took hold in the U.S., and almost half of those reported patient volumes to at least 75 percent of their pre-pandemic levels.

Today, the pandemic is charting in the wrong direction with some states seeing record increases in new cases, especially among younger Americans. Because every day brings new data points, it’s challenging for healthcare administrators to reliably predict the impact on patient volumes, staffing needs and revenue projections.

What is important to acknowledge is that any decrease in current physician staffing requirements is temporary. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently reminded us that the physician shortage is going to continue to challenge the industry’s ability to meet patient demand. For administrators who are understandably stretched thin during the pandemic, taking their eyes off physician recruitment could put their 2021 staffing plan at risk. Let’s take a deeper dive, so you can keep your staffing plan on track.

Focus on the Long Game

It was in June when the AAMC released new information confirming long-held concerns about the physician shortage. It is now estimating the U.S. is facing a deficit of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians in both primary and specialty care by 2033 – higher than previously reported.

The sixth annual study was conducted prior to the rise of COVID-19, and AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD, posits that “the gap between the country’s increasing health care demands and the supply of doctors to adequately respond has become more evident as we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The AAMC study indicated a greater shortage projection, particularly in subspecialties, due to an updated estimate of physicians planning to retire earlier than previously modeled.

Additionally, it showed that more than two out of five active physicians will be 65 or older within the next 10 years. Shifts in retirement patterns – including physicians choosing to retire earlier or work fewer hours as they approach retirement – will have significant implications on the doctor shortage over the coming decade.

Recognizing the retirement dilemma and its impact on staffing levels, Jackson Physician Search commissioned a survey of healthcare administrators and physicians. One of its findings was a disparity in how much notice to give when retiring, illustrating a mismatch between administrator expectations and doctor intentions. Most doctors prefer to give six months’ notice, while administrators would ask for up to three years’ notice.

-> Download The Realities of Physician Retirement Whitepaper

This means that administrators who are only concerned with current staffing needs are already behind. Considering that it takes up to six – nine months to recruit a physician and receive a signed contract, and up to an additional year before the physician begins employment, a strategic long-term physician recruitment plan eliminates unnecessary and costly delays. Part of this plan includes candid conversations with physicians to avoid disparities between physicians’ intentions as they approach retirement and administrator expectations as they plan for physician recruitment and staffing.

In addition to the estimates above, effective staffing planning require healthcare facilities to know their ideal candidate’s anticipated availability and to add that to the recruitment timeline. For example, residents are available for new opportunities in the summer, so waiting to recruit until spring is often too late. While more seasoned physicians are potentially available year-round, they face issues like non-compete agreements and lengthy resignation notice periods.

Retain Physicians to Lessen Recruitment Burden

It’s not uncommon to find a lack of alignment between employers and employees with regard to engagement and satisfaction in the workplace, and these disconnects can be found in medical facilities as well.

In the webinar “Hiring Physicians During COVID-19” conducted in June with MGMA, only 9.7 percent of administrators reported feeling concerned about losing their most valuable employees due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we polled physicians via our email newsletter and email job ads and two-thirds of those who responded indicated that COVID-19 has prompted them to look for a new job.

Disparities in perceptions could lead administrators to feel overly confident that their valued physicians won’t look for work elsewhere, further indicating that administrators should keep an eye on recruitment.

People can only manage under crisis scenarios for so long before it begins taking a toll on their mental health and physical wellbeing. Physicians facing longer hours, less sleep and more critical care patients as a result of COVID-19 can experience burnout quickly.

In January and prior to the full onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Medical Association found an overall burnout rate of 42 percent among doctors responding to an online survey.

Physicians left disengaged by burnout, poor fit in a role and in difficult working conditions can result in more turnover and vacant roles. Even with an increased emphasis on mental wellness, physician turnover is inevitable. As a result, a healthcare facility may experience thousands of dollars in recruiting costs to fill the roles, loss of revenue due to lack of capacity, and unhappy patients and coworkers.

Understanding Physician Recruitment Return on Investment

To help facilities quantify the cost of recruiting for vacant roles based on specialty and how long the position has been open, as well as show revenue a facility may have missed out on while the position has gone unfilled, Jackson Physician Search developed a Physician Recruitment ROI Calculator.

For example, an internal medicine role unfilled for just three months means lost revenue of more than $220,000. An Emergency Medicine role unfilled for the same time means lost revenue of more than $480,000. The Physician Recruitment ROI Calculator also shows average time-to-fill compared to Jackson Physician Search’s time-to-fill to help healthcare administrators evaluate how much revenue can be saved.

-> Try the Physician Recruitment Calculator to See What a Faster Time-to-Fill Is Worth to Your Organization

All of these data points and trends indicate that physician recruitment is still an important activity in maintaining and growing your organization, especially as you look to your 2021 staffing plans. As the accrued costs to fill a vacant role can reach over $1 million depending on specialty, it’s critical to manage this time-consuming process efficiently.

If you need a strategic recruitment partner to help you navigate physician recruiting during the pandemic and beyond, Jackson Physician Search is ready to help every step of the way.  Contact our experienced recruitment professionals today to learn more about how we can make a difference.

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Rural Healthcare Facing Mounting Physician Recruitment Challenges

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Rural healthcare organizations are facing ever-mounting financial, recruitment and patient care challenges in the “new normal.” Fortunately, the next wave of financial help is on the way. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last week that $4 billion in COVID-19 relief funds were being released to safety-net hospitals, with $1 billion of that for 500 specialty rural hospitals, urban hospitals with certain rural designations from Medicare, as well as hospitals in smaller metro areas. HHS approximates that payments will range from $100,000 to $4.5 million for rural designated providers.

Clearly, this is good news for rural health facilities that are facing an uptick in COVID-19 cases, many of which were already financially struggling. Financial concerns aside, proper staffing planning is also key to providing adequate access to care, so the key going forward will be for rural healthcare administrators to continue to find innovative ways to attract physicians to their facilities. Let’s frame the issues impacting rural physician recruitment and outline a few strategies for success.

Physician Shortage Predicted to be More Extreme than Previous Estimates

The annual report published by the Association for American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has been highlighting the growing shortage of physicians, and the most recent numbers show the situation worsening. According to AAMC, the healthcare industry is facing a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033. Typical for these annual reports, Primary Care physicians are still seeing the most significant deficits with shortages up to 55,200, while surgical specialty shortages are expected to reach 28,700 over the next decade.

Further, as highlighted in the Jackson Physician Search The Realities of Physician Retirement Survey, up to 33% of practicing physicians are nearing or at retirement age. The stress and unknown elements surrounding the COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated the desire for many physicians to consider pursuing an early full or partial retirement.

Typically, when people retire, they seek a quieter lifestyle that provides them with a chance to stretch out and enjoy the life they have worked so hard to build. Not surprisingly, 44% of physicians who responded to the survey stated that lifestyle is the main driver of their retirement decision.

On top of that, 30% of physicians say that they are planning to work full- or part-time somewhere else. Consider ways to create those opportunities for pre-retirement physicians who are looking to slow down. While it may seem counter-intuitive, now could be the perfect time to lure physicians out of the chaotic urban and metro centers, and into a more laid-back and lifestyle-friendly rural environment.

Physicians Value Culture Fit

A common theme from physicians in today’s climate is how important organization culture and fit are in job satisfaction. Physicians that feel engaged in the work and have shared values with the organization are happier, more productive, and less susceptible to suffer feelings of burnout. The same proves true for community fit. In a Jackson Physician Search Rural Physician Recruitment Survey, physicians said community culture fit was more important than compensation when choosing to practice in a rural community. Dig into the Rural Survey for additional key findings to improve your recruitment success.

Rural health system administrators should be aggressively recruiting physician candidates now if their 2020-21 staffing planning requires more providers. At any given point in time, as many as 75% of physicians are passively exploring their career options. This means that they may not be actively applying to job opportunities, but they are more than willing to listen if something catches their attention. Reaching these passive candidates is critical for rural health systems, and now more than ever, the best way to reach physician candidates is via a well-conceived digital recruitment strategy.

Spend Time in the Digital World

Armed with the knowledge that overwhelming numbers support the fact that physicians, like most Americans, are extremely active on social media, Rural health system recruiters should have a strategy to meet physician candidates where they are – online. The American College of Physicians claims that over 70% of physicians are on Doximity, and over 30% are using social media for their professional networking.

Here are a few tips for using SEARCH as a framework for your digital recruitment strategy:

  • Segment – Instead of pushing out messaging content for the sake of it, target physicians who may not only be interested in your message but have the skillset you need, and are a cultural fit for your organization.
  • Engage – Here is where a rural system can shine. Publish content that highlights your brand and illustrates a sense of community that engages physicians, their peers, and colleagues.
  • Authentic – Make sure your digital outreach conveys a voice and tone that speaks to the culture you have built. Staying true to that consistent tone builds the foundation for physicians to be able to understand who you are and the values you espouse.
  • Relevant – Any digital content that you publish should be planned and well thought out to make it something relatable and important to your target audience.
  • Credible – Another way to set your rural health system or facility apart is by infusing credibility into your messaging. Create reasons why candidates would want to become a part of your organization by promoting your mission, values, and community value.
  • Habit – Cultivating a digital presence does not mean one and done. You could publish a piece of content that creates an “a-Ha” moment for your audience, but then if you disappear for six weeks, you have lost their engagement. Maximizing the digital opportunity is much like growing a vegetable garden. You don’t have to work on it every day, but if you don’t tend to it regularly enough, you will never experience the fruits of your labor.

The key is knowing that physicians are willing to listen, and now it is a matter of reaching them with your message.  If your rural health system needs support in developing or executing a digital recruitment strategy, consider partnering with the healthcare recruitment professionals at Jackson Physician Search. Our decades of experience has afforded us the ability to maintain a nationwide pool of candidates and to develop the technology and tools to help you fill your most challenging vacancies.

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Interpreting Compensation Data Sources for Physician Recruitment Success

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Tony Stajduhar, President of Jackson Physician Search, joined Craig Hunter, Senior VP at Coker Group last week to lead an MGMA webinar titled, “Interpreting Compensation Data for Physician Recruitment Success.” The main objective was to help healthcare administrators understand and utilize the various compensation data sources available to build a competitive offer that would improve physician recruitment success.

Compensation Data Sources

Physician compensation data can be derived from a variety of sources, with some being more accurate and reliable than others. Overwhelmingly, compensation data found through MGMA is considered the “gold standard” as a data source.  Over 80% of participants responded to the webinar poll question that MGMA was being used as a benchmark for compensation data. Several also responded that they utilize a blend of compensation data gathered through MGMA, AMGA, and other data sources to arrive at competitive offers.

“There is a wide variance in reported compensation levels for physicians by specialty,” Stajduhar warned.  “It is critical that healthcare administrators utilize the most accurate compensation, like the MGMA data, to create their fair market offers.”

Hunter expounded upon that point by talking about how important it is to understand Total Cash Compensation or TCC.   When developing a compensation plan, all aspects of compensation must be taken into account and are already included in MGMA’s TCC benchmark data.  The organization must also realize that there will most likely need to be a FMV (fair market value) opinion completed on the physician’s compensation to make sure it is within regulatory guidelines.

Considering the Market

Clearly, location can play a role in how interested physicians might be to relocate to a particular area. Cost-of-living, crime rates, schools, and education systems all contribute to the desirability of a region. When putting together a compensation package, a location’s cost-of-living has to be a consideration. For example, In San Diego, California, the cost-of-living is 40% less expensive than San Francisco. In dollars, a physician in San Diego earning $179,000 annually needs to make $250,000 to support that same lifestyle in San Francisco.  As with the compensation data sources, there are tools available for administrators to utilize to ensure that they are considering cost-of-living when developing their compensation plans.  NerdWallet.com provides a simple user interface to compare cost-of-living between two cities.  Other sites, like Realtor.com, provide more detailed breakdowns of how much it costs to live, buy groceries, utilities, and more between two different cities.

Stajduhar advises that if an administrator is looking at compensation for a specific metro area or location, it is wise to cross-reference salary data found at Doximity.com. He cautioned that the data found at Doximity is self-reported and may or may not include benefits, but it can be useful in supporting an offer in specific localities.

“When creating compensation plans, utilizing as much relevant, detailed information as is available, will typically help you be within Fair Market Value guidelines for that physician.”

~Craig Hunter, Senior VP Coker Group

Total Compensation Packages

In considering the components of a total compensation package, utilizing the concept of Fair Market Value (FMV) should not be overlooked. Whether a healthcare organization has the resources to evaluate the plan for each physician specialty it employs, or it utilizes the support of industry experts, understanding the elements that comprise an attractive compensation package is vital to successful recruitment.

Additionally, as competition for physician services continues to increase and turnover results in lost revenue, crafting the salary portion of the offer is only the first part of the equation. The total compensation being offered should support both the recruitment and long-term retention of the physician. Healthcare administrators must learn what motivates their candidates. These benefits may include:

  • Student loan forgiveness
  • Optimal work/life balance
  • Housing allowance based on the location
  • Sign-on bonus
  • Time for sabbaticals or research opportunities

Other types of exclusive perks that can help attract candidates and lead your retention efforts are:

  • Personal financial advisors
  • Low-interest loans
  • Deferred compensation
  • Family tuition or family education grants

By knowing what is most important to your ideal candidates, you put yourself in the best position to build an attractive offer.

Physicians on the Move

Even with the pandemic, physicians are seeking new opportunities and preparing to make a move.  This is especially true during the summer months, and this year may even be busier than in the past because of the travel restrictions of late winter/early spring.  From a numbers perspective, more than 50,000 physicians will accept new positions in 2020. Factoring in recruitment costs and the loss of revenue incurred with each physician vacancy means it is critical to ensure your recruitment and retention efforts are functioning at a high-level.  Healthcare organizations are faced with six to nine-month time frames to recruit and hire most specialties. In addition to the +/- $250k sign-on bonus, relocation costs, and other expenditures.

“Each year, between 6- and 7% of all physicians move across the country.”

~Tony Stajduhar, President Jackson Physician Search

Recruitment Takeaways, Post Pandemic

As the nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, both Stajduhar and Hunter caution healthcare administrators to keep focused on candidate acquisition and adjusting their recruitment efforts to the current landscape. For example, one thing the pandemic brought to the forefront was how video conferencing could successfully be used to screen and interview candidates.

Not that technology will permanently replace in-person interviews and site visits, but these tools can be used to reduce costs and should be developed and used now. In fact, some organizations are using virtual interviews so effectively that candidates are accepting offers based on these interactions alone. Here’s how this Alabama facility recruited an ENT.

Stajduhar also advises healthcare executives to continue evolving and improving your internal processes to ensure that candidates are seeing and experiencing your organization in the best light. Workplace culture and fit continue to play an essential role in attracting the best physician candidates, and administrators need to ensure that organizational culture and values are front and center throughout the recruitment process.

If you need help with recruiting physicians, don’t hesitate to connect with one of our search consultants. They’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have about physician compensation packages, recruitment best practices, and retention tips.

You can reach Tony via email at tstajduhar@jacksonphysiciansearch.com and on LinkedIn here. You can reach Craig via email at chunter@cokergroup.com and on LinkedIn here.

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Strong Leadership and a Supportive Culture are Key to Recruiting and Retaining Physicians in the New Normal

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The psychological impact of COVID-19 on frontline healthcare workers, including physicians, is yet to be fully realized and understood. From initial worries about having enough PPE to working endless hours treating those afflicted with the virus, the past several months has taken a toll.

To bring more awareness to the issue, MGMA hosted a webinar, “Hiring Physicians in the ‘New Normal’: Addressing the Psychological Dimensions of COVID-19.”  Jackson Physician Search president Tony Stajduhar presented and was joined by Kathy Cooperman, President of KC Leadership Consulting, and Dr. Russell Livingston, Psychiatric Physician and President of Livingston Consulting.

In addition to touching on the psychological impact of handling patient care during these unprecedented times, they discussed how hospitals and healthcare administrators could adjust their recruiting, hiring, and retention practices, with an eye toward understanding and mitigating concerns that physicians may have regarding COVID-19.

To view the MGMA Webinar in its entirety, click here.

During the webinar, participants were asked to use one word to describe the mental health of their frontline healthcare providers.  Unsurprisingly, the results pointed to providers being overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed.  How these stressors are going to impact physician recruitment and retention is yet unclear. Still, it is essential to consider that physicians will seek new opportunities. Tony Stajduhar highlighted the market dynamics of physician job seekers by pointing out that 50,000 physicians will accept new positions in 2020, and summer is the prime time for them to make a move.

Recruiting Physicians in the New Normal

Studies clearly show that physicians are much more likely to accept a position with an organization whose culture and values are aligned with the physician’s own. Hiring for fit has never been more critical than it is today because of the costs associated with a competitive recruitment environment.

Some physicians are seeking out new positions because of their experiences dealing with COVID-19, or they just find themselves ready to explore new opportunities.  Your understanding of how the pandemic may have impacted them should be reflected in how you recruit and interview potential candidates. For example:

  • Don’t shy away from talking about the pandemic and the steps your organization took to support the physicians and other staff.
  • Let the candidate know that you understand the anxiety and trauma experienced by your physicians as they tried to balance patient care with their own safety and by extension the safety of their families.
  • Highlight the ways that your leadership team addressed the trauma and the steps that were taken to help mitigate the stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.

It is essential to have actual examples of how the culture within your organization helped your staff cope with the uncertainty caused by the events unfolding around them. It could be as simple as how the executive team held town hall meetings to share information and provide staff with an opportunity to express their concerns. In other cases, it is providing each employee extra time each day to find a quiet room for meditation or yoga.

“During times of crisis, people fall back on their core values when making decisions.”

~Kathy Cooperman

Physicians spend their days caring for others and, likewise, want to feel like they are in an environment where everyone cares for each other. When interviewing physician candidates in the post-pandemic world, it is critical to sell them on the organizational culture that they would be joining. Consider that they may be coming from an organization where they didn’t feel supported during their most trying times. Counter this by explaining how your organization found ways to proactively support the staff.  Share the positive work experiences that occurred during even the most difficult times.  Recounting these real-world actions will resonate with a candidate and help them to envision what they can expect during times of crisis in the future.

Keep a Steady Hand on Physician Retention Strategies

We have acknowledged the fact that physicians are feeling significant psychological stress and trauma from trying to manage patient care throughout the pandemic. Administrators everywhere need to step forward and provide critical leadership at this time as part of their overall physician retention strategy.

During the webinar, Kathy Cooperman described the challenges involved with leading through times of change. While physicians are scrambling to provide care under uncertain conditions, healthcare leaders need to take on a more active and visible role for their staff.  It is critical to provide as much clarity about what is known and unknown, to support, and even nurture their teams through encouragement and reassurance.  This is a time where healthcare systems that have put time and effort into building an open, honest, and supportive culture will see the results.

Dr. Livingston advises administrators to encourage staff members to express their feelings and concerns in a structured environment. While it may need to be professionally facilitated, it is important for physicians and other care providers to feel that they are being heard.  Statistically, a pandemic situation exacerbates the risk of burnout, and the trauma caused by feeling overwhelmed leads to an increase in PTSD symptoms. Much like a typical trauma ER environment, leadership needs to have a plan to mitigate the trauma symptoms being experienced by staff.

“PTSD-like symptoms adversely affect the level of care. This is why it is imperative for administrators to have a plan in place to help mitigate the effects of trauma being experienced by their physicians.”

~Dr. Russell Livingston

Staff morale is a critical component of any healthy work environment.  In a crisis situation, all employees are going to seek to find certainty amid the chaos, and this is where strong leaders find ways to be consistent in their message and cultivate a sense of support and stability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely altered the ways that healthcare organizations will attract, hire, and retain physicians going forward. Clearly, one of the takeaways is that strong leadership and supportive culture will help sell an organization in this highly competitive hiring environment.

Jackson Physician Search has the healthcare industry experience and nationwide reach to be your partner in physician recruitment and retention.  Contact our recruitment professionals and discover how partnering with Jackson Physician Search can make a difference for you today.

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Overcoming COVID-19 Recruitment Challenges Through Collaboration and Creativity

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It’s human nature to look for positive outcomes in even the most challenging of situations, and in spite of our current reality, these times are no different. So, when a healthcare facility in Alabama came to us in the middle of COVID-19 after losing two Ear, Nose, and Throat physicians to retirement and relocation, Helen Falkner, a Senior Director of Recruiting at Jackson Physician Search, knew she had her work cut out for her.

Recruiting an ENT physician in Alabama can be a challenge under the best of circumstances for two reasons. First, Alabama falls in the top 10 states experiencing the worst physician shortages. Second, ENTs fall in the top 20 specialties in the highest demand.

Fortunately, the facility’s Director of Physician Relations/Recruitment & Service Line Development was undeterred by the less-than-ideal circumstances and well aware that delaying the search would only extend the costly vacancy. Working hand-in-hand with Helen, they immediately launched the search.

As with every new search, Helen wrote a compelling job overview and posted it on multiple job boards, launched a targeted email campaign to an extensive database of opted-in ENTs, and began contacting physicians directly within 48 hours. Excited about the opportunity, she knew the right physician would be open to a virtual interview process.

When One Door Closes, Another Opens

Dr. R was working on his fellowship and would complete his training at the end of June. He had already secured a position with a private practice and was scheduled to start at the end of the summer. Unfortunately, his contract with his soon-to-be employer was canceled as a result of financial hardships the practice faced due to COVID-19. Born, raised and educated in the South – specifically Louisiana – he was ready to return to his southern roots. So, when Helen contacted him about this new opportunity in Alabama, travel bans and virtual interviews were simply hurdles for both of them to overcome.

Helen and Hannah worked quickly to keep the momentum alive with Dr. R. They worked to quickly schedule a virtual interview that included several members of the physician and support staff, as well as a Facetime call where Dr. R. virtually “walked” around the facility so he could see the clinic with his own eyes.

Dr. R was then introduced to a local realtor who sent him information about the schools, neighborhoods and restaurants. She also sent him links to online videos with community information. Between Dr. R’s conversations with Helen, Hannah, and the Realtor he was able to gain a clear picture of the family oriented and vibrancy of the community. With a wife and two young children, finding a community where they felt comfortable and were close to other physicians was important.

In spite of the pandemic, recruitment was moving full speed ahead.

Recognizing that Dr. R was a great fit culturally, the facility didn’t want to lose him to another opportunity. Within a week of the virtual interview, they received a signed offer of employment from the candidate. And shortly afterwards, Dr. R even put in an offer on a new home!

With a typical ENT search taking six months or longer, this story is a testament to how effective a digital sourcing process combined with a virtual interview can be. Just imagine how long it would have taken to find suitable physician candidates if a direct mail piece had to be designed, printed and mailed.

While every successful recruitment story is unique, there is always a common thread between them. And, that’s the strong relationship a recruiter develops with a healthcare administrator. When it’s built on trust and everyone agrees on what it will take to fill the physician vacancy, there are few outside circumstances that can derail the search.

If your facility is looking to find a trusted recruitment partner, Jackson Physician Search has a team of experienced healthcare industry professionals who are ready to help you. Contact our team today.

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Not much about life in the United States at the present moment resembles our usual definition of normal, but still life goes on and so does physician recruitment.

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Planning to Keep Telehealth Post-COVID-19? Four Skills to Look for When Recruiting Physicians.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that people will always find ways to adapt to meet their needs. The same can be said for patients seeking healthcare, as evidenced by the 4,347% increase in telehealth insurance claims nationally. In March 2019, telehealth insurance claims comprised 0.17% of medical claims compared to March 2020 totals of 7.52%. Clearly, as patients become more comfortable with telehealth for non-emergent health matters, providers are beginning to plan for continued telehealth services for life beyond the pandemic.

A recent article in Forbes magazine cited research that stated 59% of consumers reported that they are more likely to use telehealth services now than previously. Plus, a surprising 33% indicated that they would be willing to leave their current physician for a provider who offered telehealth access.

Some states are currently working on legislation that would make the temporary payment increases for telehealth services permanent and CMS administrator Seema Verma recently discussed extending the pay rates.

With so many consumers willingly adopting new technologies, healthcare providers should be considering telehealth experience when recruiting physicians to fill vacancies. Telehealth has proven to be a benefit for patients during the pandemic allowing them to receive care without the need for travel. Any time you can remove a barrier to accessing healthcare it is a benefit to physicians and patients. Let’s look at the characteristics of a physician that is well-suited to be successful in providing telehealth services.

  1. Recruit tech-savvy physicians. For anyone working throughout the pandemic via telecommuting, technical skills are critical. From troubleshooting video-conference call snafus to resetting your home router or Wi-Fi adapter, for many of us, the transition has been a challenge. Now, consider those issues if you were trying to consult with a patient about a medical matter. The only way to engender confidence and a feeling of assurance is to have a physician who can seamlessly handle the technical aspects of a telehealth consultation. Doctors do not need a minor in computer science to accompany their medical degree but having a comfort level with evolving telehealth services is crucial for their success.
  2. Look for physicians with outstanding communication skills. Technical skills are important, but the most critical aspect of a successful telehealth physician is the ability to communicate effectively with the patient. Screen for physicians who demonstrate superior listening skills. The telehealth provider must glean as much information from the patient as possible, without having the ability to perform a physical exam. Listening skills and an ability to ask appropriate questions are critical to a successful virtual visit.
  3. Don’t overlook the importance of being organized and thorough. Back in the days of the written prescription pad, many jokes were made about the quality of a physician’s handwriting. In the emerging world of telehealth, the ability to compose documentation is even more critical than in a typical outpatient situation but it’s done electronically. Telehealth physicians have to be able to articulate, almost verbatim, what the patient is saying. This requires an ability to construct clear and concise notes of the patient visit, as the documentation serves as a diagnostic tool and an audit trail. This is even more critical if the physician is working remotely and is away from the traditional doctor’s office. With no day-to-day administrative support, the physician will need to be able to handle some extra responsibilities.
  4. Experience matters.When recruiting a physician that is going to be providing telehealth services, the type of post-residency background he or she has will make a difference. A physician conducting telehealth visits will not have an abundance of resources at his or her disposal, and a physician who has had extensive experience may have a better understanding of what it takes to perform with limited resources. The physician must be comfortable making a diagnosis without the support of a team. Experience in a variety of settings can be an important consideration when recruiting your next physician.

It is safe to assume that life after the COVID-19 pandemic is going to be permanently altered. Healthcare administrators are quickly learning to adapt to the new normal, including adjusting their physician recruitment strategies and planning for the continued evolution of telehealth technologies and services.

If you need a strategic recruitment partner to help you navigate the post-pandemic healthcare world, Jackson Physician Search is ready to help every step of the way.  Contact our experienced recruitment professionals today to learn more about how we can make a difference.

 

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Demand for Psychiatric Specialties Continues to Grow

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A December 2018 report from the University of Michigan concluded that the passage of the Affordable Care Act fueled the ever-increasing demand for Psychiatrists.  Upon its passage, the ACA expanded access to behavioral healthcare to more individuals, and current projections are that the shortage of psychiatric professionals is expected to worsen by 2025. To illustrate this shortage from a national perspective, the National Council for Behavioral Health noted that 77% of U.S. counties are considered to be underserved. The largest increase in demand might be around the corner still.  In an article from the JAMA network about the impact COVID-19 has on the mental health of healthcare workers, Dr. Perlis writes, “Across the world, physicians, nurses, and other frontline health care workers do heroic and lifesaving work in stressful settings on a daily basis.  However, the toll that providing such care takes must also be recognized: sooner or later, every clinician is also a patient.”

Given the demand for psychiatric specialties, healthcare administrators are finding it increasingly difficult to fill vacancies. Currently, the average time to fill for a psychiatry vacancy is almost eight and a half months forcing healthcare administrators to be more creative and proactive in their recruitment efforts.  The average monthly gross revenue generated by a physician is more than $81,000 making an extended vacancy quite costly. You can see the impact reducing time-to-fill on your practice’s revenue by using our Physician Recruitment ROI Calculator.  Below is a snapshot of how healthcare administrators can effectively recruit psychiatry professionals.

Be Proactive

Administrators have to plan ahead for vacancies.  To avoid being caught off guard, it is critical to maintain good relationships and open communication with your psychiatry staff.  This is the easiest way to stay informed about potential retirements or impending vacancies.  Maintaining strong relationships with your physician staff also helps when it comes time to recruit. Having physicians that are willing to reach out to their personal network of colleagues is always helpful to your recruitment efforts.

Cast a Wide Net

Given the increased demand we have already referred to, hospitals and health systems have a lot of competition for psychiatry specialists. Being creative in sourcing candidates is crucial to attracting a Psychiatrist to fill your vacancy.  In many cases, your search has to be nationwide in order to increase your candidate pool.  Another way to expand the candidate pool is to establish relationships with university residency programs and ask your current staff for recommendations from their professional network.  Lastly, an often overlooked way to keep your brand top of mind is to take as many opportunities as possible to present at physician and other healthcare-related conventions.

Guaranteed Salaries and Incentives

In addition to inequities in Medicare reimbursements for psychiatric services, cancellations and missed appointments are much higher for psychiatry appointments than other specialties.  Complicated salary structures for psychiatry professionals can be a deterrent when trying to fill a vacancy. As they have with other hard to fill specialties, healthcare administrators are turning to better compensation packages as a way to attract and hire candidates. These packages include signing bonuses, loan forgiveness, generous relocation reimbursements, and other incentives.

Work-life Balance

Psychiatrists are no different than other physicians when it comes to their desire to achieve a better work-life balance.  As part of any employment offer, administrators are becoming more creative in designing schedules and offering increased vacation and personal time to attract candidates. Another way that administrators can help their psychiatrists reduce the amount of time they are spending in the office is by expanding their commitment to virtual office hours. Expanding virtual services allows the physician to “see” patients at times that are better suited to their home life.

Find a Search Partner

No matter how effective a healthcare system’s in-house recruitment team is, for hard-to-fill vacancies, finding a trusted recruitment partner can help reduce fill times.  For example, having a partner such as Jackson Physician Search will give you access to a larger candidate pool and deploy digital recruitment tools to find the qualified candidates you need.  Also, having a trusted search partner allows your in-house team to focus on other staffing needs, coordinating site visits, onboarding, and other critical components of a successful hire.

There is no single approach that can solve hard-to-fill physician vacancies.  Instead, a full-spectrum approach where you are employing many different strategies, including finding outside help, is the most effective means to successfully recruit psychiatric professionals.

Jackson Physician Search has decades of physician recruitment experience. Contact us today to find out how we can help you meet your physician recruitment challenges.

 

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Going Beyond Compensation: 3 Tips to Win Top Physician Candidates

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The volume of physicians who are looking for their next opportunity is surging right now. And with many states moving well into the re-opening phase, these physicians are accepting new roles. To win them over, it’s important to offer a competitive and well-rounded compensation and benefits package. But money alone isn’t likely to provide you with a steady stream of high-quality candidates who fit the culture and will succeed in the role.

To recruit and retain your ideal candidates in today’s crowded recruitment environment, it’s time to get creative. Here are three tips for success.

Know your ideal candidate’s needs and tailor the compensation/benefits package to that physician.

If you’re looking at early careerists, offer a student loan repayment or signing bonus. If you’re looking for a mid- or late-stage careerist, offer a retention bonus as a reward for staying put over a certain period of service, or a broader insurance package that might include long-term care insurance.

Offer a flexible work schedule, especially if you know the candidate has child rearing or parental responsibilities. Knowing your candidate also means knowing if he or she has reservations about the business obligations of working in a practice versus a hospital.

Be prepared to proudly show your investment in software and support staff to ease the burden of practice management. Consider the benefits of recruiting a “clinical scribe” from within the local community to enter EMR data, giving physicians more time to focus on their patients. Show your dedication to the value-based practice model and your commitment to preventing burnout on staff.

You might also impress candidates by being on the cutting-edge of the revival of the physicians’ lounge as a place for doctors to come together, gain a respite from the action of work and share ideas. Out of fashion for a time, the physicians’ lounge is making a comeback as a powerful deterrent against burnout, as described in a 2019 Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) article.

 

Solidify your recruitment process and marketing plan to attract your ideal candidate.

The new generation of physicians are savvy – and that goes beyond their preference for communicating via text, email, and social media. Many of them tell us that most mass-produced marketing materials go in the trash without a second look.

They know a canned sales pitch when they see or hear one, and they resent the intrusion on their personal and professional lives. What they appreciate most is personalized communication tailored specifically to them—illustrating an intricate understanding of their skills and background.

That doesn’t mean you should throw out social media and other digital forms of recruitment. Quite the opposite, in fact – physicians prefer to receive job opportunities via email. Also, check out a candidate’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages to get to know him or her early in the recruiting process. Some recruits even have their own blogs that provide keen insight into their interests, work ethic, and career goals. If you’ve developed a successful candidate persona—and you should have one—it’s a good way to see which candidates will be the best fit.

In addition, your recruiting firm can help you narrow your choices to those candidates who are native to your state, who grew up or went to school there, so you can emphasize that connection when you communicate with them.

As an executive partner with the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), we share best practices with the organization on the unique challenges of recruiting specifically to medical practices. Writes David N. Gans of MGMA’s industry affairs team, ideal candidates might be fully capable of starting their own private practice. Why would they want to sign up with an existing one? One reason is the ability to see nearly a full patient load from the start without taking the time to build their own patient panel. “That is a boon that sometimes you may not think about,” Gans says.

It’s a message well worth remembering in your communications with the candidates you want.

Ensure your interview process and candidate site visit is candidate- and family-focused.

Include key stakeholders, a tour of the community when travel is more practical again and be prepared to offer a sample contract if the candidate is your ideal fit. Remember that physicians and advanced practice providers are people, not numbers. They have families, friends, hobbies and interests that are important to them. Their individual needs, motivations, values and work styles significantly influence how and where they will choose to practice medicine. The more you can learn and adapt to these factors, the greater the opportunity to hire physicians who will fit, succeed and stay.

Invite key stakeholders to coffee or dinner to share their perspective on living and working in your area—what the schools are like, what elder care options are available if the candidate has aging parents, favorite recreational, social and cultural activities. Especially if your practice is in a rural community, it’s much easier for a candidate to imagine a transition to country life if he or she hears firsthand the stories of those who have already made it.

Contact us if you’d like additional insight into your own recruitment strategy as well as recommendations on ways to meet demand and attract the right physicians to your healthcare organization.

 

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The Physician Recruitment Process Under Transformation: Will Video Interviews Become the Norm Post-COVID-19?

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A slow return to a new normal means some of the millions of displaced Americans will begin returning to work, and financially hard-hit medical groups will schedule previously postponed elective procedures. Additionally, hospitals and other healthcare organizations can start hiring more physicians to handle the inevitable rush of patients and to meet 2020 staffing planning goals.

Of course, there’s great concern among the medical community, political officials, and citizens that successfully reopening the country come in tandem with improved diagnostic testing to keep the virus at bay. As history has taught us, a pandemic seemingly under control can return for a second wave with a vengeance. We are right to be cautious, which means some degree of social distancing will remain part of our daily lives for months to come.

Surprisingly, as a physician recruitment firm, we have found that the current shelter-in-place orders, travel restrictions, and banned onsite interviews haven’t halted physician recruitment. We’ve seen an increase in candidate activity, likely because physicians remain future-focused, and summer is an ideal time to make a major move to a new part of the country.

Knowing that 50,000 physicians are expected to relocate before the end of 2020, the majority of healthcare administrators have also kept an eye on the future even while battling the pandemic. We learned from a live poll taken during last week’s MGMA20 | The Operations Conference Online that only 14% of medical groups aren’t currently interviewing due to COVID-19. For those that are, they’ve adapted the interviewing process to continue filling key vacancies and to keep candidate pipelines full.

With the light beginning to appear at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it’s becoming clear that the initial, in-person physician interview seen as a staple in the recruitment process may not always be necessary.

Video Interviews are Here to Stay – Potentially Reducing Recruitment Costs and Time-to-Fill

Another discovery during last week’s MGMA conference poll is nearly 63% of medical groups are currently interviewing candidates via video and phone, and some have no intention of stopping, as was uncovered during the subsequent Q&A. In the executive search realm where competition for candidates is sometimes less intense, the initial slate of candidates is usually interviewed via video. Only the final contenders are invited onsite for face-to-face interviews, as well as facility and community tours.

Now that tech-savvy healthcare organizations and recruitment firms who were already set up to deliver a digital, yet personalized, candidate recruitment experience have learned that the initial interview can be effectively done via video, it may be difficult to justify going back. Yes, for those physician searches that are ultra-competitive or where the need is immediate, the initial onsite interview may be the best approach. But for others, time and expense can be saved early in the recruitment process. Here are a few tips to provide an outstanding candidate experience:

  • Choose a Professional Location Where You Won’t be Interrupted. Make sure your office is well-lit, avoid having visible clutter, and eliminate the risk of interruption. You want to provide a professional atmosphere just as you would if the candidate was onsite with you in a boardroom.
  • Test Your Setup. Even if you are familiar with video conferencing technology, always do a test run with a colleague. This is to make sure your internet connection is stable, your webcam produces a clear picture, and your audio is working well.
  • Close Unnecessary Tabs and Turn Off Your Cellphone. Before the video call, shut down programs on your computer that aren’t needed and turn off your cell phone. The candidate is your number one priority.
  • Have the Candidate’s CV and Prepare Your Questions. In a typical interview environment, you would have questions ready. Physicians want to know that you are prepared and respect their time just as you want the same.
  • Focus on Connecting with the Candidate. Demonstrate engagement by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and smiling as you normally would. Remember, culture fit plays a huge role in a candidate’s decision to accept a job offer. So, be yourself and connect with the candidate authentically.
  • Follow-up. Provide timely follow-up and next steps, so that candidate interest remains high during any delays.

Create a Virtual Community Site Visit that Increases Enthusiasm

During the MGMA20 | The Operations Conference Online, a medical group administrator asked if the virtual site visit will also be the norm post-COVID-19. Permanent physician recruitment is unique in that it almost always requires relocation. Even the most adventurous prefer to visit the new location before uprooting family. But this doesn’t mean the virtual site visit can’t play a role even when travel resumes.

As recruiters, we’re accustomed to physicians occasionally rejecting a location before visiting. It’s our job to help them consider the total picture, which often includes a professional opportunity that could be a great stepping-stone towards their goals or a culture that is better aligned with their values. When this happens, we use a variety of tools that the travel and tourism industry has been using for decades to create a virtual visit. It’s effective in combatting pre-conceived notions about a region, state, or city.

As we anticipate seeing the initial interview done more often via video, consider adding a virtual site visit as part of your organization’s candidate experience. Here are some tips:

  • Schedule a Video Chat with Fellow Physicians. Typically, the site visit is an opportunity for physicians to get a first-hand look at the facility and to meet potential colleagues. If there’s a mismatch in personalities or culture, it can result in a lost candidate. This is an efficient way to introduce candidates to potential colleagues sooner in the process. Ideally, you would also connect the physician with someone who recently relocated and can relate to what the candidate is facing.
  • Show Off the Best Side of Your Community and Facility. Physicians are concerned with the well-being of their families when considering relocation. While you will still invite a candidate onsite for a final interview, don’t delay building excitement about the community and your facility. If your organization hasn’t already delved into video, hire a film crew to interview key stakeholders and get drone footage of your facility. Then, look to travel and tourism websites to find video footage of the community. Whether you upgrade the careers section of your website or have a standard email you share with candidates, these can go a long way.
  • Introduce Physician Candidates Early to Professional Resources. Candidates facing a relocation will seek out a real estate agent to assess the housing market. Save them time by vetting these professionals. Also, you could include school district information, religious institutions, personal banking advisors, sporting and cultural events, and anything else unique to your community.

For many of us, life feels upside down. We are optimistic that the world is starting to come through to the other side thanks to the tireless and heroic efforts of healthcare providers and other front-line service workers. While many lessons learned will be focused on improving the procurement of testing supplies and personal protective equipment, as well as accurate anti-body testing and vaccine development, there will undoubtedly be other valuable lessons available in all walks of professional and personal life.

More than 50,000 physicians will relocate in 2020 – Here’s how your organization can get ahead of the curve and hire faster post-COVID-19.

Once you identify there is mutual interest between your organization and a candidate:

  • Set up a phone call or video conference between the candidate and key stakeholders to conduct an initial interview.
  • If interest remains high, stay in touch weekly with the candidate, arrange additional discussions with potential colleagues, and send links to community information.
  • If appropriate, share potential agreements with the candidate.
  • Tentatively schedule the final onsite interview and explain the post-interview process.

Jackson Physician Search is currently the fastest-growing physician recruitment firm in the nation. A decade ago, we pioneered an all-digital recruitment methodology that helps hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, and medical groups to recruit physicians, physician leaders, and advanced practice providers.

We are recognized for our track record built on trust and transparency of processes and fees. Lean on the Jackson Physician Search team for guidance on how to jumpstart your hiring.

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