With physician turnover potentially on the rise and a concerning number of physicians reporting burnout, there is increasing attention on the impact of workplace culture on physician retention. The good news is, employers are aware of the importance of a positive organizational culture. However, as a candidate, it can be difficult to discern if the way your interviewer describes the culture is a true representation of how other physicians experience it.
Workplace culture is often a reflection of the organization’s values, or at least how well those values are embodied by its staff. This is one of many reasons most recruiters stress the importance of finding an employer whose values align with yours. They know what happens when a physician who wants autonomy accepts an offer from an employer known for micromanaging. When values are misaligned, no one involved in the relationship will be happy.
The physician interview is your best opportunity to investigate an employer’s values and culture. Keep reading to find out how to evaluate an employer’s culture during the physician interview.
Conduct Pre-Interview Research
Before you agree to an on-site physician interview, research the employer online and try to determine if it is a place you would like to work. Review the mission statement and values professed on the website. Look for news stories about the organization to see how it is viewed in the community. Follow the employer’s social channels to learn more. What kind of stories are shared about patients, staff, and leadership? Do you see photos of team-building activities or employer-sponsored service projects? What charitable causes does the organization champion?
Keep in mind, an online presence is carefully curated, so it may not tell the whole story. Look for clues about what the organization values. It will be up to you to discern if those values are acted out in the organization’s culture. Your chance to do this is during the on-site physician interview.
Ask Questions to Reveal Culture
In preparation for the on-site interview, think about what questions you should ask each of your interviewers. You know you want to learn about culture, however, asking your interviewer to tell you about the organizational culture will likely get you a regurgitation of what is posted on the website. Instead, ask questions designed to reveal specific aspects of the culture that matter most to you. If physician autonomy is especially important, ask leaders to provide examples of ways physicians are included in decision-making. Ask potential physician peers if they are free to order tests and procedures as they see fit. Request they share other examples of their clinical autonomy.
If work-life balance and mental health are a priority, ask leaders about programs in place to prevent physician burnout. Ask about the average physician tenure, and if it seems low, find out why. When talking with physicians, ask if they feel they have adequate support and share examples of such. Does the department or clinic have enough nurses on staff? Is there a scribe on staff? How is the call schedule determined? Is management approachable when additional support is needed? When provided with answers, listen not just to the speaker’s words, but also notice how comfortable he or she seems when talking about the topic.
Observe Workplace Culture
Of course, words are one thing, but actions tell a more complete story. Use your time on site to observe as much as you can about the culture. Do people seem generally positive and at ease? How do physicians interact with leadership and each other? How do they treat support staff? When discussing the patient community, is everyone respectful?
Spend as much time as you can with people working at all levels of the organization and trust your instincts. If you see any red flags, keep digging until you get to the truth.
Trust Your Recruiter
No one knows more about an organization’s reputation than a recruiter. They know from the candidates they’ve placed whether or not the organization follows through on the promises they make during the interview process. While it’s true that your recruiter is paid by the healthcare organization, it is in everyone’s best interests to find a candidate who is both a clinical and cultural fit for the client as both are strong predictors of long-term physician retention.
Leverage Multiple Channels to Learn About Culture
Evaluating a potential employer’s workplace culture is a critical part of the physician job search process. Be sure to use every channel available to you to learn as much as you can. Conduct online research prior to attending the interview. Prepare thoughtful questions designed to reveal the aspects of culture that are most important to you. Tailor each question to the specific person you are meeting with, depending on their position within the organization. Observe the behavior of those you meet, as well as the surrounding staff and even the patients. If you pick up on any tension, do your best to find out more. After you have seen and heard as much as possible, ask your recruiter to share what he or she knows about the culture of the organization. The recruiter will want to ensure alignment between you and the client, so he or she should be honest and transparent. Use this information, along with your observations and instincts, and you are sure to make the right decision.
If you are searching for a physician job, it is extremely helpful to work with a recruiter who can offer insight into the cultures of organizations that interest you. At Jackson Physician Search, we have offices in four different regions, and our regional recruitment teams would be more than happy to share what they know about the employers in the area. Contact us today or download the Physician Job Search Playbook for everything you need to know to get started.
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