For several decades, healthcare industry experts have warned of a physician shortage. Fast forward to today, and the physician shortage is no longer a future problem; the shortage is here. And while it will worsen as time goes on, an AAMC report projects a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by the year 2034, many organizations are already feeling the impact of the current shortage.
Intensifying the problem is the projected volume of retirements in the coming years. The aforementioned AAMC report states two in five physicians will reach retirement age in the next ten years. And as Baby Boomers continue to reach retirement age and burned out younger physicians choose early retirement or a new career, the number of physicians exiting the profession each year is greater than the number of residents completing training.
As demand increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to recruit physicians, and retaining the ones you have is more challenging. Recent JPS studies show 65% of physicians are burned out, and 69% are not engaged at work. According to an August 2022 MGMA STAT poll, this year, 40% of medical groups had a physician leave or retire early due to burnout.
The challenges are significant, and yet, when you have a community of patients in need of care, failure is not an option. For many administrators, the obvious solution is to increase compensation. An April 2022 MGMA STAT poll found more than half of medical practices were raising compensation in response to staffing challenges. A third said they are offering more flexible schedules. In an increasingly challenging recruitment market, both may be necessary to attract and retain talent, but will it be enough? What else can be done to accelerate the recruitment cycle and increase the chances of retaining physicians?
Establish the Need for Physician Recruitment
Before launching a search, healthcare organization leaders must establish the need. This step is easier if recruiting to replace a departing physician, but regardless of the need, it is a good time to assess the market, evaluate patient volume, and gain consensus on the need for a new physician. This is also the time to discuss when the new physician will ideally come on board. Is the need urgent, or are you planning ahead? Either way, what is a realistic timeline?
Assemble the Physician Recruitment Team
Once you have a consensus on the need and timeline for the search, it’s time to identify the stakeholders who will be involved in the recruitment process, keeping in mind that including too many can slow the process down considerably, but too few allows more room for error with respect to identifying the best candidate. Once the team is established, assign responsibilities to each member.
If a recruitment partner is involved, make sure you are clear on which pieces they will handle and which pieces fall to the internal team. Decide who will be responsible for contacting interested candidates, and set the expectation that the responsible party should reach out within 24 to 48 hours of the candidate’s inquiry. If the first call goes well, who will schedule the next call and/or interview? Think through the entire process and assign each action item to a team member — either internal or external. The predetermined division of responsibility applies to every candidate and eliminates the need for back and forth about who will own each part of the process.
Commit to Transparency for an Effective Physician Recruitment Process
Be transparent with your recruitment partner, inviting them to spend time with you and answering his or her questions to the best of your ability. Be clear about the reasons for recent turnover and reveal any potential issues upfront. Be prepared to share financial details about patient volumes, productivity targets, and physician earnings. Good recruiters understand that candidates will only accept an offer if they have a complete picture of potential earnings, so the recruiter needs to have all of those details upfront and have permission to share them with serious candidates. Keep in mind that great candidates often will not relocate for median earnings.
Set Realistic Parameters
Your recruitment partner should be able to provide data on the size of the candidate pool for your physician job opportunity. Remember that even in a post-COVID physician job market, turnover remains at around 7%, so the number of physician candidates actively looking for physician jobs is small. With this in mind, don’t limit yourself further by setting unrealistic search parameters with respect to stage of career, immigration status, state licensures, etc. Let your recruitment partner guide you as you establish your must-have versus nice-to-have requirements.
Know What Physicians Want…and Provide It
A recent recruitment and retention study by MGMA and JPS reinforced what we already know about what impacts physicians’ job satisfaction, namely fair compensation, workload equity, flexibility, two-way communication with management, and reduced administrative burden. With this information in mind, tailor your offer to speak to these needs. Be generous with compensation and flexible with incentive dollars, allowing them to be used for a sign-on bonus, housing assistance, loan repayment, etc. Offer flexible schedules, discretionary PTO, paid sabbaticals, or time off for medical mission work. Demonstrate that your organization has support staff available to reduce the administrative burden. Arrange for candidates to speak to other physicians on staff about the levels of communication and autonomy they experience with the organization. Seek advice from a trusted recruitment partner about changes happening in the market and be willing to make adjustments to stay competitive.
Remember, the things physicians want in a new job are what they expect to find, not just on day one but on an ongoing basis. Make sure the needs addressed in your offer — competitive compensation, flexibility, generous PTO — are also addressed in a formal physician retention plan to ensure the candidate you hire today chooses to stay with you in the years to come.
Today’s challenging physician recruitment market requires organizations to be strategic and flexible in their efforts. Physician recruitment success is within reach if you follow the guidance here: establish the need for recruitment, assemble the right team, commit to transparency, set realistic search parameters, and tailor your offer to the candidate’s needs. In doing so, your organization will not only accelerate the physician recruitment process; you will find a candidate that fits, succeeds, and stays.
If you are seeking a trusted physician recruitment partner to help you accelerate the physician recruitment process, reach out to the team at Jackson Physician Search today.
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