From undergraduate school to medical school, medical school to residency, and then residency to fellowship, the life of a physician in training may feel a bit nomadic. When the time comes to search for that first physician job, residents are often eager to settle down in a specific location. Maybe they’d like to return to where they grew up; perhaps they want to find a job near a spouse’s family; maybe they’ve always dreamed of living in a big city, near the ocean, or serving in a rural community. There is no shortage of options.
As Regional Vice President of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search Eastern Division, I regularly speak to physicians searching for jobs in a new location. While many are residents seeking their first jobs, physicians at all stages of their careers may contemplate relocation at one point or another. No matter their career phase, it’s not uncommon for a relocating physician to have their hearts set on a specific city and to primarily consider opportunities within a set radius of the targeted spot. While I understand the inclination, I advise all physicians to keep an open mind and consider each option, as job satisfaction depends on various components beyond location.
There are certainly multiple factors to consider when weighing a job offer — scope of work, compensation package, cultural fit, growth opportunities, and, of course, location. While location should not be the only consideration, it is likely the one that will have the most direct impact on your family. That said, when weighing the pros and cons of an opportunity’s location, be sure to ask yourself the following:
Physician Job Relocation Question #1: How is the patient demand in this area?
Physicians determined to work in a big city are often surprised to learn that while the cost of living is higher, their income potential could be lower than in less populated areas. This is because the market is likely to be more saturated; metropolitan areas typically have enough physicians to serve the needs of patients, so acquiring new patients can be tough. Employers may offer a salary guarantee to new physicians for the first year or two; however, in that timeframe, the physician will need to cultivate an adequate patient base to meet productivity goals afterward. Establishing this solid patient base is often less challenging in a less populated area with fewer physicians in your specialty.
Physician Job Relocation Question #2: What are the available housing options?
When interviewing with a potential employer, you’ll want to find out what the housing market is like in the area. Are you likely to be able to buy or build a house that meets the needs of you and your family? If the ideal inventory is limited, are there good rental options available? If you and your spouse decide you would rather reside outside the immediate area, do circumstances allow you to do so? How far of a commute is acceptable? Plan to discuss these inquiries with the employer and meet with a realtor during your on-site visit to give you a well-informed understanding of your options.
Physician Job Relocation Question #3: Could my spouse find employment here too?
Whether relocating to a large city or exploring jobs in rural medicine, physicians will typically need to consider the employment needs of their partners as well. If your spouse also works in healthcare, the potential employer may be able to help him or her secure a job. Alternatively, perhaps the spouse can work remotely but will need to travel somewhat frequently; this leads to another consideration–what amenities, such as an airport, are easily accessible? Whatever your partner’s profession, you’ll want to be sure you both have the opportunities and resources to thrive in your new location.
Physician Job Relocation Question #4: Does the location provide access to the amenities I want and need?
Restaurants, shopping, entertainment–you’ll want to check out the selection of it all, from your favorite chains to various new options in or near the town. Also, think about your hobbies and favorite vacation spots. Whether you love to hike and ski or are a theater buff and collector of couture, you may wish to confirm you can continue pursuing these interests wherever you consider relocating. Lastly, as mentioned before, consider how often you and your family travel by plane and decide if it is critical to have easy access to an international airport.
Physician Relocation Question #5: How are the schools?
Depending on your stage of life, the quality of educational options may be a consideration when relocating. Physicians with school-age children or younger will want to evaluate the public school system and potentially explore private school options. Physicians moving to bigger cities can expect to find more choices when it comes to education, but the smaller communities also offer quality education. If you’d like, you can ask your potential employer to arrange a school tour while you are in town. An in-person visit to a school may provide a clearer picture than a scoring system on a website.
Building a Career and a Life
There are multiple factors to consider before accepting a job and signing a physician contract, but the location is certainly a major part of the equation. Don’t judge an area based solely on internet research, but instead plan a visit to the community and ask questions about the patient demand (and income potential) in the area, housing availability, employment options for your spouse, access to amenities, and, if applicable, education needs. These considerations will help you determine if the location has the potential to be a good long-term fit for you and your family. But remember, if the job itself is not a good fit culturally, location alone is not guaranteed to satisfy you. So, evaluate your compatibility with the workplace thoroughly during the interview process and trust your physician recruiter to guide you to positions that will be a good match.
Are you considering relocation and a new physician job? The recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search can help you assess the physician job market in your target location and prepare you for the next steps. Reach out today or start your physician job search online now.
About Neal Waters
Neal’s career began in retained physician search more than 15 years ago. Early on, he recognized the strain that an entire community feels when there is a shortage of physicians to meet patient demand. Since his first successful placement, Neal’s passion for identifying the best providers for each healthcare organization with which he recruits has grown.
Neal serves as Regional Vice President of Recruiting. In his role, he serves as a mentor to a growing team of Jackson Physician Search recruiters. He also enjoys collaborating with in-house recruiters dedicated to optimizing their physician recruitment and candidate acquisition strategies. Likewise, Neal specializes in helping physicians — especially residents and those early in their careers — advance their professional careers by finding the right fit.