“How long does it take to hire a physician?”
The question, recently asked by an audience member after a Jackson Physician Search presentation at an industry conference, certainly isn’t new. In one form or another, it is understandably asked by every client and potential client with whom we speak. When there is a vacancy, the costs quickly add up in terms of lost revenue and patients, and there is a risk of increased burnout among existing staff. During this particular Q&A, our Regional Vice Presidents answered much like they always do: “It depends!” They then dove into the factors that impact the timeline of a physician search, including the specialty, the location (urban, suburban, or rural), the practice type, and, of course, the compensation and benefits available.
Data from our ROI calculator suggests physician recruitment usually takes anywhere from 6 to 18 months, and help from a dedicated physician recruitment partner often shortens the average timeline. Sure, you will hear about placements in fewer than 90 days, and there are also those searches that take more than 18 months, but most searches fall within this broad range. The uncertainty can be frustrating, but far more important than the average physician recruitment timeline is having the right physician recruitment process in place.
Establishing Your Physician Recruitment Timeline
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long it takes to recruit a physician, based on the factors noted previously, you should have an idea if you can expect to be on the longer or shorter side of the range. For example, a critical care hospital seeking a surgeon in rural North Dakota can expect a longer search timeline than a general pediatrics group in St. Louis. Of course, in either scenario, above-median compensation and big recruitment incentives can significantly shrink the “average” timeline.
In addition to considering how long it may take to find a physician for your organization, you’ll also need to consider when you need the physician to start. If a physician has resigned suddenly and your need is urgent, you’ll want to start a search right away. However, even if you are following a physician succession plan and hiring to replace a physician retiring in the next year or two, you should also probably start right away. This is because the candidate you hire today may not be available for six months or more. In some high-demand specialties, residents are signing contracts with start dates up to two years in the future. That is, they still have a year or more of training to complete before they can begin. Even physicians already practicing may need to give up to six months’ notice to their current organization. For these reasons, it’s best to start the physician recruitment process early or, better yet, never stop.
Elements of an Effective Physician Recruitment Process
The most successful organizations have an ongoing physician recruitment process that never ceases completely. They are always recruiting, or at least sourcing, in one form or another. Their actions are dictated by which phase of the recruitment process they are in.
If you do not already have one, now is the time to establish a physician recruitment process. Begin by assembling a team and reaching a consensus on who, why, and when you plan to hire. The team will need to define the role and then draft a job description and an effective physician job ad (the two are not the same thing). Distribute the job ad through a network of job boards as well as an email campaign to a relevant and interested audience. Respond to applicants quickly for a screening call, and if qualified, set up phone interviews with appropriate personnel. Invite candidates to interview as soon as possible. Waiting for multiple candidates to interview back-to-back will slow the process, allowing the candidate to lose interest. If a candidate is a good fit, act quickly.
For organizations that do not have the time or resources to independently implement a meticulous recruitment process, a dedicated physician recruitment partner can carry the extra weight. If you are leveraging a recruitment partner, determine which pieces they will handle and which ones fall to the internal team. Decide the preferences your organization has in regard to who will contact 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 an internal or external team member. 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.
Control the Physician Recruitment Controllable
Some aspects of the physician recruitment timeline are out of our control – how attractive the location is, the volume of candidates in a given specialty, and the resources available for a compensation package. However, some aspects of the recruitment process are under our control and can significantly impact how long it takes to recruit a physician. These are the things to focus on. Develop a streamlined recruitment process, commit to timely responses, prioritize calls and meetings with candidates, and be prepared to make decisions. Time and time again, in our physician placement success stories, our recruiters point to the client’s responsiveness and willingness to act quickly as critical elements in any search’s success.
So, how long does it take to recruit a physician? The answer is still, “It depends.” But if we’re being thorough, in addition to location, specialty, and compensation, the physician recruitment timeline also depends on you. That is, it depends on how responsive the organization’s leaders are, how much priority they give to the search, and their commitment to action. When an organization is motivated and determined to hire a physician, the chances of success increase dramatically.
If your organization is hiring a physician, the team at Jackson Physician Search can help you develop a streamlined physician recruitment process that focuses on these critical elements. Reach out today to learn more.