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How to Recruit Early-Career Physicians to Private Practices

Jackson Physician Search
November 28, 2023

Gina shook the physician’s hand at the end of the interview. He was everything her practice needed – newly trained, great with people, a team player, problem solver, and eager to make a difference – yet she was hesitant to get her hopes up. Though he seemed enthusiastic about her verbal offer, she knew he’d most likely decline in favor of the big healthcare system across town as her practice couldn’t match the salary he’d receive there. Despite his desires for autonomy and prioritization of organizational culture, the dollar signs would simply be irresistible. What could her organization do to compete?

Gina’s frustration is understandable. She has likely been through this cycle with candidates multiple times – finding a great fit only to lose to the higher offer. The data supports her experience with early-career physician job seekers. In a 2023 joint MGMA and Jackson Physician Search survey, compensation was the most important factor in a resident or fellow’s job search, followed by location and work-life balance. While priorities do tend to shift over time – other surveys document the increased importance of autonomy, work-life balance, and two-way communication with management – for early-career physicians, compensation tends to be the primary factor in making a first job decision. 

Smaller practices and private groups may be discouraged by this news, but there are tactics they can use to improve their chances of winning these candidates. Keep reading for three things private practices can do to recruit early-career physicians:

Openly Discuss Earning Potential

Of course, newly trained physicians are attracted to the big paychecks offered by large healthcare systems, but do they realize that the long-term earning potential with a private practice is likely even greater? According to the most recent Medscape Compensation Report, self-employed physicians earn approximately 9% more than those employed by a hospital or health system. If partnership is an eventual option for the new hire, this path should be clearly laid out for them. The same is true for productivity and/or quality bonuses. Physicians may need help understanding how the lower starting offer can eventually lead to more money, and it is up to you to shed light on this matter.   

Some practice managers hesitate to share what is possible for fear of overpromising in this area. However, if you want to compete with larger offers, candidates must be aware of the long-term potential. Be transparent about how much the lowest-, middle-, and highest-earning physicians bring home. Describe in detail how compensation is calculated – production RVUs, productivity bonuses, quality bonuses, etc. Also, be clear about the path to partnership and how much partners can expect to earn. Open up about additional income opportunities available through partnerships with ASCs, imaging centers, or pharmacies. 

Acknowledge that they may get bigger starting offers, but reiterate the long-term earning potential with your group. Ask if they have any questions or doubts about what you have explained. Don’t let physicians leave without a clear understanding of what they can expect long-term so that they can make a fully informed decision.

Explain Your Practice Ownership Model in Detail

In the aforementioned joint MGMA and Jackson Physician Search study, the data points to a trend of shrinking tenure among young physicians. According to the research, physicians who completed training in the last six years stayed in their first jobs for an average of only two years. The most commonly cited reason for leaving those first jobs was the “practice ownership/governance model.” The report concludes that new physicians may be following the money without fully understanding how their new organization will be managed – and how that may impact their job satisfaction. 

Residents and fellows are completing their training in hospitals and often have very little exposure to independent physicians and private practices. The interview must be used as an opportunity to educate them about how private practice differs from hospital employment and the many benefits that go with it – namely autonomy, personalized development and mentors, and less bureaucracy. Still, the unfamiliarity of private practice may be a barrier to overcome, so demonstrate the support and mentorship they will receive at your practice and then reinforce the long-term earning potential with the physician ownership model. 

Keep Up with the Market

You may assume your practice cannot keep up with the larger health systems’ compensation packages, but it’s important that you at least know what is typical in the market and what expectations physicians are likely to have. A physician salary calculator is a key resource to use, but the best way to keep up with the physician job market in your area is to work with a respected national physician recruitment firm with a presence in your region. The recruiters at Jackson Physician Search speak to thousands of physicians weekly, so they know exactly what is happening in their regions regarding salary guarantees, signing bonuses, and other recruitment incentives. This information is invaluable for a private practice trying to stay competitive.

Competitive compensation and recruitment bonuses will continue to be a priority for physicians at all stages of their careers. This is especially true for early-career physicians, so a bigger offer from a large health system or hospital may seem like the obvious choice. As a private practice administrator, demonstrate to candidates how your opportunity can be more lucrative and more satisfying long term. Focus on transparency in the recruitment process and aim to provide detailed information about both compensation and practice governance. Give physicians the information they need to make a well-informed decision; the outcome may surprise you. 

If you are seeking physicians to join your private practice, the team at Jackson Physician Search has the resources and expertise to help you connect with candidates whose priorities align with yours. Reach out today to learn more.

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