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Job Search Considerations for Psychiatrists and Other Mental Health Providers

Helen Falkner
May 3, 2023

With just one year left of her psychiatry residency, Dr. P. knows it’s time to start laying the groundwork for her psychiatry job search. She realizes that psychiatrists are in high demand, but of course, she doesn’t want to accept just any job. She has scrolled through enough psychiatry job boards to know that the options are plentiful, but how should she focus her psychiatry job search to ensure it’s a good long-term fit? And how can a physician recruiter assist her in her search?

As a Regional Vice President of Recruiting for Jackson Physician Search, Western Division, I regularly receive inquiries like this from proactive residents starting their job searches. I always congratulate them for starting early and encourage them to take the time to carefully consider what they are looking for in their first physician job. Psychiatry is a specialty in high demand, and while job opportunities may be plentiful for providers like Dr. P, it’s still important to conduct a thorough search to find the best job for her needs.

With an abundance of mental health job options available, the psychiatrist who has a clear understanding of what he or she wants in a job will be better equipped to focus his or her search and increase the likelihood of finding a good long-term fit. Psychiatrists and other mental health providers must carefully consider several factors such as practice setting, the patient populations and conditions they are most interested in treating, and of course, what kind of work-life balance they need to maintain their own mental well-being.  

An Abundance of Mental Health Jobs

 The demand for mental health providers, including psychiatrists, psychologists, and advanced practice providers, has been increasing steadily due to the rising rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. At Jackson Physician Search, as highlighted in our recent whitepaper on Physician Recruitment Trends, we have seen a significant uptick in the demand for mental health providers. Our mental health placements–including psychiatrists, psychologists, and advanced practice providers specializing in mental health–increased by 85% from 2020 to 2022.

The need for psychiatrists is increasing, but the number of psychiatrists in the market is not keeping pace. In fact, physician age demographics suggest it may be shrinking. According to the AAMC, in 2021, 61.6% of active psychiatrists were over the age of 55. So, more than six in ten psychiatrists will reach retirement age in the next eight years. The incoming wave of psychiatrist retirements, coupled with increasing mental health issues, suggest demand for mental health providers will remain strong.  

Takeaway: There will be no shortage of job opportunities for mental health providers. Knowing what kind of job you want will help you to narrow your focus so you can find the mental health job that suits you best. 

In-Person or Telehealth Mental Health Jobs?

Like most specialists, psychiatrists and other mental health providers have the flexibility to practice in a variety of settings such as, inpatient hospital jobs, outpatient clinics, telehealth, schools, assisted living facilities, addiction medicine centers, and more. Unlike most other specialties, however, a great deal of patient care can be delivered via phone or video call.

While telehealth was possible pre-pandemic, the COVID-19 shutdown increased adoption at unprecedented rates. This was especially true in psychiatry and radiology. Even as most physician offices re-opened for in-person visits, many psychiatrists opted to stay “virtual.” In many cases, telehealth is more convenient for both doctors and patients. However, hospitals still require in-person evaluations by psychiatrists, and some patients still prefer to see a psychiatrist face-to-face. As a recruiter, I often encounter candidates who exclusively want to work via telehealth, which can further narrow an already shrinking candidate pool and increases the demand for those willing to work in a traditional setting.

Takeaway: Decide early if you prefer to work remotely or in-person. If you are willing to work in-person, what is your preferred practice setting? Once you know what you want, you can pursue those opportunities that interest you. Because demand for in-person providers is so high, many organizations are willing to compromise on compensation and/or flexibility in order to secure an in-person psychiatrist. 

Work-Life Balance for Mental Health Providers

While an increasing volume of mental health patients offers job security, it also means psychiatry jobs can be extremely demanding, depending on the expectations of the employer as well as one’s own productivity goals. Psychiatrists who pack in as many patients as possible may earn higher incomes but at what cost to their own mental health? 

Physician burnout is increasing among physicians of all specialties. In a 2022 joint Jackson Physician Search and MGMA study, 65% of physicians reported having feelings of burnout, compared to 61% in the 2021 survey. Of those who reported feelings of burnout in 2022, 75% said their burnout was worse than it had been the previous year. 

While psychiatrists are not among the specialists reporting the highest levels of burnout, their levels of burnout are increasing. In Medscape’s annual survey on physician burnout, the percentage of psychiatrists reporting feelings of burnout increased from 35% in the 2020 report to 47% in 2023

In addition to the typical causes of physician burnout–administrative burden, long hours, lack of autonomy, etc.–psychiatry and other mental health jobs can be especially taxing emotionally, so it’s important to set boundaries with employers that protect your work-life balance and allow time for self-care.

Takeaway: When evaluating mental health job options, consider the culture of the organization and what priority it places on provider mental health. Because mental health providers are in such high demand, most employers will be as flexible as possible to meet your needs. A four-day work week, seven on/seven off, or even three weeks per month are not unusual schedules for psychiatrists.   

It is an exciting time to enter the mental health field as jobs abound and patients have never been in greater need. However, with multiple options to consider, psychiatrists and other mental health providers need to weigh several factors carefully when searching for a job. Beyond the standard considerations such as location, compensation, practice setting, and organizational culture, psychiatrists may have more options to choose from, such as remote work, schedule flexibility, and expanded scope of practice. Choices are currently abundant for mental health providers, and with the right planning and foresight, there’s no reason you can’t find a psychiatry job that meets your needs.

Whether you are a resident seeking your first psychiatry job or an established mental health provider pursuing the next step in your career, the recruitment team at Jackson Physician Search can help you assess the mental health job market in your target location and help you determine next steps. Reach out today or start your psychiatry job search online now.

About Helen Falkner

As the daughter of a physician, and an Iowa native, Helen has witnessed firsthand the impact that a great physician can have on a community. She joined Jackson Physician Search at the company’s headquarters in Alpharetta, GA as an entry-level Research Consultant in 2012. Through her consistent success as both an individual contributor and manager, Falkner progressed quickly to Partner in 2018 and assumed her role as Regional Vice President of Recruiting for JPS’s Western Division in October of 2020. In January 2021, she relocated to the firm’s Denver office and leads a team of successful physician recruiters while actively continuing to recruit for her clients.

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