As physician recruitment becomes even more competitive each year, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) are feeling the brunt of the challenges. Jackson Physician Search, in partnership with CommonWealth Purchasing Group, recently published a white paper on the Issues Affecting FQHC’s. Here is a brief synopsis of the major talking points.
Shrinking Candidate Pool
The National Association of Community Health Centers is reporting that at least 95% of all health centers are reporting a clinical vacancy, with 70% of those being a physician opening. Because CHC’s are expected to be managing the care of more than 35 million patients by 2020, not having candidates to fill vacancies is going to be impacting communities across the United States. As you might expect, primary care is the hardest hit regarding vacancies, but keep in mind that CHC’s are providing a broader range of services than traditional primary care. Reports show that less than 6% of medical students plan to practice Family Medicine and 2% are pursuing internal medicine.
Compensation Models Have Changed
In years past, CHC’s would promote “non-monetary” benefits to practicing in a CHC. Things like a better schedule and quality of work/life balance, all used to be part of the draw to a small health center. Those advantages are no longer exclusive to CHC’s and rural practice settings. Now, hospitals of all sizes are using every means available to attract qualified candidates in this highly competitive recruitment environment. Salaries and sign-on bonuses are rising, loan forgiveness is being offered, and FQHC’s are having a difficult time keeping pace.
Four Things that FQHC’s Can Do to Recruit and Retain Staff
- Develop a Brand Strategy and Recruitment Marketing Plan – Less than 25% of FQHC’s have a fully implemented marketing plan. Physicians today are more interested in things like organizational culture and work environment than in years past. This is an area that a smaller health center can excel at if the time and attention is paid to developing a winning brand that highlights culture, values, and work/life balance.
- Develop Local and Regional Outreach Campaigns – FQHC’s can compete through the development of training partnerships with local or regional academic institutions. Attracting and retaining local talent can be accomplished with a solid brand strategy, promoting training partnerships, shadowing and mentor programs and other similar community relationships that draw candidates into a facility.
- Create a Comprehensive Retention Program – Recruiting a physician is only one-half of the battle. Having to replace a physician can take as long as 24 months and cost more than $500,000. By developing internal systems that monitor physician and staff satisfaction and continually cultivate a positive workplace culture, health centers can proactively achieve better retention. Also, by focusing on the type of employee that embodies their culture, they are prone to attract and hire individuals who fit that culture.
- Review Your Compensation Model and Delivery Team – Health centers are no longer able to get physicians “at a discount.” Salaries are much more competitive today across all practice settings, so CHC’s are being forced to be more creative. Implementing productivity metrics is one way to improve a physician’s base salary. CHC’s are also more commonly offering 3- or 4-day work weeks as a quality of life benefit. This trend coincides with the utilization of more nurse practitioners and physician assistants to supplement the staff.
There is no simple answer to how FQHC’s can compete in the ultra-competitive physician recruitment and retention environment. What is required is a fully developed strategy that incorporates many or all of the elements identified. As Community Health Centers continue to play an integral role in the healthcare industry and more importantly in helping the patients and communities where they are located, it is critical that we as an industry support their needs.
If you are looking for a partner with the resources, experience, and nationwide reach to help solve your critical recruitment and retention challenges, contact Jackson Physician Search and find out how we can help today.