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Set Yourself Up for Success by Making the Most of Your Physician Onboarding Experience

Jackson Physician Search
September 21, 2022

Dr. H takes a deep breath and slowly exhales before entering the building. She is excited to begin this next step of her career, though she wishes she could fast forward the next few weeks to the point where she knows the ins and outs of the organization. Throughout her career, she’s had several first days on the job. So she’s all too aware of how much she has to learn about her new employer’s policies, culture, politics–the things they don’t exactly cover in the interview process. What she doesn’t know is how much help she will have getting acclimated…she hopes for the best and swings open the door.

Chances are, you have been in Dr. H’s shoes at some point. With the interview process and contract negotiations behind you, the moment has finally come for you to start doing the job you’ve been hired to do, and yet…there is so much to learn before you can actually do it. No matter how many great questions you asked during the physician interview, the details of your new day-to-day role are still largely TBD. Ideally, your employer will provide a personalized, physician onboarding program that will outline exactly what you need to know and set a timeline for learning it, but the reality is, most organizations are not quite so proactive. For this reason, it’s essential that you have a plan for setting yourself up for success in your new physician job.

According to a recent physician retention survey from Jackson Physician Search, one in three physicians do not receive any formal orientation upon starting a new job. This means a third of organizations are overlooking this important part of the new hire process. In fact, only 29% of physician respondents said their employer provided an individualized orientation program. The other third received a general orientation.

Whether your employer offers a robust, personalized program or a generic, online orientation video, you’ll want to be an active participant in your own physician onboarding to ensure you have the information and support you need to be successful in your new role. Focus on the following three components to help you get your bearings.

Physician Onboarding Step #1: Gather Information

Even before your first day, be proactive in gathering as much information about your new physician job as you can. Ask your new manager or HR contact to provide details such as what time to arrive, where to park, which door to enter, and who to ask for upon arriving. Request that they send you benefit information and enrollment forms to review and complete at home. If applicable, ask them to send you a map of the campus or an office directory. If you aren’t great with names, go to the website’s “About Us” or similar section to familiarize yourself with names and faces.

Once you arrive, be ready to go with the flow–whether that means an all-day orientation session with HR or a casual facility tour given by the receptionist. As mentioned, many organizations do not have a formal onboarding process, so hope for the best but be prepared to take your onboarding into your own hands and seek out the information you need to get started. If one is not provided for you, you may want to reference this physician orientation checklist from the Sullivan Group or this onboarding checklist from The Rheumatologist for a useful starting point to focus your inquiries.

Assuming the basics are covered– your ID badge, facility tour, benefits enrollment, and laptop deployment–it’s time to prepare a list of questions and identify where to find the answers you need.

Physician Onboarding Step #2: Connect with Colleagues

The old saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know,” may not have been said about onboarding, but it certainly applies. It’s impossible to learn everything you need to know the first day or week, but you should use those first days to connect with people who can help you navigate the weeks and months ahead.

The most successful onboarding programs assign new physicians to an ambassador or peer mentor who will serve as the first point of contact in those early days and introduce them to key people in other departments. According to an HCI survey cited by Sapling HR, 88% of organizations that assign an ambassador or buddy during onboarding say it’s an effective way to speed up new hire productivity. If you are not assigned a peer mentor, seek out a colleague who is willing to serve in a similar role.

Connecting with colleagues will not only set you up for success, but it will also increase your chances of finding happiness on the job. Research cited by the National Business Research Institute states that job satisfaction increases 50% when an employee has a close relationship on the job. So, ask colleagues to join you for coffee or lunch and get to know them outside of the office.

Physician Onboarding Step #3: Create a Plan

An often overlooked aspect of the physician onboarding process is creating a plan for success. Review your to-dos from the physician onboarding checklist and assign a time for completing each item. Indicate what you will achieve in the first week, first month, two months, etc. The schedule should set a manageable pace for absorbing information. Discuss the timeframe with your supervisor to ensure it aligns with his or her expectations.

So, what is the right pace? Studies suggest the longer the better. In a study cited by the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment, it appears that healthcare organizations with a longer onboarding process have lower turnover during the critical early years of practice. Keep this in mind as you map out your plan and set goals for yourself.


A personalized physician onboarding program is one of the best assets an employer can provide to ensure the success of newly hired physicians. Unfortunately, only one in three employers currently provide this, so physicians must be proactive in the process by 1) seeking out the information they need, 2) making connections with colleagues who can help them navigate the new terrain, and 3) creating a plan to ramp up on a manageable timeline. By being proactive in their own onboarding, physicians will quickly reach productivity and set themselves up for future success.

If you are seeking your first physician job or looking for a new opportunity, the team at Jackson Physician Search can help you identify opportunities that fit your needs. Search physician jobs now and contact a recruiter today.

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