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3 R’s of Physician Staffing: Recruitment, Retention, Retirement

Jackson Physician Search
October 26, 2020

Jackson Physician Search President Tony Stajduhar discussed the current state of physician staffing and what healthcare organizations can do to succeed in the competitive physician hiring marketplace at the recent MGMA Medical Practice Excellence Conference (MPEC20). In his presentation, Tony broke it down into three distinct categories: Recruitment, Retention, and Retirement. We’ll dive into each of these over the next three weeks, empowering your organization to be well-prepared to meet patient demand now and into the future.

Current State of Physician Staffing

Even though much of the world’s attention has been appropriately focused on battling COVID-19, the healthcare industry continues to face challenges that existed prior to the pandemic. The physician shortage has long been a topic of great concern, and while the pandemic has led to a temporary reduction in new physician searches, it won’t erase the problem. According to American Association of Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) research, the U.S. is facing shortages of anywhere between 54,000 and 139,000 physicians by 2033 and few would be surprised if next year’s projections are even worse.

Exacerbating the physician shortage projections is the reality that almost 30% of all physicians are at or near retirement age. Some reports even suggest that COVID-19 may influence near-retiring physicians to accelerate their plans once the pandemic is behind us.

Question asked by MGMA MPEC20 attendee: Are you seeing an increase in the number of physicians moving away from areas that are prone to natural disasters, or crisis situations?

Tony’s response: Yes, we are seeing an increase in physicians being interested in relocating – about 10%. Crisis leads some people to re-evaluate their choices and there has been an increase in the number of physicians who want to move closer to their families.

Additionally, increasing the number of practicing physicians has proven to be a significant challenge. For years, Congress has put forth legislation to increase the number of residency slots to train tomorrow’s doctors. Each time, the legislation has stalled. So, while more physicians are enrolling in medical school than ever before (up 31% since 2002), residency slots haven’t kept pace (up only 1% a year).

For a time, it appeared that the physician shortfall could be filled by foreign-born doctors, but even that has proven to be an uphill climb. Especially in today’s post-COVID world, the United States is experiencing greater than normal Visa processing backlogs, in addition to travel restrictions that are impacting the numbers of foreign doctors that want to practice here.

Read 5 Ways to Move the Needle on the Physician Shortage

With the physician shortage here to stay, the healthcare industry is forced to do more with less. This highlights the importance of ensuring that every aspect of an organization’s physician staffing strategy is operating at peak efficiency. Let’s dive in.

The First R: Recruitment

The current state of physician staffing may sound discouraging, but there are always ways to overcome a challenging environment. Considering the restrictions of the past year, it is essential for healthcare organizations to continually upgrade their physician sourcing strategies to meet today’s technological advantages.

Doing it the way you have always done it, is not going to cut it in today’s competitive physician marketplace. This means fully embracing a digital strategy that is faster, more cost-effective, and designed to help you connect with physicians in the digital realm where they are already active.

One of the biggest challenges is identifying the right candidate when only 11% of physicians are actively seeking new opportunities. The good news is that 76% of doctors might be interested in a new position, but they aren’t really looking. Those passive candidates are where your efforts should be directed. The key is to capture their attention by standing out from the crowd.

With so much competition for quality candidates, “How do you rise above the noise?”  Simply put, like the rest of us, 94% of physicians use their smartphones for both personal and professional needs. Plus, 87% of your target audience aged 36 to 55 years old are active on social media. Even 65% of physicians over age 55 are using social media, making a sound social media approach vital to your digital sourcing strategy.

Another approach that is gathering steam is the utilization of mass text messaging to reach candidates.

Traditionally, 95% of physicians point to email as the preferred means of contact regarding job opportunities. However, even with email being a preference, it doesn’t mean they want to be bombarded with emails that are not relevant to their interests. Sending mass emails, often referred to as the “spray and pray” method, only succeeds in creating noise in your candidates’ inbox. The smarter approach is to take the time to understand and segment your target audience to ensure that your message reaches those that are the most relevant to your search.

A creative, agile, digital recruitment strategy will always include content that physicians find relevant. This means capturing their attention by highlighting the work/life benefits, organizational and workplace culture, as well as compensation and career opportunities.

Question asked by MGMA MPEC20 attendee: Is LinkedIn a good place to recruit physicians?

Tony’s response: It can be and we’ve had some success, but more than 80% of physicians belong to Doximity. It remains the best social site to invest your time and dollars into when you are recruiting via social media. We believe in it so much that every one of our recruiters has a license, which is something no other firm can say.

Another way to set your organization apart from the masses is by cultivating a brand that lets candidates know who you are and what you believe in. Raise brand awareness by associating your brand with industry thought leaders. Sharing relevant content and articles through social media channels effectively creates a network of candidates drawn to your brand and messaging.

Why Fit and Culture is Important

In their own words, physicians express their desire to work for an organization that shares their beliefs and values.  Employees in any line of work tend to stay in a job where they feel connected to the organizational mission and values. And this leads us to the second ‘R’ in successful physician staffing, Retention.

In the next article of our three-part series, we are going to take a deep dive into the importance of focusing on physicians who ‘Fit’ and the role ‘Culture’ plays in successful retention. We will also provide you with strategies for assessing, understanding, and clearly communicating your workplace culture, so you can make stronger physician hiring decisions.

If you need a strategic recruitment partner to help you navigate physician recruiting during the pandemic and beyond, Jackson Physician Search is ready to help every step of the way.  Contact our experienced recruitment professionals today to learn more about how we can make a difference.

Missed the MGMA MPEC20 Conference?

Watch Mastering the Three R’s of Physician Staffing


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