Physician recruitment remains one of the top challenges facing rural healthcare organizations. In my role as Regional VP of Business Development for Jackson Physician Search, I regularly speak with rural healthcare administrators who are not only worried about recruiting physicians but also retaining them. This is why it’s so important to balance the urgency to fill a position with the importance of finding a good long-term fit. Focusing on fit increases the likelihood of retention, but it requires more patience, as you are not searching for just any physician but the right one.
Occasionally, the stars align, and our recruiters quickly identify a qualified, culturally aligned physician interested in rural medicine. Still, more often than not, when the right candidate comes along, he or she needs time to feel sure about the opportunity. While everyone loves finding a physician who can start quickly, we also celebrate searches that require more time. It’s a good reminder that physician recruitment is more like a marathon than a sprint.
Help Wanted: Family Medicine Physician Willing to Do It All
One such search recently came to a satisfying end with the placement of a family medicine physician at a medical clinic located in rural Nebraska. The area is home to fewer than 3,000 people, but patient demand for medical services grew, and the clinic’s two full-time physicians needed support. The clinic’s founder knew they needed help, and the hospital’s CEO agreed with the assessment. They wanted to hire a full-spectrum family medicine physician to see patients in the outpatient clinic and provide inpatient coverage, including obstetrics, for the nearby 20-bed critical access hospital.
Both men recognized the difficulty of the task at hand and were eager to learn how a recruitment partner might assist. I was happy to meet with them and share the details of the Jackson Physician Search digital recruitment process and our track record of success with similar rural organizations. I stressed that, while there was no magic wand, our methods were effective over time. They appreciated our digital approach and focus on fit, and thus, a partnership began.
An Attention-Grabbing Signing Bonus
Senior Search Consultant Evan Kaspar and his manager, Helen Falkner, Regional VP of Recruitment for the Western Division, visited the client to understand more about their specific needs. The pair toured the facility and the town while getting to know the stakeholders and experiencing the culture of both the clinic and the community. The town was charming, and the people were genuine. It was a good opportunity overall. However, in order to get candidates’ initial attention, the job ad would need to offer something exceptional. After reviewing the market data that Evan presented, the hospital CEO agreed to provide an attractive sign-on bonus.
The bonus was successful in getting attention from candidates. Within a few months, Evan had several qualified applicants, but none stood out like Dr. R. Beginning her third year of residency in a rural-focused program, Dr. R had the broad training necessary to do the work required at the clinic and the hospital. Although she wouldn’t be available to start the job for a full year, Evan presented her to the client and stressed why he believed she would be a good fit.
A Highly Sought-After Candidate
After speaking with the hospital CEO and the clinic’s founder, Dr. R was invited to interview in person. Under Evan’s counsel, the client prepared a detailed itinerary for Dr. R and her husband, ensuring the couple would not only see both the clinic and the hospital but they would get a complete introduction to the town and its people. The visit included a tour with a realtor as well as several meals with potential colleagues.
The client was immediately impressed by Dr. R, and she and her husband enjoyed the town and everyone they met. She would most certainly consider the opportunity, but she was transparent with the founder and CEO that she was also exploring several other rural opportunities. The client knew Dr. R was in high demand, and they were willing to do whatever it took to win her over.
Building a Relationship
Over the course of the next few months, Dr. R and her husband visited the town on several more occasions. More than once, the clinic’s founder and the hospital CEO drove several hours to the town where Dr. R was living to have dinner with her and her husband. The client knew Dr. R was the best physician for the job, but they also understood they needed to be patient. They invested time in building a relationship with her and her husband and were able to talk through their concerns as they arose. Dr. R had multiple job opportunities available to her, some with more competitive compensation, but ultimately, it was the personal touches that led her to accept the offer from Evan’s client. She signed the contract six months after first applying for the job.
Rural Physician Recruitment Success
We often stress to clients the importance of moving quickly during the recruitment process. Physicians typically have multiple opportunities to choose from and may lose interest if employers are slow to schedule interviews and make offers. However, it is also important to respect the physicians’ wants and allow them the time they need to make a decision. Evan’s client did a great job nurturing the relationship with their preferred candidate, responding quickly to any questions or concerns she expressed, but also giving her space when needed. They also continued interviewing the quality candidates Evan submitted, keeping their options open.
This story demonstrates the importance of patience in a rural physician search. Of course, clients are thrilled when a recruiter can find a physician who is available to start quickly; however, successful searches with longer timelines are far more common.
If your organization is committed to finding a physician who will be a good long-term fit for your organization, the Jackson Physician Search recruitment team is eager to help. Reach out today to learn more.
About Brent Barnacle
Brent serves as Regional Vice President of Business Development for the Upper-Midwest Region. Before joining JPS, he worked extensively in organizational business development and training, spanning nearly 20 countries. Brent applies this experience to build win-win strategic partnerships with Hospital and Physician Group administrators who need to recruit physicians and advanced practice providers. He also consults on healthcare market trends, speaks at local and regional industry events, and is known as a well-respected, trusted advisor. Brent was born and raised in Stillwater, Minnesota and maintains a strong focus on rural physician recruitment. He understands the importance of recruiting for cultural fit, leading to long-term client retention.
Brent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 314.788.6861.
What can administrators do to ease dilemmas created by physician retirements? They should start by taking the following steps to forecast physician retirements so they can better prepare for the coming reality…
What leads to rapid physician recruitment success? This 13-day family medicine placement is worth a closer analysis….