Senior Director of Recruiting Sally Ann Patton is no stranger to the challenges of rural physician recruitment. Over the years, she has successfully recruited multiple physicians for a hospital client in rural West Virginia in a town about an hour from Pittsburgh. Leveraging a 100% digital recruitment strategy, she helped them identify strong physician candidates who would be willing to relocate and build their lives in the area.
In 2020, the hospital came to Sally Ann for assistance recruiting a Hematology-Oncology physician who could potentially fill the role of Medical Director. The current Medical Director would be stepping down in the upcoming year, and as part of their medical staff planning, they wanted to get started on the search for a replacement.
Detailed Profiling for Physician Executive Search
Due to the existing relationship, Sally Ann was already well-versed on the client’s values and culture, but she wanted to make sure that she knew what they were looking for in an ideal physician executive candidate. To ensure alignment, she conducted several conversations with the board and other stakeholders. The ideal candidate would lead by example and serve as a liaison between physicians and administrators. He or she would be a natural teacher, as mentoring other physicians would be a big part of the job. Sally Ann emphasized these points as she crafted the physician job ad. Once this critical step was complete, the ad was posted to the JPS network of physician job boards.
The JPS Marketing Team also sent an email featuring the physician job ad to physicians in their vast database who matched the hospital’s criteria. Sally Ann ensured “Medical Director Opportunity” was included in the subject line, along with a reference to the nearest major city, Pittsburgh. She was confident that the right physician would see the ad and reach out for more information.
A Successful Physician Seeking Work-Life Balance
A Hematologist, Dr. B, was working in academia at a university in Ohio. Between the clinic and the classroom, her schedule was packed. The time she did spend at home with her young children was often spent writing or reviewing papers. She was regularly published in medical journals and was on track for a full professorship, but at what cost to her family? At what cost to her mental health?
It wasn’t only her young children that caused Dr. B’s concern. Her parents, who lived in Pittsburgh, visited often, but their ability to make multiple trips each year would diminish with age. And what would happen when they eventually needed her help? How could she care for them while living so far away?
All of this was on Dr. B’s mind when she saw the email featuring the Medical Director job from Jackson Physician Search. The Medical Director opportunity appealed to Dr. B’s need for challenge and growth, and the location was ideal in proximity to her parents.
Ready to Lead in Rural Medicine
Dr. B reached out to Sally Ann, who immediately recognized that Dr. B. was more than qualified for the position. However, Sally Ann wondered if this highly lauded physician from the world of academia would seriously consider a position with a rural hospital. While the “Medical Director” title carried some prestige, there would be no publications or accolades for the physician in the role. The focus would be a balance of management responsibilities and clinical work. Would this be enough to satisfy a physician like Dr. B?
Sally Ann conveyed the reality of the role to Dr. B. and asked her to consider if the Medical Director job, as described, could make her happy. Dr. B insisted that it could. She needed a better work-life balance and the location was ideal. Despite Sally Ann’s initial reservations, she began to think it just might be a perfect fit. She presented Dr. B to the facility, and they were eager to proceed.
Making it Happen: Negotiating the Physician Executive Contract
Due to scheduling challenges, it would be several months before Dr. B could visit the facility for an on-site interview and community tour. When she was at last able to visit, the hospital leadership and staff liked her right away and did their best to make her feel at home. Dr. B enjoyed her visit, and after spending a few days in the community, seeing several neighborhoods and schools, she began to picture a life there.
Imagining herself in the Medical Director job was one thing, but signing a contract was another. Dr. B pushed back on the facility’s first offer, and Sally Ann and her contact at the facility went back and forth on several rounds of negotiations. In the meantime, the hospital was being acquired by a nearby university system. This complicated the contract’s progress, but Sally Ann wondered if the facility’s new ties to an academic institution would make the job even more appealing to Dr. B.
As contract negotiations continued, the hospital’s current Medical Director officially resigned, making leadership at the facility even more motivated to come to an agreement. Dr. B’s motivation was intensifying as well. That fall, her mom suffered a health scare, shining a light on one of the primary reasons Dr. B wanted to relocate–to be available for her parents.
Finding the “Why” for a Physician Executive Search
The story demonstrates the importance of understanding the reason the physician executive candidate is considering a job change. Despite increasing rates of turnover, physicians don’t take job changes lightly–especially at the physician executive level. Something specific drives the desire for change, and it is rarely compensation alone. In Dr. B’s case, the driving factor was a desire for a better quality of life and proximity to family. Knowing this was pivotal to Sally Ann’s decision to present Dr. B to the client. It also impacted how the client went about persuading Dr. B to take the job. They emphasized the low-stress environment and the flexibility she would have to spend time with both her children and her parents.
Administrators should know and consider the physician’s “why” when planning the on-site interview and community tour. Afterward, they should think beyond compensation and tailor the offer to ensure the new job will satisfy the “why.”
Dr. B’s reasons were clear from that first conversation with Sally Ann. However, she needed reminders along the way. “I just kept bringing her back to her why,” Sally Ann explains. “When the logistics seemed complicated or the contract still wasn’t right, I’d say, ‘Remember why you are doing this. For your kids. For your parents. For your peace of mind.’ She needed to focus on that to keep moving forward.”
Finding Fulfillment as a Physician Executive in Rural Medicine
The process of placing a physician executive is more complex than traditional physician recruitment, with more potential complications in the contract negotiations. Sally Ann remained involved in the process, and when the contract was finally signed by all parties, she felt tremendous satisfaction.
“It was an especially fulfilling placement for me,” she said. “The community desperately needs good physicians and strong leaders, and now, they are getting one of the best.”
“This placement reflects the mission we have at JPS,” Sally Ann continues, “We strive ‘to improve the lives of everyone we touch,’ and I really felt that with this placement. Not only will Dr. B’s life improve, but she will have a tremendous impact on the lives of everyone in that community.”
If your healthcare organization needs help identifying a physician executive who can make a lasting impact, the team at Jackson Physician Search is ready to help. Contact the Physician Executive Recruitment Team today.
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