Due to the physician shortage, there is a clear need for physician recruitment best practices. Competition for physician talent is fierce. Organizations that implement best practices have superior recruitment results including an increase in patient care quality, patient opportunities, and revenue. Physician vacancies can also have a significant negative community impact.1
The growing physician shortage has made it more challenging than ever to hire physicians in a timely manner. The shortage is expected to grow to a shortfall between 14,000 to 49,000 primary care physicians and 33,000 to 73,000 for non-primary care physicians by 2030. The two biggest contributing factors are the aging population of the nation including physician retirements and greater access to healthcare due to the Affordable Care Act. 2
Planning for Recruitment
You’ll need to start with a recruitment plan because your recruitment needs must be looked at in the long term. It can take from six months to over a year to place a physician depending on specialty and your location. A strategic long-term physician recruitment plan will eliminate unnecessary delays saving your organization time and money.
Assess Your Care Needs
A community health needs assessment (CHNA) is a great place to start your recruitment planning. Resources for executing a CHNA can be found online. Understanding the needs of your patients, their family, and the community will assist in developing your long-term recruitment plan by understanding current and future care needs.
Incorporate Your Organization’s Goals
In addition to patient needs and current demand, your recruitment plan should consider your organization’s growth and priorities. Are there any planned expansions or new facilities in the next five years?
Assess Your Physicians’ Career Goals
Are your current physicians close to retirement or looking for a leadership role? National physician turnover is estimated at 7%. For every 20 physicians employed by your organization, plan on 1-2 replacements each year. This does not include any hires due to growth or expansion, which could substantially increase that number.
Secure Organizational Approval
Once your plan is set, you need approval from all key stakeholders and a system to measure and benchmark your efforts. Final approval for adding the position could include board members, chief administrators and/or physicians.
Some of the common hindrances to successful recruiting include a lack of organizational buy-in, neglecting your recruitment budget, and a disorganized interview process. Benchmarking the process metrics can identify areas for improvement.
Passive Physician Candidates
Knowledge of the current candidate pool will increase your likelihood of a successful recruit. Recruitment success of your ideal candidate is increased if you know who they are and how to reach them. Over two-thirds of physician candidates are passively looking for a new position. Passive is defined as currently working, open to opportunities, but not actively searching for positions. Passive job seekers are looking for a better practice opportunity to find them. They are only willing to change jobs for an improvement over their current position.
How should that change your recruitment approach? Reach out to passive candidates by calling, social media, email or job postings, they won’t call you or post their CV online. In 1978 Jackson Physician Search (formerly, Jackson & Coker) pioneered new ways to source candidates and have been the leaders in physician recruitment innovation ever since. Today, a digital approach utilizing email, social media, and online advertising has replaced snail mail. It enables you to change your message without cost and get your message to a large audience quickly.
Active Physician Candidates
Physicians that are actively seeking a new position are a small segment of the candidate pool. Active candidates post their CV’s, search online for opportunities and respond to email and job postings. This group of candidates is also contacted most frequently with job offers. It takes deliberate effort to stand out amongst the crowd when trying to attract active physician candidates.
In order to reach these candidates, your job posting needs to be distinctive and posted where they are looking. This includes job boards like NEJM and HealtheCareers but should also include paid search advertising and social media platforms like Doximity, LinkedIn, and Facebook. It is important that you format your job posting correctly and you write it with the ideal candidate in mind. Since Google started displaying jobs in its search results, it is even more important to adhere to job posting best practices. Best practices for job postings include; be specific with details including location and compensation, proper HTML formatting, and the ability to apply online. You can lose out on views by having a poorly written, spammy job posting.
Physician Recruitment Tools
You have a solid recruitment plan, and you know who your ideal candidate is, now, how do you reach them and move them through the recruitment process? The right physician recruitment tools are invaluable. Leveraging technology can improve efficiency and provide the information you need to make good decisions.
Website and Analytics
Your website is a brand management tool and a candidate sourcing tool. Make sure you have a professional, functioning website; no misspellings, broken links and an apply button that works. Use data analytics to see what pages on your website need improving or possibly replacing. Know what sources are bringing traffic to your website. Monitoring and maintaining your website and analytics are essential to efficiency, and either you do it internally or hire the expertise externally.
Social media is a powerful recruitment tool, and a great brand management tool. Investing time and money into your digital brand management is an overall best practice. Utilize specific social media platforms that are recruitment oriented. Doximity is a physician-only social media platform that can also be used as a candidate sourcing tool to reach both active and passive candidates. LinkedIn is a professional-centric social media platform that has specialized tools for recruiting including job posting and IN mails. Facebook has the widest audience and can be a great sourcing tool if used with the right expertise. There are costs involved with using these platforms, make sure they are included in your recruitment budget during the planning stages.
An email marketing platform can be very helpful for continuous recruitment and brand management. For successful email marketing, pair it with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. We highly recommend using a CRM and making an organizational commitment to use it to its fullest potential. Capturing accurate candidate data is the key to future recruitment success. An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) can be added to a CRM or it can be a stand-alone application. Organizations that use an ATS shorten their time-to-fill.3 The organizational recruitment process is your first interaction with a new physician. A recruitment process utilizing an ATS that goes smoothly will set the tone for the physician’s employment.
Job Boards are a great way to get your job posting in front of a large candidate audience. Using a job board that is specialty-specific or hosted by a reputable group like The New England Journal of Medicine will get more response for your job posting. Carefully select a few job boards that meet your financial needs and your recruitment needs. Select job boards with additional feature like resume access, and email capabilities and verify the amount of candidate traffic.
More important than technology, your Recruitment Team is your most valuable recruitment tool. Realize that in addition to recruitment, your in-house team has additional responsibilities including on-boarding, credentialing, and scheduling interviews. Be realistic in knowing the number of searches that your team can handle efficiently and know when they may need help. Recruitment firms are one option to supplement your team and can provide value and expertise.
The Physician Recruitment Process
When looking at the big picture, recruitment starts at brand management. Brand management is being proactive about how your organizational brand is perceived, by patients, your staff, and the community. Highlighting physicians, placing human interest stories and communicating your vision will help you attract the right physicians. You can increase your recruitment efficiency by eliminating unnecessary interviews.
Continuous recruitment can increase efficiency by always keeping your recruitment pipeline full. Recognizing talent and fostering a positive relationship ensures that you will have a physician ready to join your organization when you have an opportunity. Then, the recruitment process can start as soon as your organization is ready to hire, and you won’t have to start from zero. In addition, if there is ever an issue with a candidate during the hiring process, you will have additional candidates to choose.
Hiring for Fit
Hiring for fit is a recruitment philosophy that aims to increase retention rates and physician productivity. Hiring for fit means less chance of burnout and more engaged physicians if you hire physicians that are aligned with administration, colleagues, patients, and the community. Knowing their motivation, such as time with their patients versus challenging clinical work, or financial security will help you retain them for the long term. Match their needs with your organizational vision and values to ensure commitment to your principles and a great cultural fit.
Communication can be the difference between placing a candidate quickly and not placing them at all. Being able to communicate effectively starts with your recruitment plan. Involve the key stakeholders during the planning process and communicate with the candidates on a regularly scheduled basis, especially if there are any delays in the process. Silence is a deal killer, especially in a competitive market.
Site visits are your best chance to convince a candidate your facility is right for them and to see if they are the right cultural fit for you. You must be completely prepared for a very thorough site visit and follow-up because you only have one opportunity to make a positive first impression. A site visit is also your opportunity to win over the candidate’s family, if they have one. Be prepared to entertain them and introduce them to the community, because nothing will replace making them feel welcome. Enlisting the help of a physician with a similar family unit and lifestyle interests is the best way to sell the personal life side of your organization. Doing your homework upfront about the candidate enables you to tailor a visit based on their needs and interests including schools, shopping, community and cultural activities.
Compensation and Benefits
The final step of the process is the offer. Don’t let all your hard work be in vain with an ineffective or hastily written offer. Although it is reasonable to expect some negotiation, start by putting a strong offer on the table, tailored to your candidate. Don’t lose a candidate to the competition over something that wouldn’t be a deal killer or insulting to the candidate. Know if they value loan repayment over a flexible schedule or a guaranteed income over production bonuses and be flexible to tailor your offer to each individual candidate.
Retainment is the last part of the recruitment process and it hinges on organizational culture and physician engagement. You can significantly lessen your recruitment burden due to burnout and turnover with a focus on retainment. Zero turnover is an unrealistic outcome, but it can be a motivating goal. You can expect 26% more productivity from engaged physicians and 51% more inpatient referrals.4 Including your physicians in the recruitment team increases engagement and helps evaluate how well the candidate will fit within your organization. If you’re ready to commit to improving your retainment, start by conducting a culture assessment.
Improve Your Recruitment Process
Benchmarking your recruitment process must to be done before you can start making improvements. The best time to start benchmarking is right now. Determine what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are most important to you and begin tracking them. Typical KPIs are time-to-fill, interviews-to-hire, acceptance rate, and retention rates. Collecting data about your recruitment process will help you make informed decisions and improve the process. You will see your shortfalls and identify where you need to implement best practices. Being able to effectively and efficiently recruit the physicians your organization needs not only benefits your bottom line, it also benefits the communities you serve.
Hiring a Physician Recruitment Firm if your organization doesn’t have the bandwidth to effectively recruit physicians in a timely manner, is a cost-effective option. Look for transparency, straight forward pricing, and a track record of satisfied clients.
1 “Estimate the Economic Impact of a Rural Primary Care Physician” National Center for Rural Health Works, October 2016. http://ruralhealthworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Physician-Impact-Study-Final-100416.pdf
2 “New Research Shows Increasing Physician Shortages in Both Primary and Specialty Care” AAMC, April 2018. https://news.aamc.org/press-releases/article/workforce_report_shortage_04112018/
3 “A Game Plan For Choosing and Customizing Applicant Tracking Systems” ASPR, Spring 2017. https://www.aspr.org/page/JASPR_Spring17_11
4 “What Too Many Hospitals Are Overlooking” Gallup, February 2015. https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/181658/hospitals-overlooking.aspx