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[Physician Recruitment Report] Recruiting for the Future of Healthcare

Jackson Physician Search
April 10, 2024

Much has changed in the healthcare industry since the early days of the pandemic, but over the past several years, one thing remains certain: People are the lifeblood of healthcare organizations. As president of the nation’s largest privately held permanent physician recruitment firm, I’m proud to lead teams helping healthcare organizations in all 50 states find and hire the clinicians they need to deliver quality care in their communities. Established in 1978, Jackson Physician Search is a nationally respected physician recruitment firm, but we do so much more than fill jobs.


We are matchmakers, carefully and thoughtfully pairing organizations with physicians, physician executives, and advanced practice providers who will fit, succeed, and stay.

It certainly isn’t easy, but our innovative use of recruitment technology, coupled with unparalleled service and expertise, has led to the successful placement of thousands of healthcare providers throughout the nation.

The need for quality healthcare providers is a constant, and demand is growing steadily due to an aging population, increased access to care, and a patient base better informed about the benefits of preventative care. At the same time, the number of physicians reaching retirement age is disproportionately high, with more than two of five physicians due to reach retirement age in the next 10 years. And, while the AAMC reports that the number of medical school applicants has increased, the availability of residency spots remains stagnant. As a result, the number of physicians coming out of training is not adequate to replace those who are retiring. This, along with the trend of burned-out physicians cutting back their hours or leaving the profession altogether, has created a significant physician shortage that is only getting worse. The AAMC’s latest projections show a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by the year 2034.

I won’t attempt to solve the physician shortage in this report, though I have my ideas on how to mitigate it. However, I will share some thoughts, informed by data, about what it takes to recruit a physician today. Of course, there is no magic number or timeline that guarantees a physician, but in looking at the Jackson Physician Search placement data at both the national and regional levels, we can detect small shifts that may be indicative of broader trends.

Established Physicians Less Likely to Change Jobs

In addition to reviewing this data, I’ve talked at length with the Regional Vice Presidents of Recruiting, and I have come to several conclusions. First, established physicians today are less likely to change jobs than they were a few years ago. Across industries, the pandemic caused workers at every level to examine their status quos and adjust career paths accordingly. We saw this nationally in the “Great Resignation,” and we certainly saw it in healthcare.

In our 2021 physician retention study, 54% of physicians said COVID-19 had impacted their career plans — either motivating them to retire early, seek a new healthcare employer, or change professions altogether. Physician turnover, which historically hovered around 6-7%, rose to over 8%. We can speculate about the combination of factors that started the trend, but regardless of the cause, physicians were more likely to actively seek, or at least be open to, new opportunities. Physician retention suffered at many organizations, however, employers willing to offer a competitive package were well-positioned to win over physicians. Now, physician turnover has normalized. Uncertainties around interest rates, inflation, and the political climate may play a role, but whatever the reason, fewer established physicians are actively searching for new jobs.

Interestingly, early-career physicians present a new challenge for healthcare organizations. Our 2023 study with MGMA uncovered that those who completed training in the last six years spent only two years on average in their first post-training job as compared to physicians of all ages who stayed for six years. Another joint study between Jackson Physician Search and MGMA found that just 19% of medical practices had a formal physician retention program, putting the 81% without at additional risk of quick departures. Healthcare organizations will need to improve their recruitment and retention processes to ensure that the physicians they hire are likely to stay long term.

More Effort Required to Recruit Physicians

Whether physicians are established in their careers or just completing their training, there will always be some still leaving positions and starting new ones. Residents and fellows are seeking their first jobs; physicians need or want to relocate; dissatisfied physicians are seeking better opportunities. These are the physicians most likely to apply to our physician job ads. Sometimes the right match can be found in this pool of applicants, but many times, it takes a more proactive approach to find the right one.

Physicians today have very specific preferences about what they want. For example, many want to practice telehealth, see outpatient only, or work with a certain type of technology. And in some specialties, namely neurology, urology, and otolaryngology, the retiring specialists are more likely to be generalists in their fields, but the physicians coming out of training are subspecialists who want to spend 50%, 75%, or even 100% of their time on their specific areas of expertise. They aren’t interested in taking over a wide panel of patients.

This is why our recruiters are spending more time calling opted-in physicians in our database, connecting with them on Doximity, and using our full suite of sourcing tools to reach them about our clients’ opportunities and sell them on the benefits of a change.

And this brings me to my second point about recruiting physicians today. It takes more effort to recruit physicians — and not just more effort to find candidates, but also, more effort to impress them. Physicians have higher standards regarding what they want in a job, not only in terms of compensation, but with respect to work-life balance, autonomy, administrative support, leadership development, and more.

A Trusted Recruitment Partner Is Essential

Don’t be discouraged by this news. After all, a physician worth having is a physician worth rolling out the red carpet for; it’s just a matter of knowing how to do it. This is why my third takeaway is that it’s never been more important to have a trusted physician recruitment partner who can advise on current expectations and help adapt your strategy to the evolving market.

In the current market, it can take 6-12+ months to hire a physician, and with signing bonuses and relocation assistance, recruitment costs can climb to $250,000 or higher. Additionally, a physician vacancy can easily cost your organization more than $1 million in lost revenue. When the stakes are this high, you cannot simply post a job and hope that “if you post it, they will come.” A typical job ad can only reach the 11% of physicians in an active job search, and that’s assuming it’s posted to multiple job boards. To reach the 76% who are open to new opportunities but not searching job boards, you need a comprehensive digital sourcing strategy led by a recruitment partner with the largest physician database in the industry.

Healthcare organizations need more from their recruitment partners right now. It’s not enough to be an extension of the team; a good partner must bring market expertise, innovative recruitment strategies, cutting-edge candidate sourcing technology, and transparency throughout the process. Jackson Physician Search has a reputation for delivering in all of these areas, but above all else, we are committed to delivering on our promises. When we say we will do something, our partners know we will follow through.

They also know we are listening to their needs and stepping up to serve. From continuously adapting our digital sourcing strategy to expanding our physician executive recruitment division, we will continue to innovate to better serve the needs of our clients.

Download the Physician Recruitment Report for Insight Into the Latest Physician Recruitment Trends, Including Shifts in Physician Recruitment Incentives and Compensation.

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For more information about how your healthcare organization can use the results of this survey to improve your physician recruitment and retention strategy, contact Jackson Physician Search today. Our team comprises healthcare industry professionals who have spent decades recruiting physicians, physician executives, and advanced practice providers for healthcare organizations nationwide.

About Jackson Physician Search

Jackson Physician Search is an established industry leader in physician recruitment and pioneered the recruitment methodologies standard in the industry today. The firm specializes in the permanent recruitment of physicians, physician executives and advanced practice providers for hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers and medical groups across the United States. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., the company is recognized for its track record of results built on client trust and transparency of processes and fees. Jackson Physician Search is part of the Jackson Healthcare® family of companies.

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