Real Estate Slump Hinders Doctor Recruitment

Physician Compensation & Recruitment , July 10, 2008

Who would have guessed that the drop in home sales would dramatically affect how hospitals and physician practices recruit physicians? It may not have seemed like an obvious connection when the first news of a real estate crisis broke, but facilities are quickly learning that the bad housing market is directly affecting physician recruitment efforts, and many are looking for ways to adapt.

In some cases, the facility may be unable to work around the problem and must be prepared to lose a candidate. But some have already found creative ways to convince physicians to move. Consider the following options:

Pay a physician's mortgage. Delta Physician Placement, a national healthcare staffing agency in Dallas, recently placed a female neonatologist from Northwestern Oregon—an area hit particularly hard by real estate problems—in a program in Appleton, WI. The physician wanted the job, accepted the offer, but then backed out because of concerns about selling her house. "She was deathly afraid of not being able to sell her house," says William Scott Hurst, MBA, director of consulting at Delta. "There were 12 houses on her street, and six were for sale."

The hospital convinced the physician to sign the contract by agreeing to pay her mortgage for nine months, with the intent that the physician could sell the house during that additional window of time. This was arranged in lieu of a traditional signing bonus, so the hospital didn't take a dramatic financial hit because of the incentive.

Buy a physician's home. Although it is rare, Hurst says at least one hospital he has worked with has purchased a physician's home in order to bring a physician into the community. This isn't feasible for routine searches, but it may be a last resort to bring in a high-value physician.

Partner with realtors. Many recruiters are working more closely with realtors to address physicians' housing concerns. "What we've seen is more local engagement with local realtors here to work with previous home area realtors for [a] coordinated effort to get a home sold," says Danilio Davila, employment manager at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas.

In some cases, this involves paying realty fees or shouldering expenses related to relocation and selling the original home.

But professional recruiters are also taking simple steps to become more familiar with real estate markets in areas they're recruiting from early in the process and are reaching out to realtors in those areas.

Target searches. An ideal solution is to limit searches to local candidates who don't need to sell their home in order to switch practices.

However, that isn't always feasible because of regional shortages or noncompete clauses that prevent physicians from moving to a practice within the same area.

Facilities will likely have more success recruiting candidates from regions with relatively stable markets, but few recruiters have actually begun targeting searches in those areas. That may change if the housing problem intensifies.

This story was adapted from one that first appeared in the July edition of Physician Compensation & Recruitment, a monthly publication by HealthLeaders Media.

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