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9 Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Physicians and Advanced Practice Providers

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   November 21, 2023

A pair of chief physician executives share how their health systems recruit and retain clinicians.

Health systems must adopt a multitude of recruitment and retention strategies for physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs), a pair of top clinical leaders at health systems say.

The physician employment market across the country is tighter than ever, with demand outstripping supply in many specialties. As a result, CMOs are turning to APPs to supplement their physician staff.

Eric Deshaies, MD, MBA, chief physician executive of AdventHealth Medical Group in Orlando, Florida, says AdventHealth's medical group wants to establish a reputation that will support recruitment efforts.

"Career development, mentorship programs, wellness programs, and putting physicians and APPs in the leadership of our medical group all send a strong message externally that this is a medical group that values our physicians and APPs," he says.

Deshaies and Ian Dunn, MD, chief physician executive and chair of neurosurgery at Oklahoma-based OU Health, say their health systems are pursuing nine recruitment and retention strategies for physicians and APPs.

1. Strive to be visible: OU Health takes an approach to recruiting physicians and APPs that is similar to how colleges recruit football players, Dunn says. OU Health makes sure the health system is visible to physician and APP candidates, with multiple physical and virtual touchpoints such as a robust social media presence, he says.

2. Gear workplace conditions for a multigenerational workforce: Health systems should offer workplace conditions that appeal to a range of generations, Deshaies says. For example, younger generations of physicians and APPs are looking for more wellness events, flexibility in schedules, and time off, he says.

3. Be competitive on compensation: To recruit and retain physicians and APPs, health systems must be competitive in compensation in their markets, Dunn says. OU Health is the only academic health system in Oklahoma, which means the health system must have competitive compensation relative to the community health systems in the state, he says. In metropolitan areas with several academic health systems, compensation for physicians and APPs tends to be similar at each of the organizations, he says.

Health systems should adjust their compensation for physicians and APPs on a regular basis, Dunn says. OU Health has redesigned physician compensation over the past year, and the health system is doing the same work with APP compensation. OU Health will be refreshing compensation on an annual basis, if not more frequently, he says.

4. Adopt assistive technology: AdventHealth is planning to introduce artificial intelligence technology that will make daily clinical operations more efficient and allow clinicians to be more efficient in clinics or hospitals, Deshaies says. This will help in functions such as dictating notes, ordering medications, and ordering imaging. The health system plans to use AI to make patient visits smoother and faster, while giving physicians and APPs more face time with their patients, he says.

5. Offer leadership opportunities: the AdventHealth Medical Group has changed its governance structure to give physicians and APPs more opportunities to participate in administrative leadership, Deshaies says. The governance restructuring includes the creation of triads featuring physicians, APPs, and business executives across different specialties. The triads not only give clinicians a stronger voice at the leadership table but also promote value, he says. The medical group triads have quality represented by clinicians and cost control represented by the business executives, he says.

6. Make your health system stand out: To recruit and retain physicians and APPs, health systems should try to stand out compared to other organizations, Dunn and Deshaies say. OU Health promotes its academic focus and deep subspecialty expertise, Dunn says.

"Our physicians and APPs embrace our mission," he says. "It distinguishes the clinicians at OU Health—most of them have faculty appointments at the college of medicine or the college of nursing, in the case of some APPs."

The AdventHealth brand, which includes whole-person care, is attractive to many physicians and APPs, Deshaies says.

"This is particularly the case with Millennial and GenZ clinicians, who are looking for a work-life balance and looking for wellness," he says. "That is in alignment with our whole-person care."

7. Ensure that physicians and APPs enjoy their work: Once a health system has recruited a physician or APP, the organization should strive to make sure the clinicians enjoy their work, Dunn says. This factor is not always about metrics, compensation, or titles. Health systems should make sure that a clinician's job is doable with a favorable work-life balance and that clinicians have adequate resources. Examples of resources include medical assistants and patient service representatives as well as clinical support teams for surgeons, he says.

"What a transplant team might need is going to be different from what an oncology team might need," he says. "But we want to understand the resources that our teams need."

8. Promote retention at academic health systems: OU Health promotes retention of physicians and APPs by making sure they benefit from the opportunities of working at an academic health system, Dunn says. Physicians and APPs at the health system have an opportunity to provide advanced care to complex patients. In addition, clinicians can engage in education and research activities, he says.

"Beyond the clinical work, clinicians can grow in other dimensions," he says.

9: Encourage retention of APPs with educational programs: AdventHealth is promoting retention of APPs with a "transition-to-practice" program, Deshaies says. When APPs are recruited, they are paired with a preceptor, and they have training and coursework. The physicians help train the APPs, who have competency exams similar to what they would see in a residency program. The transition-to-practice program helps to reduce the initial stress of coming to a new organization right out of school and boosts retention, he says.

"APPs are not overwhelmed, then looking to leave a couple weeks later," Deshaies says.

Related: AMA President Warns Physician Shortage Is 'Urgent Crisis'

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Health systems should make efforts to be visible, including having a robust social media presence, to boost recruitment of physicians and APPs.

Gearing workplace conditions for a multigenerational workforce promotes recruitment.

Educational programs support retention of APPs.


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