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Phoenix Children's Hospital Rising to Clinician Recruitment Challenge

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   May 05, 2023

Phoenix Children's Hospital is also successful in retaining clinicians.

With an aggressive growth strategy, Phoenix Children's Hospital has been able to recruit and retain significant numbers of clinicians.

There is a tight clinician labor market nationwide. "The physician recruitment market is tighter than ever," Tara Osseck, regional vice president of recruiting at Jackson Physician Search, told HealthLeaders earlier this year.

Phoenix Children's Hospital is expanding from one hospital to three hospitals. Phoenix Children's Hospital—East Valley Campus is expected to open this summer. Phoenix Children's Hospital—Arrowhead Campus is slated to open next year. As part of the growth effort, Phoenix Children's has increased the organization's medical group from 25 to 34 divisions, and the surgical department has increased from 27 to 90 surgeons.

"The growth of the medical group has been based on numerous factors. Number One is the growth of the system—moving from a single hospital to three hospitals sometime in the next 12 to 14 months has driven the need for the overall growth. If we were not growing the system, we would not have had to worry about growing the number of clinicians," says Daniel Ostlie, MD, surgeon-in-chief and chair of surgery.

Phoenix Children's has powerful selling points for clinician recruits, says Jared Muenzer, MD, physician-in-chief. "Whenever I interview anywhere from senior leaders on the business side to senior leaders on the clinical side to junior physicians, I start with the most amazing things about Phoenix Children's Hospital are people and potential. The potential is looking at where Phoenix Children's fits in the Southwest—you look at our level of competition and we own the tertiary and quaternary market of children's healthcare in this region. It makes us a place that people are interested in. They want to hear about it."

In terms of people, Muenzer says part of the reason Phoenix Children's draws clinicians is world-class training programs. "Our faculty come from training programs at the best children's hospitals in the country. Then you add the layer that we have grown our training programs from the mid-teens to close to 30 fellowship programs, and we have been growing our own clinicians over the past decade. It's feeding on itself now, which puts us in a great position. We are still able to recruit clinicians despite a tight labor market."

High patient volumes across a range of specialties are also a selling point in clinician recruitment, Ostlie says. "We have a significant advantage because of the volume and population that this children's hospital supports with very little competition in our market. There is a small local children's hospital, but they don't really pose any market competition. I can hire a general surgeon and that person is going to be very busy. We can go out and hire a neurologist who focuses on mobility or rare diseases and because of the population that we have here—a million children—we know that neurologist is going to see patients that fit the specialty."

Phoenix Children's is also able to recruit clinicians in subspecialties, Ostlie says. "We just recruited a surgeon from Nebraska who specializes in osteogenesis imperfecta, which is brittle bone disease. We know we can bring her here, we can put her in an established orthopedics division, and she is going to be able to grow the osteogenesis imperfecta program just because of location—the airport is easy to get to—and we have a million kids here already. We also have all of the supporting structures such as genetics and orthopedic surgery that will allow her program to grow in a way that it would not be able to grow in other places."

Clinician retention

Annual evaluations help Phoenix Children's to retain clinicians, Muenzer says. "When Dan and I took over about seven years ago, one of the things we did not have was a way to evaluate and reward our clinicians every year. Now, we have a yearly evaluation program for all of our providers across the entire enterprise. For our over 750 clinicians, which is both physicians and advanced practice providers, they get evaluated every year, and that evaluation has an impact on their compensation. It allows us the opportunity to try to remain competitive in the market. The evaluations also give clinicians the sense that their accomplishments are being recognized."

Retention is also about empowering clinicians, Muenzer says. "Dan and I have 34 divisions, and we have empowered leaders to not only go out and recruit the number of providers they need but also the specialists and subspecialists they need to build a book of business in areas such as neurology, gastroenterology, and orthopedics. We gave them the power to build those programs. By doing that, it empowers those leaders to say, 'This is my book of business as a leader, and Dan and Jared give me the authority and the power to go out and build my program.'"

Phoenix Children's wants providers to have every opportunity to grow and mature and to be what they want to be, which boosts retention, Muenzer says. "For example, if you want to be a world-class clinical provider and deliver world-class clinical care and that is what your goal is, that is OK. If you want to be a researcher, if you want to be a medical director, if you want to build programs, if you want to be an educator, if you want to be a division chief, all of those tracks are available at this organization to all of our providers."

Related: Physician Search Exec: 'The Physician Recruitment Market Is Tighter Than Ever'

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


Opening two new hospitals is driving growth at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

High patient volumes across a range of specialties are a selling point in clinician recruitment at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Conducting annual evaluations with clinicians helps with retention because compensation is adjusted annually and clinicians' accomplishments are recognized.

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