Healthcare organizations need to step up their efforts to recruit and retain physicians.
With demand outstripping supply for physicians in many specialties, Jackson Physician Search has released a new white paper to help healthcare organizations to recruit and retain clinicians.
"Demand for healthcare services is increasing due to an aging population, expanded access to health insurance, and a general public well-versed in the importance of preventative care. However, there are not enough physicians to meet the increasing demand for these services," the white paper says.
The white paper highlights several key developments in the physician job market:
- As retirements increase, healthcare organizations are struggling to replace specialists such as neurologists and urologists who see a wide variety of cases. Subspecialists coming out of training want jobs where they can focus on their area of expertise.
- Demand for mental health providers increased 85% from 2020 to 2022 as mental health problems spiked nationwide.
- Physician expectations are changing—they want signing bonuses, flexible schedules, and a better work-life balance.
- Specialists who can work in telehealth such as psychiatrists and radiologists are becoming increasingly hard to recruit for positions that require them to work in an office full time.
- Healthcare organizations in rural areas are being particularly hard hit by retirements, and they face multiple challenges such as rising costs, lower reimbursement for services, and staffing problems.
- At Jackson Physician Search, many of the 2022 physician placements had starting salary guarantees above the MGMA median.
A pair of Jackson Physician Search executives talked with HealthLeaders about the nature of the physician job market and how healthcare organizations can rise to the challenge of recruiting and retaining clinicians.
"The physician recruitment market is tighter than ever," says Tara Osseck, regional vice president of recruiting at Jackson Physician Search.
To recruit physicians under the current market conditions, healthcare organizations must accentuate the positive aspects of their job opportunities, she says. "When you are looking at strategies to recruit physicians under increasingly competitive market conditions, first and foremost it starts with a very clear understanding of the need then developing a strategic approach to marketing a job's positive differentiators. That can be above average compensation, long-term earning potential, attractive recruitment incentives, a great location, and a fast-track to partnership or career growth. Whatever your positive differentiators or hooks are, you need to be able to leverage those to your advantage."
To be successful in physician recruitment, healthcare organizations need to know about the market for the specialties they are recruiting, Osseck says. "You need to have a keen understanding of physician supply and demand in the particular specialties you are recruiting. You need to understand the annual attrition rate and the people who are coming out of training each year to be able to focus on a realistic candidate pool. That helps establish candidate parameters."
It is also important to be open to candidate feedback and to adapt to market trends, she says. "If you want to be successful and competitive in today's marketplace, you need to be willing to adapt to how younger physicians want to practice, even if you have to deviate from how your older physicians have historically practiced."
Rural healthcare organizations have to be thorough in their physician recruitment efforts, says Brent Barnacle, regional vice president of business development at Jackson Physician Search. "When looking at these rural areas, you have a small candidate pool. So, for healthcare organizations seeking physicians, it is important to be clear about who you are looking for, the scope of work, the compensation, and what your community has to offer. … You can get laser-focused on the type of individual you are looking for culturally and put together an attractive package for job candidates."
In any physician search, it is important to have an efficient hiring process, but this is crucial in rural recruiting, Osseck says. "Before you are working with your first candidate, you need to know the key stakeholders and decision-makers. You need a hiring process that is functioning like a well-oiled machine, which keeps everyone moving with a sense of urgency."
When rural healthcare organizations put together a recruiting package, they need to know what candidates are looking for in a rural community, Barnacle says. "Pushing a five-day workweek can be a difficult thing to overcome because a lot of physicians who are working in rural communities are looking for a good work-life balance. A four-day workweek can be key."
Offering competitive compensation is essential, he says. "Compensation is important and you need to be competitive in your market. The closer healthcare organizations can get to median compensation, the more competitive they can be. If you are lower in compensation, it is going to take more time to find a physician."
Under the current market conditions, retention of physicians is critical, Barnacle says. "Retention is the conversation of the times, in every industry but more so in healthcare because we have Baby Boomer physicians who are retiring and there are not enough younger physicians coming in to fill those opportunities. You do not want to lose a physician to another organization then have to go through a recruitment process."
Retention starts in the hiring process, he says. "It starts with finding the right cultural fit. It starts with finding the right physician who wants to be a part of your community. It starts with learning about the spouse and the kids such as having schools in the community that are going to be a good fit for the kids. All of those pieces play a role in retention."
Once physicians have been hired, giving them a voice in the organization is pivotal in retention, Barnacle says. "A lot of times, physicians feel there is a disconnect between the C-suite and the physicians. I know the CEO of a large physician group who routinely rounds on all of his physicians and asks, 'What else do you need from me to perform your job at a high level?' Even if he cannot get what a physician is looking for, the physician feels valued, appreciated, and like they have a voice."
Healthcare organizations must be receptive to improving work-life balance, particularly if they want to retain physicians for the long-term, Osseck says. "Flexible schedules and the four-day workweek are becoming increasingly standard. Things that support a flexible schedule include telemedicine partially or exclusively in the scope of practice, block-shift schedules such as seven days on and seven days off, and ways to reduce or eliminate being on call such as having advanced practice providers on call."
Healthcare organizations must design an environment that makes it difficult for physicians to want to leave, she says. "It could be pairing physicians with physician mentors. It could be having physicians participate in focus groups to build two-way communication. It could be working with a spouse and kids to get them networked within the community. It is making personal connections, which some healthcare organizations fail to focus on."
Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care editor at HealthLeaders.
Successful physician recruitment strategies include competitive compensation, long-term earning potential, attractive recruitment incentives, a great location, and a fast-track to partnership or career growth.
Successful physician retention strategies start in the hiring process such as having the right cultural fit and finding physicians who want to be a part of your community.
Once physicians have been hired, striving to have a good work-life balance is crucial for retention.