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Recruiting the Right Physician

Locating the right physician to join your practice can be a true challenge, but the rewards for making the right choice can be substantial when you do get it right.

In this Pulse article, you will learn:

  • How to determine the right time to add a physician
  • Methods used to recruit a physician
  • How to develop an effective recruitment process that helps to find the best candidate

View related pearls

Recruiting has always been challenging. However, the stakes are even higher now because of an aging population that demands more services, as well as shortages in many specialties. Medical groups, hospitals and health systems are all vying for top new physicians.

Take these action steps to improve the odds of finding the right physician for your practice:

Confirm the Need. Are you having trouble keeping pace with patient demand? Before hunting for a new physician, examine your patient flow and work processes closely to see if the problem is truly a lack of capacity. Have you taken all available steps to improve current physician productivity? Look to see if physicians are spending too much time on administrative tasks. Do they have to hunt for forms, wait for staff to bring supplies, or search the hallways for assistance? Even an inconvenient floor plan can rob valuable physician time. In sum, make sure you need another physician before you set off to find one.

Do the Math. Attempt to figure in advance when your practice will reach its maximum workload capacity. Ideally, you can begin the hiring process before the need to add a physician becomes urgent. To understand your practice’s capacities and needs, look to these three factors:

  • Patient access, measured by time to next available new and established patient appointment
  • Physician production, measured by physician work RVUs (the relative value units that indicate the value and difficulty of a service)
  • Quality of life as measured qualitatively through subjective judgments of your clinic time, non-office activities, and call schedule

Any of these factors in excess – for example, 30 days or more to the next available new patient appointment, the 90th percentile of work RVUs for your specialty, or an 80-hour work week with call on every third night – can be devastating to a practice and its physicians. Before you get to these extremes, start recruiting.

Ask Colleagues. Perhaps other physicians will alert you to an individual who will be graduating from a local fellowship program soon or one who wants to relocate to your area. Call local academic training programs, as well as the one you attended, and ask the same questions. An advertisement in your specialty’s journal or career board may also grab the interest of potential applicants. Outsourcing to a recruiting firm can help with this process, but be sure you find the right partner to meet your needs as the hiring a new physician can be time-consuming and expensive.

Web and Social Media. Post your open position on popular physician search websites as well as your specialty society’s website. Leverage your practice’s web presence, too, by mentioning the opening on your Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Be Picky. As CVs begin to arrive, review each and discard any that do not reflect the amount of training or experience you want. Start contacting the most likely candidates to schedule screening interviews on the telephone. You, or perhaps a colleague in your practice can help, can perform telephone-based screening interviews of the candidates you like best.

Keep in Touch. Maintain regular contact with and be responsive to candidates throughout the recruitment process – they are probably considering other opportunities, too. At each step, ask the candidate if he or she has any questions or concerns. Make sure to respond promptly (within one or two days), as a follow up to your meetings and/or any correspondence from the candidate. Keep candidates interested by stating when you will make your hiring decision.

On-site Interview. Invite the top candidates for on-site interviews, and pay the travel, lodging and meal expenses of any out-of-town applicants you ask to interview. Expect to interview at least two, but possible three to five candidates if you manage to find that many who are worth a closer look.

Meet and Greet. When candidates come to visit for interviews, take the opportunity to impress them, too. Ask top members of your staff – the head nurse, office manager, and the physicians – to interview each candidate. Use the same scale for all candidates, distributing it for you and your colleagues to use during the interviews. Using a standard scale will allow you to more easily compare the evaluations.

Round About. When you have narrowed the field to your top one or two candidates, ask them to accompany you on rounds with you at the hospital or to shadow you during clinic.

Caution. Don’t extend an offer until you’ve interviewed the candidate in person at least once, if not two or three times. Make sure to carefully check all references.

Design the Offer. Develop a concise list of all aspects of compensation, from salary to days off, education benefits, retirement plans, etc. Try to put a dollar figure on each item, including benefits. Don’t just outline the health insurance – quantify it. Developing the financial model allows the candidate to review not just the salary offer, but the actual compensation package. Consider describing other details, such as an overview of the staffing support the new physician can count on.

Keep it Simple. Present the job offer in an easily comprehensible and concise package so that both you and the candidate can see if you are on the same wavelength. If the candidate needs eight weeks of vacation but you only offer three, or wants a one-in-seven call rotation but you only offer a one-in-three, you’ll both see how far apart you are.

Extend the Offer. Make sure your salary offer is commensurate with regional and local standards for new physicians in your specialty. Condition offers on the successful verification of credentials, licensing, etc.

Keep the Spouse in Mind. After hiring the physician, set up a spouse orientation meeting for him or her to meet your staff and learn more about the practice and the community. You don’t want to lose a good physician because the spouse finds it hard to adjust to a new community.

Pearl 10/22/12

Patience Is a Virtue
Take the time early on to carefully plan your recruiting strategy. Be consistent in following your plan and don’t rush to find the first “warm body” to fill a gap. Recognize that the process will likely take 6 to 12 months, and don’t be afraid to start the process even sooner.

Pearl 10/15/12

Assess Access
A powerful sign of the need to recruit can be found in your appointment schedule. Monitor your time to next new and established patient appointment. Clinical necessity does ultimately dictate access – yet patients really won’t wait longer than 30 days for a routine, non-urgent appointment. Perhaps patients are more tolerable if you lack any competition in your community – remember that the big city is just a drive away. Take the access data, with your productivity, to determine if you have any extra capacity. If you don’t have acceptable easy access and you’re already over the productivity norms for your specialty, it’s time to recruit.

Pearl 10/08/12

Check It Out
Even if you are very familiar with the training program from which your candidate is graduating, don’t assume that all graduates are best-in-class. Take the time to call every reference – this is not just a colleague, it’s like a marriage. The reference will typically be bound not to disclose the details of an adverse situation. Be sure to ask an open-ended question like “Would you hire this fellow again?” If you get a “no” response, think again.

In addition to references, verify credentials. Although it may take a few minutes to confirm the trainee’s experience, consider the downside of failing to do so. Finding out, in a year, that your new colleague never completed his fellowship can devastate your practice.

Pearl 10/01/12

Family Affair
Truly, a new job is a family decision, not just an individual’s. It pays to recruit the spouse, not just the candidate. Include the spouse in a dinner with the candidate during the final on-site interview, and invite the entire family of the candidate to whom you make an offer to meet you and your colleagues over an informal barbeque. If there is time, arrange for a real estate agent to show the spouse different neighborhoods, parks and schools in the community. If the spouse is currently employed, consider offering suggestions about opportunities in your area.


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