If you are fed up with the insurance administrative hassles, fearful of standing alone against an army of government auditors, and other modern challenges which have converted solo practice into a liability, there is perhaps some good news: Your services are in very high demand, if you know where to look. One solution is to become one of the growing numbers of physicians who have found employment through a physician recruiting firm.
In order to find out more, I spoke with Joy Goudeau, CEO of JLG Physician Recruitment in Raleigh, N.C., who offers insight into how the process works. "Most of our potential employers are hospitals seeking physician employees. Major hospitals maintain in-house recruitment departments, while independent recruiters assist employers who do not have their own recruiting departments," she says.
"The first thing a physician should know," according to Goudeau, is "never pay a fee to a recruiter." "Physicians are in too high a demand to be asked to pay any expense in the recruitment process. So if you are ever asked to pay for anything, hang up.
"Candidates either make initial contact with a physician recruiter through the recruiter’s website, which should provide easy instructions. Or, in hard-to-fill vacancies, the recruiter may need to roll up her sleeves and get to work contacting physicians directly," Goudeau says. "When a position becomes available, the process moves very quickly. I will conduct an in-depth interview with the candidate by telephone and get to know his or her specific needs. If it looks like a good fit, I will then present the candidate to the potential employer with the instruction that the employer should contact the candidate for an initial interview within four days, or the candidate may be lost. It is that competitive."
Following the initial telephone interview, Goudeau says, "the employer will set up an on-site interview. Airfare, hotel, and even an escort from the airport are set up by the employer." Physician candidates should also make arrangements for their spouse to travel as well for the first visit. "We find that most decisions in the recruitment and hiring process need to include the spouse," Goudeau notes. "It doesn’t do anyone good to match an employer and physician, only find that the spouse isn’t in happy with the move. So we expect a high level of spousal input from the very beginning.
"Typically, there will be a second on-site visit," Goudeau continues, "at which point, a real estate agent may be present to discuss neighborhoods and the housing market, which all leads to a smoother transition."
Finally, Goudeau adds, "Because the pool of physicians is so low, a candidate may normally expect that the recruiter will present only one candidate at a time. In other words, as a candidate you will likely not find yourself in a reception room with five other candidates for the same job."
When it comes to contracts, it is always a good idea to have an experienced health lawyer review the contracts. Some states — Texas most notably — have strong corporate practice of medicine regulations forbidding direct employment of physicians. These date back to the days when it was though improper for a nonphysician to direct a physician as to the care of patients. Exceptions to this rule may include certain non-profits and hospitals located in under-served areas. Stark Law issues should be minimal, as bona fide employment is one of the Safe Harbors to enforcement action. Nevertheless, it is always best to consult an experienced health lawyer early in the process.