How to use an orientation program to position new physicians for success at your medical practice.
Congratulations, your search is complete and you’ve found the perfect physician to join your practice. Now you’re ready to relax, right? Not so quick.
The latest Physician Retention Survey from Cejka Search and the American Medical Group Association reports that physician turnover has reached an all-time high, exceeding pre-recession levels. With turnover peaking after only a couple years of joining a practice, you’re lucky if a new candidate even makes it past the three-year mark. You've just spent months or even years to find the right candidate-don’t let all of that work go to waste.
Your retention efforts should start the minute you've agreed to work together, not a second later. I've personally seen countless contracts signed that were later abandoned, new relationships that were ended as early as in the first few months, and candidates who've worked through their contract knowing that the new position is not going to be a long-term fit.
Sometimes the reason is just a bad match, but many of these issues can be discovered early or avoided all together with a solid orientation program. During the interview process everyone is attentive, personable and thorough, but execution on the next steps is often hit and miss. And this is the key area that will make a big impact on keeping your new candidate long term.
CompHealth has been recruiting and placing physicians for more than 30 years, and usually, we can tell whether a relationship is going to work long term by the quality of the orientation offered by the facility. When practices take the same care with the orientation process as they do with candidate selection, the short-term impact means a more comfortable staff and a more confident new physician. The long-term impact is even more powerful; it can positively impact patient outcomes and satisfaction, reduce liability risk, and improve long-term retention.
We once had a client respond to our survey with the following comment: "Our department is small, so we don't need to do a formal orientation. The doctors figure out what they need to do within the first few days."
This way of thinking is a mistake. No matter how big or small your practice, a thorough orientation is critical to a smooth start for the physician. Make it a best practice to assign a point person to handle all aspects of your new-candidate orientation. Here are ideas to help you get started, even if the candidate’s start date is still months away:
• Commit to weekly follow-up calls to answer questions, introduce a new topic, or share any news. This will help ensure that your candidate remains invested in your practice. If they aren’t hearing from you, it doesn’t mean they aren’t being contacted. It’s a very real possibility that a competitor facility is contacting the same candidates, trying to lure them with better offers.
• If you have a newsletter, share past copies with your new candidate to give them background on your practice. Alert the clinic staff, hospital staff, referral groups, and any other contract groups you work with that your new physician will be starting. Include a bio and photo if you can.
• Send copies of key policies and procedures that might be helpful for the physician to review ahead of time.
• Create a staff directory that includes photos and information about each person. If there are members of the community or hospital that the physician will want to know, include them. The more time the physician has to get acquainted with your staff, the better.
• Send a welcome gift basket as a fun and personable way to introduce the candidate to your community. Items can include a community guide, a T-shirt from a local team, a gift card to a favorite restaurant, or tickets to a local museum.
• Send a map of your facility and the hospital, parking information, and the best entrance to use on their first day of work - yes, even the smallest details matter.
A well-thought-out and thorough orientation usually reflects the planning and organization you can expect in other areas of the practice. And according to the Physician Retention Survey, extending onboarding correlates to higher retention of physicians in the early years of a practice. So if you want your new-hires to still be practicing with you 3 years, 5 years, or even 10 years from now, don't skip this critical step.
For more inspiration in building your physician integration plan, download this physician orientation checklist.