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Recruiting the difficult-to-hire physician


Health care organizations must adopt a proactive and personalized approach to making physicians feel heard, valued, and interested.

help wanted | © Andrey Popov -

© Andrey Popov -

In the current health care landscape, physicians are facing unprecedented challenges as they grapple with the burden of working multiple weekday and weekend shifts, uncompetitive salaries, and increasing on-the-job stress leaving them with little time to explore new opportunities. Meanwhile the demand in the health care space for clinicians is steadily rising - the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a potential shortage of 124,000 physicians by 2034.

As a result, the health care industry faces an ongoing challenge in recruiting and retaining physicians, particularly for hard-to-hire roles. As a clinical recruiter who fills roles in a high-demand specialty, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges that prevent health care organizations from acquiring much-needed talent and the hurdles that prevent physicians from making the leap.

In order to meet this pressing need, health care organizations must adopt a proactive and personalized approach to making physicians feel heard, valued, and interested. Here are key strategies and best practices for rolling out the red carpet to hiring hard-to-hire physicians.

Understanding individual needs and preferences

To succeed in recruiting physicians, it is essential to comprehend the individual needs and preferences of candidates. Money and salary are important considerations, but there are other significant factors that influence a candidate's decision. Recruiters must delve deeper and ask probing questions to understand a candidate's motivations and interests. Knowing whether a candidate values work-life balance, family time, or has a unique hobby can help align the job offering with their personal aspirations. For example, college football fans in my home state of Florida may be drawn to positions in Tallahassee to root for the Seminoles. By positioning specific benefits such as flexible working hours, health care organizations can stand out as an attractive employer and minimize the risk of losing physicians soon after hiring due to a mismatch of expectations.

Understanding the culture

Having a deep understanding of the company’s culture and the specific roles being recruited for helps identify candidates who align not just with the job requirements but also with the hiring company’s core values and mission. When a candidate is a good cultural match for the job, they can deliver compassionate patient care, collaborate with colleagues, promote a safe and supportive environment, and actively contribute to the company’s overall goal of improving health and well-being in the community. If a physician is not a good match for a company’s work culture, it can lead to decreased job satisfaction, reduced team cohesion, and potentially affect patient care, necessitating action to find a more suitable fit.

Balancing salary and benefits with mental health

Competitive salaries and comprehensive benefits packages are essential for attracting physicians. However, physicians often face burnout due to long hours and high-pressure work environments. To attract hard-to-hire physicians, health care companies should emphasize the benefits aimed at addressing mental health. Striking a balance between competitive compensation and mental health can make a company an appealing choice for prospective physicians.

Matching experience levels

Understanding the experience level of candidates is crucial in tailoring the recruitment approach. Recent graduates may be willing to be flexible in their job location to gain experience, while experienced physicians may be seeking opportunities to gradually transition into retirement or reduce their working hours. Health care employers should offer positions that match the candidate's experience level and align with their career goals. For instance, a part-time or weekend-only position may attract a retired physician looking for a reduced workload without completely leaving the field.

Connecting at the right time and place

Understanding when physicians are likely to be receptive to job offers can increase the chances of meaningful conversations and fruitful recruitment efforts. Connecting with physicians at the right time and place can make a significant difference in recruitment success. Physicians often spend a substantial amount of time commuting, providing recruiters with an excellent opportunity to reach them during these moments of relative tranquility.

As health care organizations continue to face the challenge of recruiting hard-to-hire physicians, companies must enhance their recruitment strategies. Building strong relationships with candidates and hiring managers, understanding individual needs, highlighting unique benefits, and focusing on mental health are all crucial components of successful physician recruitment. By following best practices, health care organizations can attract and retain the talented clinicians needed to meet the growing demand for health care services. The future of health care recruitment relies on the ability to treat candidates like distinguished guests, rolling out the red carpet to provide them with something special that aligns with their individual aspirations and needs.

Randy Ferjuste is a Senior Clinical Recruiter with Ob Hospitalist Group, the nation’s largest and only dedicated OB hospitalist provider.

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