For free help with your job search, call (800) 776-8383

February 13, 2024

Overcoming physician onboarding challenges

From that first phone call – when a healthcare recruiter initiates contact with a physician job seeker, the foundation is laid for a potentially incredible bond. As the faceless name on a brilliant CV morphs into a voice over the phone, then a full-fledged personality, a framework of mutual trust takes shape. Soon recognized as a bona fide talent, the physician becomes a candidate and the relationship between the two is nurtured with moments of laughter, shared dreams, meaningful stories and exciting (mouthwatering, even!) details about the amazing open position that’s absolutely perfect.

So far, so good.

The fuzzy vibes continue throughout the lengthy interviewing and hiring process. The recruiter and candidate may even be on a first-name basis. Lots of promises are made, and the new position seems like stethoscope blossoms! All the while, the physician candidate quietly lauds the recruiter for making all of this happen.

Confirmed as a good fit, the candidate becomes an employee, says a final goodbye to the recruiter, and eagerly begins onboarding. All too often, this is where the fairy tale ends.

According to a recent survey, 56% of employees reported feeling disoriented after onboarding. Complaints just shy of living nightmares abound on public physician forums. One commenter posted, "Two months of overhead and inefficiency at every single step. Too much-unneeded bureaucracy, plus incompetent undergrads figuring stuff out – just to process a drug screen!" Another commented that onboarding was "Simply grueling," and another felt the administrators were "incompetent at every level."

Physician onboarding is a lengthy process that includes I9 and W2 paperwork, workday profile, drug screening, a TB test, extensive criminal, educational and sometimes mental background checks, fingerprints, an ID badge, and training. In short, it requires a lot of effort from multiple departments. What it does not require, unfortunately, is any participation from the recruiter.

For some new physician hires, the familiarity that had been nurtured over time between them and their recruiters is suddenly replaced with a horde of goblins and orcs. The paradise that the new hire was expecting is instead a labyrinth of traps, monsters, floor bosses and surprise attacks. They begin to think they’ve been hoodwinked and start to question if they made the right choice. Those feelings of unrest and discontent often linger, no matter how terrific the actual job turns out to be. In the same survey, 70% of employees believe the onboarding experience can make or break a new hire’s experience.

Could the recruiter have prevented this? Continuing the relationship after the physician has been hired might seem out of a recruiter’s scope of support and could be viewed as adding to the recruiter’s workload. However, inserting recruiters into the onboarding process could save time down the line because they can help avoid poor retention issues.

Here are five actions a recruiter can take to ensure that all the hard work they put into matching the physician with the organization doesn’t go to waste:

Work in partnership with the healthcare organization

Physician recruiters are responsible for weighing the needs and wants of the healthcare organization as well as those of the physicians they’re recruiting. If they only approach that responsibility as an outsider agent or disenfranchised employee within HR, they can never truly be vested in the outcome or be in a position to initiate change. Building a partnership, however, provides a strategic advantage rooted in trust. It also helps to generate a clear understanding of the goals and intentions of each onboarding task. That knowledge becomes a tremendous resource for the new physician hire.

Assess the onboarding process

Recruiters can leverage their relationship with healthcare organizations to interact with relevant departments and players. They can identify the good, bad, exhausting, and enlightening aspects of the different conditions and protocols used for onboarding. As "partners" recruiters are in a position to give valuable, constructive feedback on behalf of new employees, and be a trusted buffer of expertise on behalf of the organization.

Prepare new hires for onboarding

Share a detailed list of the entire onboarding process. It should include expected time frames, whether each activity is in-house or contracted through a third party, which departments are responsible for each task, and contact names, numbers and email addresses. This will help the physician manage expectations and lessen the culture shock.

Discuss performance metrics

Most performance metrics should be covered during interviews and contract negotiations. Sometimes, however, additional metrics and expectations are introduced during onboarding. Or sometimes, metrics that were discussed before the contract was signed, have additional parameters that come out during training. Discussing performance metrics, compensation, limitations and minimum requirements in advance will go a long way toward keeping new hires from feeling like they’ve been thrown under the bus.

Follow up

Good recruiters are known for being adaptable and finding solutions that keep the hiring process moving forward. Use that talent to keep new hires from imploding. Consider checking in every so often. Show empathy as they vent and try to frame their critiques in a positive way. That calming advice can make all the difference.


By eliminating the source of discontent, recruiters also minimize onset feelings of betrayal, festering memories of inefficiency and the unpleasant threat of new hires quitting within their first two years.

Read PracticeLink articles from Georgia Scott

Georgia Scott

Recommended articles

See All

Newsletter Sign-Up