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April 9, 2021

Physicians want to know more than recruiters tell them

Physicians work hard to develop an in-depth and intimate knowledge of their chosen fields of practice. They are trained specialists, and those of us in the administrative ranks naturally assume they want to stay that way. After all, why would anyone spend so much time and money building a clinical, research or academic career only to choose a different path just as they’re hitting their stride?

The truth is: Many professionals do just that. Why should doctors be any different?

Like all career-minded people, physicians often reach a point where they crave more rewarding challenges and opportunities. When you consider how fast health care is changing (brought on by hospital employment, more women entering the profession, the desire for work-life balance, and increasing numbers of dual-career couples), career shifting is not surprisingly on the rise.

As recruiters, we often assume that physicians want to know the "generic" position description. We tend to do a mass email blast to a specialty with the hours, the call and a statement saying "competitive compensation and benefits." But what if we took the time to think about deeper or more profound reasons that might motivate ambitious doctors to look for new opportunities or desire to work at our organizations?

How can we offer them the career opportunities that genuinely inspire them? Do physicians want to know what it means to be part of your organization? Will they have a voice with administration, and when times get tough (like a pandemic), what does it mean to be a physician at "XYZ" hospital in terms of support?

By not engaging in these discussions, we’re clinging to an ideal medical profession that simply no longer exists. To inspire a different generation of physicians, one that accepts practice opportunities, builds practices and stays in the community for their entire careers, we must understand a physician’s evolving needs and professional goals. One of the best ways to achieve meaningful engagement with the candidates is to be creative and willing to redesign how we talk about the practice opportunities from our traditional mindset by featuring a "physician champion" within your organization that has had career advancement.

Medicine has changed. Doctors’ aspirations have changed. The gender balance has changed. And the profession has changed. Health care is now more sub-specialized and compartmentalized. It is of higher intensity and increasingly less tolerant of uncertainty. On-call is difficult, the workday is long, and now post-pandemic burnout is on the rise.

As recruiters, we must change our physician recruitment strategies and how we engage during the physician job search process. By learning more of what is essential to our candidates and proactively addressing career aspirations, we can create a more fulfilling role and place a physician not only in the right clinical fit but the right cultural fit as well.


Mitzi Kent, RN BSN is a Partner at Barlow/McCarthy. She has 20 years of experience in health care consulting and a passion for provider recruitment.

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