In recent years, most health care organizations have come to realize how important it is for physicians to have a favorable work/life balance. Physician recruiters are keenly aware of this need and often lead the way in identifying and addressing the needs of spouses and families.
But as these considerations evolve from innovative ideas to a standard part of the recruitment process, it’s useful to pause and think about opportunities for expanding or refining them.
"Organizations want to hire physicians who are going to stay, and we know that’s not just about meeting physician needs professionally, but also making sure the needs of their spouses and families are met," affirms Liz Mahan, director of professional development and solutions with the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR). "If we can address concerns or questions upfront, families are likely to stay longer."
A shift in priorities
"Younger physicians have a more balanced perspective," says Mark Fleischman, M.D., Midwest regional president of U.S. Dermatology Partners in the Kansas City area. "They know they want more opportunities to spend time with family and friends. This influences their career decisions." He adds that his organization pays special attention to providing the balance that early-career physicians seek. Emphasizing this helps his practice attract candidates in the competitive dermatology market.
Highlight the culture
Shane Halvorsen, a business consultant whose wife Vanessa Halvorsen, D.O., is nearing the end of her training as a rhinologist and skull base surgeon in Joplin, Missouri, agrees that the culture of a physician’s workplace has a direct impact on the family - and so spousal involvement in the recruitment process is essential. While the physician may be more concerned with the nuts and bolts of the job - the type of cases they’ll be working on, for example - the spouse’s priority will more likely be the practice culture.
"[I would want to know] what it feels like to work there," he says. "…If her job is miserable, her life - her home life - is going to be more miserable, right?"
Halvorsen adds that even though health care organizations increasingly recognize the need to consider the physician’s entire life as part of recruiting, marketing materials haven’t always kept up.
"We see some physician job ads that look like they were written in 1990 and haven’t changed since then," he says. For example, job postings that focus strictly on the physician’s job duties instead of highlighting positives about the culture.
Organizations that have made changes to bring better work/life balance, teamwork and other modern qualities to their practices but fail to modernize their recruitment advertising to reflect them could be "missing the boat," Halvorsen adds. A physician with a family who reviews such a listing could easily assume that the organization hasn’t made physician satisfaction and retention a priority, and therefore isn’t a good fit - and drop them from consideration before the first-round interview.
Mahan adds that while making sure spouses get a chance to ask questions about the job, organization or the community, recruiters should use their interpersonal strengths to respond to a spouse’s concerns. In particular, one size doesn’t have to fit all.
"On my gravestone, they’re going to carve the words ’know your audience’ because I say it all the time," she says. "It’s so important. Sometimes you get physicians that come with their spouse and they’re very independent. They want you to give them the list of things to do and places to go, and then they want to go off and do it. But then others really want somebody to take them around - to have people roll out the red carpet and show them the community and everything that’s available. Knowing how people want to meet the community, and what their comfort level is, is what’s most helpful."
Mahan adds: "It’s about what’s going to work for them instead of the formula that you’ve found most successful in the past."