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February 4, 2021

Retention begins with the first connection

If you are afraid of missing out on the next best doctor or advanced practice provider, you could lose out on the ones you already have. Think about recruiting as retention. Even go so far as to think about your potential new physician or APP as if it’s the last recruit you will ever have, and get serious about this new connection.

Unless you can afford to mentally, physically and financially recruit a new physician or APP every six to 12 months, you must already be thinking about retaining your candidates while recruiting them. Using, attending virtual career fairs or using MedNavigator - a comprehensive database letting you connect with providers nationwide - are great resources for obtaining screened candidates and helping you focus on your recruitment/retention plan.

Another critical component is to make sure the candidate has one key person to communicate with throughout this process and one physician mentor. The results of adding this component are immediate, and you will see an improved candidate experience. Also, because there is only one person involved, all key persons in your health care facility will be consulted if there are any issues with the candidate.

Use these tips when working on retention.

Here are some additional retention tips to keep in mind as you recruit:

  1. Retention is a follow-up process that begins with how the recruit will stay with you. Developing a plan is crucial. Finding the right fit is essential. Reducing your need to continually be in the replace-and-recruit mindset will reduce costs long term and help you stay in a growth mode instead of a crisis mode.Make sure that after you receive an initial lead or response to an ad or a career fair, you contact the candidate within 24 hours, even if it is to say, "Hi, I will be reaching out to you shortly, or in a couple of days," and then make sure you do. Additionally, send a personalized package of information via email or snail mail, and include a small community token (like a coffee mug) if you are trying to pursue and confirm mutual interest.
  1. Don’t forget the spouse, don’t forget the spouse, don’t forget the spouse. Engaging the spouse or significant other is often overlooked. We are so focused on finding the right fit for the physician or APP opening that we forget the other half of the recruiting piece. Sometimes we tag them along for an evening dinner or drop a note off at the hotel about nearby shopping malls. I could write an entire article on how to involve a physician spouse in the recruitment process. These considerations should be: What is your spouse or significant other’s name? Do they work outside the home? If so, what do they do? What are their hobbies outside of work interests?Don’t let the physician or APP rush through this part. Before the interview is scheduled, make sure you talk to the spouse and dig more in-depth here. Find out what their goals are professionally, personally, culturally and religiously.
  1. Discuss your community with your recruiting candidates. They need to know your community culture. Can you go to the grocery store, or do you need to go out of the community not to be recognized? What I mean by this is can the physician go with their family to the grocery store and do the grocery shopping and just wave hi to acquaintances, or are they going to have to politely stop while "Joe" or "Rita" stop to tell them all their ailments while their Sunday afternoon fades away?

Utilize this checklist when trying to close a hire.

  1. Always have a gift basket available for an on-site interview or if your virtual interview will count the same as the on-site interview.
  2. Make sure you address all personal and family issues before evaluating professional and financial matters. There is no reason to discuss the second part if you can’t get through the first.
  3. Discuss the access and availability of cultural and recreational amenities, sports and entertainment. Not everyone will care about these activities, but because people do grow and change, go over it anyway. Preface the discussion with, "You may or may not be interested in some of this information, but I have found that people sometimes pick up new interests, so I like to tell our candidates about all that we have to offer here and in our surrounding areas."
  4. Finally, follow up! Be sure to have a follow-up meeting before the candidate leaves your community or hangs up on the virtual meeting. Close the deal or close on what the next steps will be.
  5. Schedule a time to have a follow-up phone call with you and the CEO, the physician mentor and the community liaison if one is selected.
  6. Create a competitive compensation package. Check out what is in your market and what is competitive for your opening. Do not rely on what you have done in the past; stay away from phrases like "we always have" or "this is what we do."
  7. Look at your benefits package. If your benefits are standard for all professional employees, it is time to look at updating your package. This is no longer enough to be competitive. Try looking into a stipend for those in residency or fellowship, or an additional financial incentive once the candidate receives their board certification.
  8. Always be encouraging about their accomplishments. Make sure you recognize publicly - with their permission - the fact they received their certification, they will be speaking at an upcoming convention, they wrote an article, or they were selected for an advisory board.
  9. If your employment agreement is for more than one year, make sure you are competitive but also offer an increase each year. This will help your physician or APP continue to feel like the organization cares and values them.
  10. Keep renewal options in the agreement as well, so there is always an option to continue working at your health system.
  11. Encourage a Physician Appreciation Day, Physician Assistant Appreciation Day and a Nurse Practitioner Day. Be sure to send out media regarding this and have an area for them to get a break or food, depending on your protocol, and send a small gift.
  12. Always acknowledge their birthday and their work anniversary day. These things will also encourage retention as we all know their hours are not scheduled and are long.
  13. Send your new hire a subscription to your local newspaper prior to their start date. This will help the entire family know what is going on in the community, see the real estate options and events, and keep everyone connected.
  14. Offer a meal planning/prep service like Blue Apron or Green Chef for the first couple weeks after the provider and family relocate. Research the best options depending on your area and what you think would suit the family. Keep in mind that what you might never consider for yourself (like having a meal delivery service) may be a blessing to an incoming young family with no time.

Remember: Most people need a connection with other people - including physicians and providers. You do not need to roll out the red carpet to retain yours. But it helps to show them you care and that they’re essential.

Make strong connections to retain physician hires

Building a connection is the first step - and one of the most important ones - when it comes to recruiting and retaining your physicians and providers for an extended period. Not only will you have loyal health care providers, but you will have an excellent referral source for many years.

Physicians love to refer other physicians to great jobs. You can be the first step in that process - the one who ties everything together for that long-lasting relationship between the physician or APP and your organization.

Read PracticeLink articles from Michele Gutermuth.

Michele Gutermuth

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