It’s no secret that the physician recruitment environment is more challenging than ever. In many markets, hospitals and groups are still recovering from early exits and retirements related to COVID. And even before the pandemic pushed competing health care priorities aside, physician shortages in many areas were already an issue.
This means, of course, that the pressure on physician recruiters is greater than ever. But most recruiters realize there’s a tension between hustling to find an adequate
candidate as quickly as possible and holding out for candidates who are not just qualified, but well-matched in temperament and goals to the organization. Emphasizing the latter will, hopefully, yield new hires who will be more likely to stay in their jobs beyond a year or two.
By the site visit stage, candidates have revealed that they match the objective criteria. But it’s the visit itself that offers the best chance to both sell the candidate on the job and screen for those intangible factors of fit - the nuances that can make all the difference in reducing turnover.
Here are a few suggestions for helping candidates get a feel for what life in your organization is like, and whether it’s right for them.
Encourage them to assess the culture
Many candidates these days are aware they should be considering practice or hospital culture when deciding on a job. But without much experience to draw on, they may not know how to gauge your culture - or what questions to ask.
Consider what your responses would be if a physician asked, "Is your culture supportive?" or "Do you have a patient-centered culture?" Naturally, your answers to these questions will likely be "yes." But while the candidate may feel some modest assurance that your culture isn’t "bad," there’s little content in these questions or answers that helps them know whether they’ll be happy in your organization.
Jennifer Hauler, D.O., MBA, family and emergency medicine physician and chief operating officer of Miami Valley Hospital in Ohio, says she tells physician candidates,
"You can ask me about our culture, but I don’t want you to hear it from me. Don’t believe me that we’re friendly. Look around as you’re walking through the hallway with me or the recruiter. Look at the folks saying ’Hey, Jen,’ and ’Hi Dr. Hauler, how’s it going?’"
Hauler also encourages candidates to tack on a few minutes before or after their appointments to observe daily life in her facility.
"…Maybe you show up a few minutes early or stay a few minutes after the interview," she says. "Walk down to the cafeteria and have a bottle of water or sit in the main lobby and watch people passing by. There are public spaces where you can get a feel for some things."
Strive to answer tough questions honestly
Some savvy candidates may ask you about turnover in the role they’re interviewing for. They may even ask if it’s OK with you if they speak to a previous incumbent who left after a short tenure.
Delicately dodging or papering over these awkward questions may seem the best way to handle them. But if the candidate accepts the job and winds up feeling duped, that will likely lead to a faster exit - and a more negative opinion about the job.
Instead, if known problems have led to turnover in the past, talk about what the team is doing differently now. And if the earlier issue was the result of failed expectations, strive for as much transparency as possible about job content.
Introduce the candidate to people who will help them succeed
For some practice settings (e.g., ambulatory clinics), both clinical and admin staff will play a critical role in daily practice flow and physician productivity. Some candidates may ask to meet the staff and observe the workflow. Plan to accommodate this if it can be done without excessive disruption.
Productivity is often a significant concern of new physicians, especially if their compensation includes a significant component based on collections or RVUs. It’s
worth the time to help candidates get the information they need from the right people. For example, if a practice administrator is responsible for tracking production and
calculating compensation, an opportunity for the candidate to talk the structure through with the administrator and ask questions could be very reassuring.
Will the candidate have an assigned mentor? If so, be sure to let candidates know, and introduce them during the visit if possible. And if not, explain to the candidate how physicians hired before them have learned the ropes and adjusted to work in their new practices at your organization.