Wisconsin Program Matches Doctors and Rural Communities
For some people, moving away from their small hometown is the ultimate goal but others want the complete opposite. To help physicians find the perfect placement, they turn to Randy Munson at the UW–Madison’s New Physicians for Wisconsin program. New Physicians for Wisconsin is a physician recruitment program that helps physicians find satisfying careers in Wisconsin communities, and also helps clinics, hospitals and health care systems fill vacant positions. Read full article from the University of Wisconsin News, by Meredith Kervin.
Tips & Advice
Tip: Pro-active Physician Recruitment Tips and Advice
So what does “Retention” mean anyway? In regards to the employment of physicians, most folks probably associate retention with the end of the search for a new provider. And true, a lot of retention activities do not occur until a clinic or hospital has actually hired a new physician. But a very, very important piece of retention has to occur at the very beginning of the search process: making a good match in the first place.
Many physician recruiters will tell you that a good match involves a couple different elements: the physician match & the family match. The physician match is basically how well what the candidate is seeking in a position matches with what the employer is looking for [and has to offer]. This can include the work/call hours, procedure requirements, facilities/equipment perspectives, patient “load”, employer rules & regulations, and [maybe most important] the attitude/congeniality/cohesiveness of the peers and staff at the facility/ies the new physician will be working at. Much of this is determined from the very start of the recruitment process, and with some of these issues it is easy to tell if the candidate-employer match is a good “fit” or not. One must know what the candidate desires [or can live with] regarding the parameters of the position and the facility/ies. Ask pointed questions before an on-site interview is arranged. Make sure all your staff is “on-board” with what the candidate seeks. Do not assume everyone is; know this for sure. You do not want any surprises the first week or month of a physician’s employment. A good first impression is a valuable retention tool; a bad first impression can mean you better start thinking about starting your recruitment search again in a year. Do all your homework and make a good match up front!
A few physician recruiters may confide that spouse/family match is not all that important in their opinion. “We are recruiting the doctor, not the spouse” or “It’s a great job and a great place to live….they’ll adapt and be fine” they may state. Depending on who they work for and where they are located, some may even get by with this and have some degree of success recruiting new providers. However my feeling is that individuals who adopt this “policy” are not nearly as successful as they could be. I’d also very much like to hear what the turn-over rate among their physicians is. I’d be willing to bet that it’s higher than it should/could be. A major role in physician retention is simply how happy the spouse/family are in their new locale. Ask any “seasoned” physician recruiter this, and they will concur. Better yet, ask physicians who have left jobs why they did, and you’ll find that close to 50% leave due to some type of family reason [and nothing at all related to the physician’s job]. Involving the spouse /family early in the recruitment process is a critical piece related to retention. It shows you care about their needs, as well as those of the physician you wish to employ. Find out what the spouse’s and the family’s needs are from both professional perspectives [employment interests, educational interests, etc.] and personal perspectives [cultural, recreational, motivational, etc.] and look to see if these interests can be met within your area. Assist with information-gathering for the spouse before the on-site interview, so that when the physician and the family do come to visit the spouse can then see in-person what is available and possible for them in your area. Give them equal [or more!] attention when it comes to tours of the schools, parks, retail, government, and industry components of your community/area. Try to determine if what you have to offer is a good match from their point of view. You might even be able to bring things to the spouse’s/family’s attention that they never thought of, or knew you had to offer. Engage the spouse and family in the conversation, so that a month or two from now they will remember your attention to them. In summation: retention of physicians in your community and/or with your clinic/hospital is a process that starts at the very beginning of the recruitment process. Making a good match from both your perspective, and equally from the physician’s, spouse’s and family’s perspectives is the best way to keep from having to recruit again for the same position every other year.
Tip: Sourcing Physician Candidates: most bang for buck
There are a myriad of options available when it comes to seeking a new physician for one’s clinic or hospital. Seasoned physician recruiters deal with these every day in their jobs. Many are assigned to make decisions on what to use and when. Having this assignment with the New Physicians for Wisconsin program, I have come to rely on several sources year-in and year-out that seem to generate the largest number of potential candidates for the positions that are available to Wisconsin clinics and hospitals. These are (in no particular order):
- PracticeLink [a physician recruitment website that send e-mails daily with the names and contact info of candidates they have identified and received information from. Geographic preference is noted.]
- The National Rural Recruitment & Retention Network (3RNet) [a physician organization comprised of NFP state & university-based physician recruitment programs. Sources physician candidates and sends e-mail with names and contact info. Limits this mainly to those interested in one’s respective state. Only accessible to the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health through the New Physicians for Wisconsin program].
- Residency Program Presentations [having the privilege of speaking directly to resident physicians regarding the job market in Wisconsin. Not accessible to everyone. The New Physicians for Wisconsin program speaks annually at all 10 family medicine residency programs statewide.
- The American Academy of Family Physicians journal & website [still a consistent source of family medicine physician candidates interested in jobs here in Wisconsin. Has the largest circulation of any family medicine journal. Widely read by family physicians. Website advertising becoming the preferred venue over print ads in journal, but both are still valuable]
- HealthECareers [a website that has become the official job-listing forum for several national physician societies and organizations. Excellent source of physician candidates in the specialties of ob/gyn, general surgery; and psychiatry]
- AAOS Placement Service [a good source of physician candidates in orthopedic surgery. Is the official website of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgery]
There are many other websites and journals that one can utilize depending of the physician specialty being recruited. The ones listed above are the ones that the New Physicians for Wisconsin program seems to have the best “success” with year-in and year-out. Perhaps if your budget allows, you too may wish to consider one or more of these sourcing venues to assist you with your physician recruitment needs.
Tip: The “site visit” by a physician candidate is obviously a very, very important component of the entire physician recruitment process. The old saying” you only get one chance to make a good first impression” rings true during the few hours/days when a candidate is at your facility. Physician recruiters are keenly aware that EVERYONE needs to be on the “same page”, and demonstrate a friendly, positive attitude toward the candidate. It only takes one negative person or conversation to ruin everything positive from all the others involved. Here are a few tips to make the site visit run as smoothly and positively as possible:
- Always remember that the candidate is interviewing you, just as you are interviewing them. Be sure to give the candidate time to talk about both professional and personal issues.
- Little things make big impressions: have your staff address the candidate by name, not simply “Hello, how are you?”. Set yourself apart from the competition. Make the candidate feel “special”. Everybody wants to be wanted!
- Make sure everyone knows what their involvement in the interview entails and where they HAVE to be at a certain time. Making a candidate wait is never a good thing, it can be taken as indifference, and that is always a negative. How would you feel?
- If you are in a rural community, get the entire community involved. While the professional side of the interview is obviously important, many times it’s the personal side that is the deciding factor. Learn as much as you can about the candidate and his/her spouse and family BEFORE the interview. You can arrange a meeting with the school principal, the mayor, a CEO of a major employer, the police chief, and a realtor. All these community members have a unique perspective on your town that they can share in a positive way. If you know the candidate and/or spouse like to hunt and/or fish, try getting the head of the local rod & gun club talk with them a bit about outdoor activities in your area. I bet that will make an impression they won’t forget!
- Try having dinner at one of the physician’s homes, instead of a restaurant. This works especially well if there are quite a few physicians in the medical group the candidate may be joining. Restaurants are fine, but someone’s home is much more intimate and offers a better chance for everyone to interact with the candidate/spouse. You can cater in food if need be.
- On a physician interview, there is a lot to talk about and see in a short period of time(ideally 2 full days). However please try to set aside 3-4 hours at some point for the physician candidate and his/her spouse to simply relax and take-in all that they have seen/heard. Running from person to person and place to place is tiring, even over just a couple days. Give the candidate time to “recharge” a little.
- Lastly, and maybe most importantly, simply be prepared. Good physician recruiters are all too aware of this. Have everything and everyone ready and willing. Some may view the site visit as a “first date”, but actually it’s more than that. If preparations have been done thoroughly, this is not so much a “let’s learn about you” meeting, as a “lets’ confirm or not confirm” what we already know about each other meeting. Those who prepare the best, even with a “lesser product”, tend to be more successful than those who take things
Tip: “And the times they a changing….” (and will be even more)…..
Medical students are ever more increasingly staying away from the primary care specialties that may demand more of their time than many of those in specialty care fields. It is becoming ever more popular to choose a specialty that fits one’s lifestyle, rather than choosing one that potentially can “consume” it. More than ever, choosing a field of endeavor in medicine involves choosing one that balances both the professional demands of the job with the personal needs of the physician and her/his family. With certain physician specialties, it’s much more likely that once you leave your clinic, you can turn your beeper off and/or not have to be ready to run into the hospital for a patient. With others (such as primary care, general surgery, etc.), there are certain responsibilities that come with the job that entail work beyond that once the clinic doors close for the day. And this leads to a lifestyle that is much less “controllable” than a young physician may desire. One off-shoot of this trend is the increase in “outpatient-only” type primary care positions, where the physician only sees patients in a clinic-setting, and all hospital care for the provider’s patients is provided by other (hospitalist) physicians. This type of position has become popular and ever-increasingly in demand not just in family medicine, but in internal medicine and pediatric medicine as well. So “flexibility” in recruitment of providers has become a necessity for success. While taking care of patients is what a physician does, nowadays most feel they must be able to take care of themselves first.
Tip: When a potential candidate is sourced, remember that responsiveness is an absolute priority. Make the phone call or send the e-mail message ASAP to let this potential future colleague know just how interested you are in them. Nothing makes a better first impression and says “We want you!” more than a prompt initial reply conversation. Postponing this only allows for the competing organizations that the candidate has also approached to “get there first”, and to make the candidate feel they sincerely value them above the others who have not felt the need to be so responsive.
Tip: When you do contact a candidate for the first time, please be prepared. Review the candidates resume thoroughly. You don’t need to waste time asking them where they did their medical education….it’s right there on the resume! Have a list of pertinent & ethical questions ready to go. Know exactly what it is you seek in a new colleague, from both a professional and a personal standpoint. During the conversation, allow the candidate to ask questions of you as well; for they are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them(and maybe even more these days!). Get back with them promptly with any information you were not able to give them in the initial conversation.
If the initial contact suggested the candidate may be a good “fit” for both sides, then share all information you gleaned from your initial conversation with the others in the medical group. If necessary, perhaps another member of the group can also call/write with additional information the candidate requested or if the group has further information from the candidate it requires, or simply to say “Thank you” from the entire group for his/her interest. Making a candidate feel sincerely wanted many times is the difference between the candidate coming for an interview with you instead of the 3-4 other clinics down the road(who probably have just as much if not more to offer!). Put yourself in the mindset of the candidate: how would you want to be treated if the roles were reversed? The shortage of physician candidates these days coupled with an ever increasing number of available jobs, simple things like showing sincere interest through promptness and preparedness can be the difference between a candidate coming to visit your facility, or your competitors.
Tip: Should we hire a new provider?
Everybody these days seems to be looking to hire a new primary health care provider, much more so than even a few years ago. In many primary health care specialties, the demand has totally out-stripped the supply, making recruitment extremely difficult. Realizing this, how does a clinic or hospital go about determining if a need really does exist at their facility? The following are some considerations one may choose to utilize to determine this, and if indeed recruitment is justified.
- Determine the ratio of service area population compared to the FTE of providers you currently have. Is it within national and/or regional standards? Does “supply” not meet “demand”?
- What is a patient’s “wait time” to get in to see your providers?
- Are your facilities profitable currently? Could your current providers handle additional patient loads instead?
- Do your providers seem overworked and “stress-out”? Is being “on-call” too often constant source of complaint?
- Are any of your providers nearing retirement? What about 3 years from now?
- Have any of your providers talked of “scaling-down” their practice or dropping some services/procedures they have previously always provided?
- What is the population growth of your service area?
- Has there been provider defections from other facilities in/near your service area?
- Are you losing patients to other nearby clinics/hospitals because patients cannot be seen on a timely basis?
- Is there a demand for additional services currently not provided or under-provided?
- Are the needs of your patient population changing?
c. Hospital usage
- Can you afford the start-up “costs” involved with hiring a new provider?
a. Initial salary & benefits
b. Office space and equipment
c. Marketing expenses
d. Will the moral of current employees be affected negatively by the addition of a new provider?
There may be other criteria that you utilize to determine your specific needs. Whatever the criteria is that you choose to use, if the decision is made to actively recruit a new provider the important thing is to have a concrete recruitment plan and dedicated individuals who know their respective roles to carry this plan forward. And broad-based community support is essential for success.