January 28, 2015

Recruiting Primary Care Physicians: The How-To’s

Based on their more than 13 years of physician recruitment experience, Michelle Houchin and Shannon McKay of Adkisson Search Consultants have a ready answer for human resource professionals and executive directors of medical facilities when they ask, “So, how early should we start looking?”

Yesterday. Or even better, months ago. Best case, 1-2 years out.

“Everyone is looking for primary care physicians these days, so the residents have a huge market to explore. They can go where they want and name their salary and other benefits,” says Houchin.

That fact creates a more urgent need for clinics and health care facilities in rural locations to start their search sooner rather than later, as not as many physicians want a rural location in which to practice and live. “The number is small—maybe 20-30 physicians a year,” Houchin explains.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to find the right physician for a rural location or an FQHC. Adkisson has a high success rate of placing physicians in the right health care facility, thus creating a win-win situation for both the employer and employee. “We sometimes see clients get desperate,” says McKay, “which unfortunately means they don’t always take the time to look at the right things that will ensure that perfect placement.”

The challenge of finding the right fit can be more easily met if the human resources director, or whomever the point person for the health care facility is, takes the time to qualify the doctor to see if there is a good match. “Asking a lot of questions up front can solve a ton of problems,” adds McKay.

Questions to Ask:

  • Ask the candidate to explain his or her long term goals and then compare those to the other opportunities they are considering. Do they really seem like they have a passion for the type of position you need to fill?
  • What are the reasons they are looking at your facility’s location? Are they from the area? Do they have family nearby? Family, getting closer to home, is a huge draw.
  • Is the candidate’s spouse on board with a rural location? Did s/he accompany the candidate to the interview? If the spouse came along, it could indicate buy-in; if not, this candidate will likely not be a great fit for your facility.
  • Check out the candidate’s CV. Where did s/he go to college and medical school? These and other locations where the candidate has spent a significant amount of time might clue you in to the type of environment they prefer.
  • Ask what their medical focus is or what their areas of interest are based on their residency experience. What kinds of procedures do and don’t they like? FQHCs and rural practices typically see a different kind of patient than an urban practice. If the types of procedures common in the patient base are among the least preferred (or experienced), the fit might not be right. A similar question would be, does the candidate enjoy working with a diverse population?
  • What are the compensation expectations? Do they fit in with the location?
  • Raise quality of life questions: What kinds of activities, hobbies, outside interests does the candidate (and family members) have? Are these available in the geographic area?
  • Ask the candidate to share how s/he has changed over the years, especially with regard to the idea of becoming a physician and the reality of their experience in residency.

Answers to Have Prepared

Of course, during the course of the recruitment process, the candidate will have questions about your facility as well. These may include topics such as:

  • Do you offer a stipend for a commitment? If so, what are the details?
  • Do you provide student loan repayment? (This is a hot trend right now.)
  • What is the patient base like?
  • How long have the other physicians/nurses/other medical staff/administration been at this facility? What is the general culture like?

Be ready to answer these types of questions honestly and accurately so that the candidate has a clear picture of your facility and patient case load.

Above all, remember that you’re dealing with people. No matter how great they look on paper or how well they interview, there has to be satisfaction on both sides of the table to have a great fit. It’s important to communicate often with candidates with phone calls, e-mails, and even texts. The follow-up details regarding pertinent information may be the deciding factor in a great placement. Just what that “pertinent information” might be is hard to tell—so make sure you touch base regularly.

You want the best candidate; the physicians want a great situation. Finding out as much as you can as early as you can will serve to narrow down the possibilities for both parties to feel they’ve made the right decision.

And start yesterday.

Wiese, B, (2015) Recruiting Primary Care Physicians: The How-To’s. Bloomington, IL.

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