Physician Retention: It All Begins with Recruitment
By Laura Screeney, FASPR, Corporate Director, North Shore-LIJ, New York
Physician turnover: It’s the term that makes hospital administrators shake, scheduling managers nervous, patients anxious, and in-house physician recruitment professionals evaluate their strategies.
How can we prevent physician turnover? We can’t. Reduce it? We can. Here are 10 physician recruitment strategies that will help reduce turnover and improve retention:
1. Build and maintain support for your in-house physician recruitment function — this is where it all begins.
Your in-house physician recruitment team is the candidate’s first point of contact with your organization and, in many instances, into your community. These professionals are an extension to every specialty department in the organization and it is the goal of your physician recruitment department to showcase the department, facility and community.
2. Conduct a thorough primary screening...
...whether it be over the telephone, at a medical conference, or at a job fair. Make sure you provide as much information on the position, facility and community as you can, while gathering information on the candidate, including their clinical, professional, and personal needs in a community. John Larson, director of physician and advanced practitioner recruitment for Baystate Health in Springfield, MA, recommends that recruitment professionals optimize their selection techniques. “Hire for cultural fit to the organization, determine key competencies desired, and incorporate behavioral event interview (BEI) questions into the interview process,” Larson said.
3. Invite your department/site leader to conduct a telephone meeting.
If a physician recruitment professional and a clinical/executive lead both spend time on the telephone, or at a conference with a candidate, chances are better that a site visit will be time and money well spent. If either party feels that there is not a good fit during this “pre-interview process,” it is OK to say thank you and walk away.
4. Site visit.
If steps 1-3 go well (from both the candidate and employer perspective), a well-orchestrated site visit is your next goal. Create a full itinerary (travel, community time, tours of facilities, multi-disciplinary meets and greets, special requests) that represents your community and facility at its best.
5. Crucial conversation.
I would recommend this take place at the end of a site visit, or within 24 hours of the candidate’s return home. Now is the time to determine if both sides feel the same way: Do we want to move forward (make an offer? second visit?) or part ways?
6. Move forward.
If both sides agree there is a good match, then the onboarding process begins. This can include a verbal offer, a letter of intent and/or a contract. A written commitment lets the candidate know that you are serious, and should include: financials, terms, time frame, credentialing/screening clause, and an expiration date on the offer. Larson said that Baystate Health’s Physician Recruitment Task Force established practices to optimize onboarding. “We created an onboarding toolkit for hiring teams with customizable checklists for ‘must-happen’ activities prior to start date, first week, and first 90 to 180 days,” he said. “It’s important not only for physicians but for advanced practitioners.”
7. During negotiations...
...have the onboarding specialist work with the physician on everything from licensure to privileging to relocation (if necessary). Be available — make sure the candidate has one key point of contact throughout this entire process, as the onboarding process can be overwhelming.
8. Be open and honest.
Make sure that mutual expectations are established, or you could be replacing this physician before long.
9. Make sure the needs of the candidate and family (if applicable) are met.
“Establish social and community connections for the family by creating ‘thank you’ events to show appreciation. Bring people together for fun times such as sporting events, family picnics, wine tastings, symphonies, outdoor concerts, comedy venues, and so on” Larson suggested. He added, “We created a resource group that begins with an in-person welcome to the family to share resources like day care and job networking for spouses.”
10. Continue mentoring and buddy programs, community welcomes, checking in — retention has begun!
Larson said that Baystate Health created an internal support system for the new provider. “Oftentimes, as many as three individuals may be needed to assimilate a new provider into a complex culture,” he said. “Go across departments to create your internal support team.”
A thorough and user friendly recruitment and onboarding process will definitely have a direct impact on the “happy factor” of the physicians in your organization — and happy physicians translate to lower turnover, higher patient satisfaction, higher quality of care and a positive bottom line for your organization. As many ASPR members may know, our friend and colleague Tim Skinner, 3R Net, LaCrosse, WI, likes to make up words — and one of them has really hit home with all of us in the industry — “recruitention.” I could not have said it better myself.