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Journal of ASPR - Winter 2013 - Are you planning for the physician shortage?
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Are you planning for the physician shortage?

By Jason Crepeau, Product Manager, Physician Recruitment Manager, HealthcareSource

Physician recruitment professionals face a tough environment. Demand for healthcare services is on the rise as the population continues to age rapidly. Over the next 10 years, the US Census Bureau projects a 36 percent increase in people over 65. Unfortunately, one third of physicians today are over 55 and likely to retire by 2020, which will cause significant supply and demand issues for health services. Becoming a physician usually means high levels of educational debt and primary care physicians, in particular, receive relatively low levels of compensation, comparatively. This, along with other factors, will cause many to reconsider entering the field of medicine. The Association of American Medical Colleges has estimated that by 2020, the United States will face a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians.

All of these forces combined create a challenging situation for physician recruiters nationwide. To ensure that hospitals are prepared to offer excellent patient service today and in the years ahead, recruiters are incorporating many different approaches into their plans for attracting and retaining physicians. Mike Fitzner, physician recruiter, War Memorial Hospital, Sault Ste. Marie, MI, described three techniques he uses to find new physicians to join their team.

Identify passive candidates in creative ways

Healthcare professionals with ties to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are often interested in returning. To cultivate relationships with medical students from the local area, War Memorial started an outreach program about five years ago. The hospital holds events to familiarize students with the organization, sends emails with hospital publications, and offers rotations with hospital staff. Fitzner said, “Even small things, like sending occasional text messages about new developments at the hospital keeps us ‘front of mind’ with prospective hires. Small touches remind candidates we’re here, show we have a great place to work, and help build favorable impressions of our hospital over time.”

At any given time, War Memorial reaches out to between 10 and 20 medical students who have roots in the area. The program is beginning to pay dividends. For example, a physician assistant who grew up in the community did clinical rotations at the hospital and then took a job there. Several other students in the outreach program are now finishing their medical training and War Memorial hopes to see them return.

Manage the active candidate pool efficiently

One challenge for War Memorial is finding candidates who want to move to a rural area. The hospital faces shortages in several areas such as internal medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry. Fitzner said, “Finding doctors is a numbers game. Having access to people with a sincere interest is key.” Staying organized is central to identifying the best candidates. War Memorial’s physician applicant tracking system helps him keep everything in one place. Fitzner can go back and review past conversations he had with candidates and flag those that seem like the best fit. The software also makes it easier to show the administrative team data about candidates who’ve been contacted.

Keep physicians happy and engaged

To keep pace with patient healthcare demands, once hospitals hire physicians, they need to make sure they’re happy. Retention is as important as recruiting. Fitzner said, “With so many hospitals looking for doctors, it’s easy for physicians to move. Keeping them happy and integrated with the community is essential.” Quality of life and work/life balance are more important than ever before to physician candidates. Fitzner said he builds relationships with candidates and maintains contact with physicians over time to make sure they are satisfied at War Memorial.

Journal of ASPR - Winter 2013

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