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Farming your local residencies: Planting the seeds today for tomorrow’s success - Spring 2015
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By Phillip J. Wallace, Baptist Health, Little Rock, AR

In a perfect world, recruiters would spend most of their time in a proactive mode rather than reactive. In reality, however, the start of a search usually begins with a call stating that the need started yesterday, followed by, “Just what have you been doing to take care of it?”

My co-worker and I recruit for (soon-to-be) 9 hospitals and over 90 clinics in both urban and rural settings; for that reason, it’s essential that we identify recruitment targets early so that we may begin our recruitment efforts, sometimes years in advance. We know that not all recruitment tactics are going to work well all of the time. This is why those of us in the healthcare industry have to be ever changing. Similarly, we may find that some proven strategies could become obsolete due to technological advances (mass-mailings v. email blasts, perhaps?); therefore, we must adjust our strategy accordingly.

For the past several years, recruiters have been battered by reports with sobering projections of anticipated physician shortages on the horizon. If you are in a reactive mode, you are already losing the battle. Can you afford to just sit in your office and fire off emails, mass mailings and place ads as your main recruitment focus? If you are proactive, on the other hand, you have already been planting the seeds for future recruitment needs within your local medical schools, residency and fellowship programs. A face-to-face encounter is an invaluable tool in your efforts to recruit physicians.

Each fall and spring, my team gives educational presentations to residency/fellowship programs on subject matter that is of great interest or importance to them. The topics vary based on interest or demand, but have included in-depth discussions on the different types of physician contracts they will encounter upon completion of their training (independent contractor, income guarantee, employment, etc.). Other topics have included more broad subjects: Choosing their professional advisors; wealth protection; private practice v. hospital-based. We even brought Coding Specialists at one point to give a mini-seminar on the aspects of proper coding. Fortunately, many of these topics, and others, are readily available through our ASPR membership in the Education Section online.

We have provided these lunch-and-learn sessions for specifically targeted programs, not only within our state but also surrounding states as well. This access allows you to “backdoor” your current and upcoming openings within your system. Most residencies are not keen on letting recruiters have a prime-time slot for bold-faced recruiting efforts. Rather, residency and fellowship programs allow access if you can give them something of value.

Since most sessions take place during regularly scheduled noon conferences, almost all of the residents/fellows are in attendance. You get to know them well during this time, almost to the point that most of them have become your friend by the time they reach their last year. Until you build and establish the program, you might not experience instant results. Nevertheless, you are building a relationship that you will be able to draw upon for many years to come.

Many physicians have come back to join us years later, through their remembrance of our sessions.

Obviously you can’t visit every specialty, every year, but you should be able to nurture some long-term relationships with a core group of specialties. That includes establishing ties with the Chief Residents and arguably the most influential person at the residency, the Residency Coordinator, since they control the physicians’ day to day lives.

Bear in mind, you will be exposing yourself to the hard questions during these visits, but it also gives you the opportunity to give honest, informed answers to these tough questions and gain the trust and respect of those in attendance. Our willingness to take that risk has paid for itself many times over, and has established a steady flow of physicians, years in advance of anticipated needs.

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