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Recruiting Physician Leaders - Winter/Spring 2016
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By Jennifer Feddersen, FASPR, PHR, SHRM-CP, MSM, Manager, Executive, Physician, and Advance Practice Practitioner Recruitment, Henry Ford Health System

Physician leaders and careers in physician management are vital in the current healthcare environment. As stated by “medical management represents a rapidly growing and fast-changing field that integrates the knowledge, skills, ethics and values of medicine with knowledge, skills, ethics and values of leadership and management.” The executive hiring process is incredibly important, as physician leaders can have a profound impact on the big picture in an organization.

Physician leaders are vital to the operations of a department. First off, they are instrumental in creating the vision, the mission, and the direction of a given department. Secondly, they facilitate innovation, patient safety, and quality experience, and they offer a core responsibility to move the department forward. Physician leaders also add accountability, and empower their peers to move the needle forward in their team or organization.

You may be surprised to realize that much of what goes into finding a candidate is finding someone with great soft skills and someone who will fit the culture of the department. Experience and qualifications are extremely important, but as we are dealing with physicians, there is no shortage of expertise and experience. Some qualities grab our attention right away in a candidate. First and foremost, an eagerness to learn, and an ability to adapt and be open to change is extremely important. With constant change in the industry, it’s mandatory that our hires are comfortable with this atmosphere. Secondly, we find humility and accountability pivotal for anyone in a leadership position; the hire must be able to hold themselves and others accountable. Finally, they must be fair and consistent. Consistency and results are what set many leaders apart from their colleagues. In the end, however, the industry still has a mind of its own and sometimes none of it is in our control.

The importance of including peers
Finding a physician leader in the world is all about core competencies. We begin by gauging the culture fit for candidates coming in and then analyze their core skills in comparison with what the position entails. The best way to do this is to create a search committee. This is a committee made up of 7-15 people who will end up being the biggest customers of that department, much of the time these include key stakeholders. Starting with a search committee ensures that those who will be collaborating the most with the executive come to a consensus on the hire, and therefore become invested in both the success of the individual and the organization. This strategy is always successful and fosters cohesiveness between all of those involved. Bringing the search committee to the table also reinforces collaboration and creates a bond and a strong, positive dialog from the beginning. Instead of finger pointing, you’re given an opportunity to have a direct conversation outlining specific needs for both parties involved. This creates a mutual experience for the candidate and those on the search committee, cultivating growth beyond the initial hiring process.

My personal process
For over 10 years, I have served as the managing recruiter for the physician recruitment department of Henry Ford Health System. Henry Ford has over 1200 physicians across 40 specialties, and I personally recruit for 15 different departments, including the entire executive health system branch. Throughout my experience, four things stand out to me when recruiting the executives:

  • What specific strategies can be employed to find the best candidates?
  • Fostering the ongoing success of a new hire is just as important as the initial hiring process.
  • Candidates must be a culture fit first and job-fit second.
  • The industry is ever-changing with new legislation and standards. To stay up to date, we need a passionate physician leader.

Growing Challenges and Opportunities
One of the largest challenges facing the recruiting industry is physicians aging out of their positions and turnover within the industry. HealtheCareers reported in a survey of 565 healthcare employers, “Respondents ranked turnover and the physician shortage as the top concerns for hiring and recruiting in 2015.” That may seem scary, but by employing the correct strategies you can overcome many challenges facing the profession today.

We are very lucky and unique here at Henry Ford. We just celebrated our 100th year anniversary, and with this rich history we’ve grown accustomed to turnover and the natural progression in the field. Going forward, because healthcare is quickly and constantly evolving,  physician leaders will have to be learners and be willing to see the big picture with all the pieces that go into a leadership role. The benefit to having a person in place with short term and long term goals for a department completely outweighs any negatives associated with hiring physician leaders. They are essential in not only seeing the big picture, but the ongoing painting of that picture.

© 2016 Association of Staff Physician Recruiters. All rights reserved.
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