The majority of recruiting in the US is transactional, not strategic.  This is particularly true when it comes to physician search and is at the heart of  a lot of the problems that confront far too many rural and community hospitals.

A medical staff recruitment strategy based on volume/production

Elegant young physicians on medical video conference with young experienced doctor

versus a long-term serve-the-community vision is a recipe for costly challenges in a value-based/community health management world.  Physician, like executive search, must be more than a transaction.  It must be a solution.  

When you look back over the past 20 years or more, at the center of many hospital failures recruiting failures has been a breakdown in medical staff development and poor governance.  True, these issues were exacerbated by the fact that most physicians during this period saw a loss of control over their practices due to a myriad of regulatory changes coupled with the  fact that  they were not employees of the hospitals. To say there was dysfunctional alignment in many communities would be an understatement. 

While the preference to employ physicians will help address this knotty problem, there is still an underlying current in which some hospital executives see physicians as necessary tools of  production and revenue  — seeing patients, putting butts in the beds.

The irony is that many hospitals spend more time and money on finding the right executives than they do physicians.  There needs to be more balance since hiring the wrong physician can have just as serious long-term consequences as hiring the wrong hospital leaders.

In  the vast majority of physician searches I have witnessed as a client advisor for executive search and organizational development, more emphasis was placed on  the production/volume aspects than shared values and the organization’s  vision for the future.  Health systems and hospitals were simply inserting an element of production  —a doctor — into a hole (the practice of medicine) to meet a real or perceived need.   

That there is far too much turnover is reflective of that style of recruitment as well as the increasing manpower shortages — there is always someone willing to pay more — should be no surprise given how many organizations handle recruiting.  These two issues are linked.  Transactional recruiting actually contributes to turnover.

Our Firm’s approach takes a different tack.  Physician recruitment must be a values/vision-based activity that focuses on several keys, some obvious, many others more subtle.  In an age when we are pursing a  new generation of physicians — Millennials — playing to their values and their focus on social commitment as well as a desire for a more balanced quality of life — should be essential elements of any organization’s recruiting strategy.

Here are some recommendations to improve your recruitment performance:

  • Do not rely on the telephone.  A recruiter who exclusively relies on the telephone for the entire search process cannot possibly understand a rural or community hospital’s vision and values story. You must invest your time, get to know the people, and see and feel their vision for the future.  Yes, this contributes to a higher costs but the chances for improved outcomes far outweigh that expense/investment for the client.
  • If your hospital has not thought through this approach and you do not have a vision/values strategy, use a recruiter who understands this concept and ask them to help you build a strategy.  Our Firm incorporates this as a value-add as part of the fee.
  • It is not all about the money but if you recruit on the cheap you will probably get what you pay for, both from the firm and candidate perspective.  You sell the candidate a compelling vision for a rewarding professional and personal life, and not addressing the whole picture is short-sighted.
  • Be sure you have an updated fair market value appraisal and then use that to build a package to attract the best available physician talent, not those who will settle for less.  Admittedly, the former is no guarantee of long-term success, but the latter is sure way to regret.
  • Expect more from your recruiter.  Select a search consultant or firm that will enthusiastically buy in to the opportunities at your hospital and in your community, someone who can embrace and take ownership of your vision for the future.    Recruiters who simply peddle paper (resumes) — the equivalent of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole — is an approach that may have worked in the past but the evidence is that today, it is out of step with the next generation of doctors. 
  • Require more insight.  This is tough to do when the recruiter has never met the members of the medical practice or staff.
  • Insist on more value.  Require background checks, references and a longer placement guarantee.  The latter is the best way to ensure that your recruiter will have skin in the game. 
  • Add to the value by requiring your recruiter to provide onboarding support as well as a team-building seminar as part of the physician recruitment package.  The latter is becoming common place in executive and management recruiting,  Doctor recruiting is just as important.

Find Out More:  Values/Vision Strategic Physician Recruiting

Our Firm focuses on strategic solutions.  To learn more about how JohnGSelf + Partners can help your organization, contact John G. Self, Managing Partner or Laura Merker, Dr. PH, RN, Managing Director in New York.  We can help take your organization navigate the future with talent acquisition and integration, interim executives, coaching, medical staff development and alignment. 214.761.5472.