Strategic Physician Recruiting Calls for Forecasting, Profiling

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , April 4, 2012

Shulkin agrees. "Depending upon the level of the position, we may approach [the creation of this profile] a little differently, but you want input. If we are doing a [department] chair search, for instance, we'd pull together a search committee and solicit formal input from members of the specialty as well as the broader medical community to get clinical and administrative characteristics of who should be in the position. For someone below that level, we might reach out to other physicians in the department and the nursing staff for that information."

The candidate profile should include the clinical qualifications, but also personality attributes that might make this candidate mesh within the department and hospital culture. These profiles can be used during telephone screening interviews and can prevent the wrong candidate from being flown in for an interview or, worse, selected for a position.

Work the in-house network
The strategic recruitment of physicians goes beyond placing an ad or using an external recruiting agency. It is a targeted search to fill the vacancy, and the sources for this story agree that having an in-house recruiter is a key to finding the best candidate—though they may use an external agency occasionally.

Twelve years ago, Centra Health, a three-hospital, $700 million system in Lynchburg, VA, eliminated its in-house recruiting team due to budget reasons, but two years ago that changed, explains Chalmers Nunn, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Centra Health and president of Centra Medical Group.

"If you look at the market and try to find a physician now, with the shortage, it's very difficult," he says. That is why the organization now uses three in-house recruiters to help locate doctors. "The other thing that has changed is hospitals are employing physicians more frequently. Now 50% of doctors are employed, and it's going up quickly—we're now in the physician business as much as we're in the hospital business."

Nunn says another reason the organization added an in-house team and stopped using agencies was the process. "It felt more like they were just résumé mills and the candidates being presented weren't vetted for how well they might fit the actual opening or hospital culture, plus the agencies were costly," he says.  In 2009 the in-house team brought in 60 candidates and filled 22 slots. This past year the team addressed 33 requests, hosted 51 candidate site visits, and oversaw 22 placements. The  total cost per candidate averaged $12,500 versus the agency cost of $25,000–$30,000 per candidate, plus another $12,000 for the marketing and any additional travel expenses for the candidates.

"We do it cheaper and better. We follow up with the candidates quickly, and if we want a candidate we get a contract to them within a couple of weeks. The only weakness with in-house recruiting is we can't cast a wide net like some of the big agencies," he says.

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