The ability to do a nationwide search, however, is not necessarily a weakness when it comes to locating the best candidate. Shulkin, Blaser, and McMahon say reaching out to internal staff is often a better approach to the process.
"We always start locally, and we always start with our own internal family of physicians and staff," says Shulkin. "We often find the best fit comes from the people who already know us. If we need a radiologist, we'll ask a mammographer or a breast surgeon or oncologist if they know of someone in the area or someone who might move to the area."
Larger systems have a network of physicians to draw upon—something Mercy Medical Center is able to capitalize on through the CHI network.
"Our size is an advantage that we can leverage to keep our recruiting search costs down. There's a national database for all our recruiters to use," says Deveny. "And when we do have to use an external agency, we've put together a set of standards for our vendor contracts so we can't get taken advantage of on the pricing of the services—plus CHI has agreements with nine national recruiting companies."
The organization is also developing a profile with the qualities a CHI physician should possess, as well as a set of standard benefits and cultural norms that can be expected at all hospitals within the network. With 76 hospitals and other healthcare facilities in 19 states, the organization anticipates that by adding these attributes into the network it can retain more physicians within its family of hospitals. "If a physician is ready to leave, then they can choose another of our hospitals and know there will be certain standards they can rely on," says McMahon.
Candidate searches can also be done over time by working with university medical students and residents. "If you have a local medical school or residency program, building relationships with those residents early on pays dividends," says Stovall. "We give free classes about practice management and offer training and leadership classes to those residents to create a welcoming environment early on in their residency so they'll consider staying in the area."
These targeted approaches to recruiting candidates for current and future vacancies do take more time; however, more traditional blanket searches done by agencies or through national job board postings can be more expensive. Ultimately, the difference between recruiting and strategic recruiting is time, money, and fit. Recruiting is the search for any candidate to fill a position—it can produce candidates quickly, and it can be expensive. In contrast, strategic recruiting is a laser-focused hunt for the best physician to fill an opening. It can take more time to find the best candidate, but the benefit is in the doctor's employment longevity with the hospital.
"It's hard to put the price on finding the right physician for a job. We know when we pick a person that's not the right fit it's very expensive to the organization," says Shulkin. "We're getting smarter about recruiting … we're looking for longer-term relationships with physicians."
This article appears in the March 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.