Department Focus: Quality - A Family Decision

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When it comes to physician recruitment, winning over a spouse and kids can be just as important as persuading the doc.

Many hospitals offer a familiar set of incentives when recruiting physicians—competitive pay, a benefits package, an updated facility. But as the market for doctors becomes increasingly competitive, more organizations are recognizing they must do more than just recruit the physician in question—they have to take proactive steps to convince the family, too.

"The spouse is at least 50% or more of the decision," says Jim Fuller, vice president of marketing and former director of physician placement at Dallas-based The Delta Company, a recruiting and staffing firm. "It's important to show how their needs can be met in the community."

Parkview Health System in Ft. Wayne, IN, has seen results from its efforts to make a physician's entire family part of the interview process, says Lynn Hatfield, director of physician recruitment for the six-hospital system. The daughter of one physician prospect, for example, was a competitive swimmer, Hatfield says. When the family visited Ft. Wayne, the daughter worked out with a local swimming team. "We sold them. They ended up coming," Hatfield says. In another instance, the wife of a physician was an active volunteer at the Humane Society animal shelter in her town. While the physician interviewed, Hatfield took the wife to the animal shelter, where she met the staff and helped with the strays. The two women, covered in dog and cat hair, had to buy a lint brush before returning to the hospital—but an emotional attachment to the community was made, Hatfield says.

Fuller recommends that hospitals set up a separate itinerary to cover the family's concerns. "We also like to connect them with similar people. If they're a young family, we connect them with other young families similar to them to see how they enjoy the quality of life."

Martin Osinski, president of the National Association of Physician Recruiters, notes that physician spouses are often themselves well-educated, career-oriented, and motivated professionals. Hospitals can score points by helping the spouse find a job or educational opportunities in their new community. "The idea is not just to have a doctor take a position. You want the doctor to become a part of the community and the environment," says Osinski. "The way to do that is to make sure that not only are their needs met, but their family's needs are met, too."

Meeting those needs can be a costly endeavor. Some hospitals, for instance, offer on-site daycare, health club memberships, and flexible schedules. A hospital in Boca Grande, FL, offers physicians and their families membership in beach and golf clubs and the use of a beachside vacation home. But there are some relatively inexpensive gestures a hospital or health system can make, as well. Kurt Mosley, senior vice president of business development at Dallas-based Merritt Hawkins & Associates, recalls an instance in Nebraska when a visiting physician's wife fell in love with a painting she had seen displayed at a restaurant where the couple was dining after the job interview. The hospital system's CEO bought the painting and sent it to her via overnight express. "The cost of the painting was minuscule. It was a local artist. It was something like $200, but it was very unique," Mosley says. "The common thread is that the hospitals that want it the most get the doctor."

Smaller gestures can also be effective when trying to win over the physician's children. Mosley recalls how one recruiter in Illinois helped seal the deal with a physician after hearing the family's concerns that the move would disrupt their daughter's training in the Suzuki violin method. "When they came to the community and went to the realtor's office, there was the Suzuki violin teacher. The match was made. Done," Mosley says.

Another hospital system in Phoenix, Mosley says, learned that a physician's son was a baseball fan. They took the family to an Arizona Diamondbacks game when they visited the city. "So many hospitals in the past would just say ‘This is a great town. You'll love it here.' That is not enough anymore," Mosley says. "You're moving not just a doctor. You're moving a whole lifestyle."

John Commins

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