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In the healthcare sector, where medical practices are experiencing unprecedented high demand for services, the biggest challenge will always be hiring new physicians.

Staying ahead in the doctor-dating game is paramount for any medical practice with ambition. Successful healthcare organizations do more than just hire providers; they develop physician recruitment strategies that continuously attract and retain the best doctors.

So, what’s your game plan? We've gained some invaluable insights from our experience with Symphony Health that I'd like to pass on to you. Below, you'll find strategies to revamp your hiring process. By implementing these, your clinic will not only fill existing clinician positions but also create a solid strategy for successful recruitment and retention.

1. Know Your Competition

Having a recruitment strategy is like having a marketing strategy, and just like any marketing plan, the first thing to do is to check out the competition. Look at the most successful medical clinics around you. What makes them so good at attracting primary care physicians?

When we started our medical practice, we had a big advantage. Moving from the UK to Vancouver, my wife, a primary care provider, was approached to check out different medical practices interested in her skills. She then worked for two years at a clinic close to where our medical practice is now located.

This experience was priceless in forming our plan for provider recruitment. Her experiences of other healthcare facilities, their work culture, benefits packages and compensation structure allowed us to figure out how we could stand out as an attractive proposition for local physicians.

Research Job Boards: Review the job listings from competing clinics in order to offer job opportunities that are distinctive and appealing.

Conduct a Competitive Analysis: Compare the work culture, benefits, compensation structure, and other relevant factors of your clinic with those of successful competitors.

Define Unique Selling Points (USPs): Based on the competitive analysis, pinpoint what differentiates your clinic from others.

2. Hard Work to Network

Physician recruitment is a relationship business. Forge connections with medical schools, residency programs, and professional organizations. Attend career fairs, site visits, and educational conferences. Navigate local and national referral networks. The one constant across these efforts is personal connection.

We recently hired a new provider thanks to our involvement in a healthcare recruitment panel for our local district. Our active participation gave us access to expert recommendations for physician candidates that is now serving us so well.

Networking well and establishing genuine, meaningful connections requires patience and sustained effort. While this might initially seem like a daunting task, the rewards reaped in terms of sourcing dedicated and compatible medical professionals for your team are immeasurable.

Home in on Residency Programs: Establish a presence in areas where new physicians practice and teach.

Partner with Medical Schools: Long-term partnerships with medical schools can yield a considerable pipeline of top talent, especially if they’re close to commencing their careers.

Deepen Ties to Professional Associations: The connections here go beyond physicians to encompass a network of healthcare professionals and peers — a fertile ground for referrals.

3. Build an Online Presence

Social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter can be powerful tools in your recruitment arsenal. They can dramatically increase the reach of even the smallest local practice and open up all kinds of opportunities.

When we started Symphony Health, all we had was a business plan. We didn't even have an office! But by strategically using social media and creating a strong website (see below), we managed to appear much more established and attracted significant attention from physician candidates. Similarly, by advertising job openings, showing what goes on behind the scenes, and interacting with potential hires, you can not only increase your visibility but also give people a sense of your workplace culture.

Keep in mind that managing this requires significant effort and persistence. It's not enough to simply engage with social media when there's a vacancy for a physician. Regular updates are essential to stand out and make your clinic appear genuine.

Stay Connected: Regularly update your blog, podcast, or social media profiles to share experiences, accomplishments, and foster a lively community around your clinic.

Employee Advocacy: Boost your appeal through genuine doctor, staff and patient testimonials shared across personal and professional networks.

Responsive Channels: Ensure your social media channels are monitored and interact with candidates promptly — it's the beginning of establishing a responsive and caring culture.

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4. Create ‘Web Appeal’

Your clinic's website is crucial for drawing in not only patients but also top medical professionals. It often serves as the only glimpse physicians get into your clinic's life, highlighting the importance of making a strong impression.

A carefully crafted website with clear employer branding can effectively communicate your clinic's vision, values, and culture to potential staff. It not only assists in attracting top physicians but also ensures they are a good fit for your clinic's environment. I've recommended our website to countless other doctors because it accurately represents our clinic. It's played a key role in forming the medical team we have today.

High-Impact Branding: Display the essence of your healthcare organization and the services you provide in a manner that resonates with physicians' values.

Highlight the Work Environment: Employ images, videos, and staff testimonials to offer an inside look at your clinic.

Incorporate SEO and Social Media: Use search engine optimization to boost your site's visibility and connect your website to social media platforms to directly engage with potential candidates.

5. Offer Competitive Compensation

The best physicians are highly sought-after in today’s job market and possess the potential to significantly enhance your clinic's financial health. It's crucial to acknowledge their value during negotiations. Demonstrating respect for their expertise by offering the best possible terms not only attracts top talent but also fosters a positive and productive working relationship.

Being clear and upfront about what you're offering is key. If your pay structure is complicated and confusing, it might scare off potential hires before they even consider your job. If you're finding it hard to explain how your pay works, maybe it's time to make it simpler.

If you can't outdo competitors with salary alone, take a good look at what else you're offering. Things like health insurance, lots of vacation time, flexible hours, and other incentives can really make your job offer stand out.

Research and Benchmarking: Conduct thorough industry research to understand the current compensation trends for similar roles within your region.

Comprehensive Benefits Package: Beyond the base salary, develop a compelling benefits package that addresses the holistic needs of prospective physicians.

Sign-on Bonuses and Relocation Assistance: Consider offering sign-on bonuses and relocation assistance to attract talent who may not be local.

6. Champion Work-Life Balance

Offering a good work-life balance has become increasingly important in today’s job market. A survey in 2022 revealed that 85% of doctors believe work-life balance is extremely important when job hunting. With this in mind, consider making it one of your main selling points and advocating for it strongly!

In a post-COVID world, we've noticed a growing interest among doctors for jobs that provide the flexibility to work from both the office and home, or even entirely remotely. Virtual care has become a significant point of discussion in our interviews as it enables significant work-life benefits for physicians.

We’ve also found it helpful to invest heavily in our Electronic Health System (EHR). A good EHR will likely cost the equivalent of a full-time salary for a staff member but it will streamline administrative tasks for doctors, thus reducing the potential for burnout.

Implement Flexible Scheduling: By allowing physicians to have control over their work hours, you're directly contributing to a healthier work-life integration.

Expand Remote Work Opportunities: Consider offering telehealth options to patients that allow physicians the benefit of working from their chosen environment and reducing commute times.

Offer Supportive Resources: Invest in resources and medical practice management tools that streamline administrative tasks, reduce burnout, and support mental health.

7. Promote the Vision of the Team

Collaborative care is not just a strategic approach to improving patient care, but also a powerful magnet for attracting and retaining doctors.

According to Stanford University, healthcare professionals or advanced practice providers who work in team-based settings report higher job satisfaction. Clinics operating in this manner offer doctors more chances to learn from their colleagues, exchange insights, and tackle tough problems together.

At our clinic, we're dedicated to fostering a team-oriented environment. Every week, we have meetings where doctors can offer each other support and share their expertise. This has developed a strong sense of camaraderie within our team, marking a significant shift away from the isolation and loneliness that many of our doctors have experienced during their careers. It's been crucial in keeping our medical staff and has significantly enhanced our clinic's reputation in the physician community.

Highlight Success Stories: Share the achievements of your existing teams to show how collaboration has led to common healthcare goals being achieved.

Facilitate Team Bonding: Host social events or team-building activities that give candidates a chance to mix with their potential coworkers in a casual atmosphere.

Ensure a Clear Support System: Having a visible and effective support network, from administrative to clinical staff, shows a real commitment to the success of the physician.

8. Recruit the Best Support Staff

The professionalism and efforts of support staff leave a lasting impression on patients, shaping their perception of their doctor in either a positive or negative way. Doctors understand this impact well.

The way your clinic handles the recruitment, training, and retention of office staff will be a major factor in a physician candidate’s decision to join your team. It will also influence how long they choose to stay with your clinic. A good office team leads to improved patient outcomes, lower levels of stress among physicians, and a more positive work environment for them to work in.

At Symphony, we’ve seen firsthand the effect that staffing has played on the success of our clinic. After some initial recruitment mistakes, we worked hard to improve our job postings and the kind of office staff we now target. We also decided that retainment of our staff was paramount for the success of the clinic. In an industry known for its high turnover of support staff, we offer comprehensive benefits and support to create the most stable work environment for our physicians as we can.

Optimize Recruitment Strategies: Well-designed recruitment processes for staff will conserve valuable time in the long run and minimize the risk of stress or burnout within your clinic.

Invest in Training and Development: This investment will boost your staff's performance, confidence, and job satisfaction.

Promote Multidisciplinary Team Training: Collaborative training sessions can enhance team communication and patient care coordination.

9. Foster a Culture of Continuous Feedback and Improvement

When we began our practice, we inherited a clinic that seemed stuck in the 90s. Its technology, décor, and work procedures hadn't evolved over time. Sadly, this kind of stagnation is common when organizations ignore feedback and lack the motivation to improve their operations. Such a culture is readily apparent to outsiders, particularly to fellow doctors observing the clinic.

With this in mind, I’m a big believer in maintaining a learning environment where physicians feel they can grow, contribute, and improve the quality of care we provide. Cultivating a culture where feedback is welcomed, valued, and acted upon can incentivize physicians to join and stay with your practice. It signifies a commitment to personal and professional development and shows that the organization values the expertise and opinion of its staff.

Encourage regular feedback loops: Implement systems where physicians can provide and receive constructive feedback from peers and management.

Create a platform for innovation: Allow physicians to present new ideas for improving patient care or clinic operations and provide resources to test and implement these ideas.

Educational and professional development opportunities: Support continuous education through funding for conferences, additional certifications, and advanced medical courses.

10. Redefine the Interview Process

When it comes to the interview process, I have great admiration for Steve Jobs. Unlike the typical method of conducting stressful interviews in a small office space, Jobs opted for a distinctive approach, widely known as the 'beer test'.

He evaluated potential new hires by having a walk with them and sometimes grabbing a beer. This unique approach had two benefits: the relaxed atmosphere aimed to make candidates feel comfortable, enabling Jobs to better understand each person and determine if they would fit well within his team. Additionally, it allowed Jobs to quickly develop a connection with some of the world’s leading talents, earning their trust and ultimately creating a team with lasting coherence.

Using a similar method can help you confirm if a physician is the right match for your clinic and it will hopefully foster a strong, lasting connection. It might seem odd to be picky when there is such a high physician shortage. Yet, retaining staff is as critical as hiring them for long-term success. A bad hire can cost your company a lot. The American Medical Association (AMA) states that healthcare organizations can spend between $500,000 to $1 million to replace a physician. This includes recruitment, hiring, onboarding costs, and losses due to an empty role.

Being careful about who joins your team ensures that new hires are more likely to stay long-term. Look beyond a candidate's resume. Taking the time to interview well is a valuable investment in your healthcare facility's future.

Implement a Relaxed Interview Setting: Shift interviews to casual, relaxed environments like walks or cafes to help candidates be themselves and reveal their true fit for your team's culture.

Focus on Long-Term Team Dynamics: Prioritize a candidate's compatibility with team dynamics and culture over mere professional qualifications.

Invest in a Thorough Onboarding Process: Provide a comprehensive onboarding program to increase retention by making new hires feel valued and prepared for their roles.

11. Partner with Recruitment Specialists

As our clinic expands, we increasingly find our time to attend to each detail diminishing. Acknowledging that we can't master every domain, our attention must remain on vital medical operations.

Collaborating with recruitment specialists allows you to access their extensive networks, broadening your reach to a diverse array of physician candidates, including those not actively searching for jobs. You can benefit from their expertise in current employment trends and salary benchmarks, ensuring competitive offers are extended to candidates.

Of course, these services come with considerable costs. Yet, it's important to recognize that the reliable methods employed by specialists to assess job candidates could reduce the chances of making an expensive hiring error.

Evaluate Your Specific Needs: Fully understanding your requirements will help you to communicate effectively with the recruitment agency to ensure the best chance of success.

Research Recruitment Firms: Look for agencies that specialize in healthcare and have a strong reputation in your region. Check their track records, read reviews, and ask for references.

Establish Effective Communication and a Follow-Up Plan: Set up regular check-ins to discuss the progress of the search and be open to their advice on matters like compensation.

12. Retention Starts on Day One

The post-offer phase is crucial for your retention strategy. First impressions count a lot and leave a lasting memory with any new doctor you bring on board. With this in mind, create a strong onboarding process that's smooth and offer them early mentoring opportunities.

Involve your current medical team in this effort. Ask for their opinions on job satisfaction and how to enhance the experience for new doctors joining your team.

At Symphony Health, we continually adjust what we do based on our doctors' perceptions. Their feedback has led us to make changes ranging from the chairs we provide to bigger issues like how we work together as a team. Listening to their views has been and will always be key to building a practice that attracts doctors.

Mentorship Programs: Pair incoming physicians with established practitioners to foster knowledge transfer and potentially lasting relationships.

Personalize the Onboarding Experience: One-size-fits-all doesn't apply here. Explore the personal and professional needs of new physicians and design a tailored onboarding path.

Provide Early Career Support: This may include professional guidance, emotional support, and ensuring that your new staff doctors have someone invested in their success.

Summary

The healthcare industry is dealing with a serious shortage of physicians, requiring an active and thoughtful strategy for hiring. Medical practices that invest time in creating a culture of excellence, teamwork, and physician satisfaction, and know how to use this reputation to their advantage, will set themselves apart.

Take the time to analyze your own practice, and the competitive landscape and craft your own playbook.

As our medical practice expands, we understand the need to constantly improve our recruitment strategy. Even though we have a stable team right now, we can't afford to get complacent. It's crucial to keep working hard to make sure our clinic stays attractive to potential physician candidates. We're committed to growth and welcome any assistance in this regard. If you have any additional insights on how to recruit physicians, we'd be grateful to hear them.

John Payne
By John Payne

John Payne is the co-founder and company director of Symphony Health. With over 20 years of management experience John is working alongside his wife, Dr. Kate Payne to build a multi-site Medical Practice where staff work collaboratively for the good of their patients. John is passionate about improving access to quality Healthcare in North Vancouver and sharing best practice with other people managing medical practices.