Examine the Current Recruitment Trends

Christine Menapace

Physician's Money Digest, May 15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 9

Professional recruitment is common in most industries. But in today's highly competitive medical career marketplace, attracting qualified staff is not just about getting the right person for the job; it can be about economic survival.

According to the American Hospital Association, hospitals have experienced worker shortages in nearly every type of job. In addition, 53% of hospitals in 19 malpractice "crisis" states now find it more difficult to recruit physicians.

New Tactics Used

New York Times

"The stakes are higher now at hospitals," says Herbert Pardes, MD, CEO of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in a recent article. "There's more competition. When you're trying to maintain a broad program, it's harder to match the bid if another institution is marshaling resources to steal someone away."

Stanley Brezenoff, CEO of Continuum Health Partners, New York, echoed the sentiment. "There's a lot more poaching now than there used to be. I was at a conference and someone said, ‘All our volume strategies are about stealing patients from other hospitals.' You steal a doctor and you get the patients, too," Brezenoff says.

Donna Butterfield, president of the Association of Staff Physician Recruiters and regional recruiter for Gundersen Lutheran Health Systems in La Crosse, Wis, admits that it is harder to fill positions in subspecialties than it was 5 years ago, but comments, "None of us wants to be poaching one another's physicians."

Still, Butterfield says, physician recruitment is high on a hospital's agenda of priorities. "The worst thing you can do is recruit the wrong physician," she comments, and mentions the time and money it takes to fill a position should a doctor leave—not to mention the impact on the community.

Although industry statistics are hard to find, it seems that filling a physician position can take anywhere from just a few weeks to well over 2 years. Expenses naturally vary greatly, but some estimates put the cost of recruitment at $20,000 to $25,000.

Industry Statistics

Pinnacle Health Group (PHG), a physician recruitment firm in Atlanta, Ga, reports that based on market analysis, it's becoming more difficult for medical groups to recruit physicians than it was 20 years ago. The firm remarks, "Overall, the supply of physicians is tightening, job opportunities are increasing, and job attractiveness is decreasing." PHG points to the following trends affecting physician recruitment and retention:

  • Supply vs Demand. According to US Labor Department projections, overall physician employment is expected to grow about 10% to 20% by 2010.

Early Retirement. According to the AMA, 38% of US physicians aged 50 or older plan to retire by 2007.

  • Compensation. Recent physician compensation trends reveal a leveling off that is expected to continue, except for in-demand specialties, which will show an increase. According to the Medical Group Management Association, a number of specialties—such as invasive (-6%) and noninvasive cardiologists (-4%)—experienced decreases in compensation in 2002 for the first time in several years.

Turnover. According to recent studies, over 10% of the physician workforce changes jobs annually. Top reasons include professional dissatisfaction, tightening controls on practice, and diminished job security.

  • Quality of Life. A dominant trend is that doctors are seeking more free time to spend with family and friends and to explore other recreational pursuits.

Butterfield has also seen a movement toward quality-of-life issues. "It's not just the money," she explains, "it's more about their schedule." Mentioning a physician who only wanted part-time hours, she adds, "I think we as recruiters are going to have to be creative in what we agree to have physicians work."