Healthcare Recruiting Trends Survey: Make Succession Plans Now to Avoid Physician Shortage

Health eCareers’ new 2015 Healthcare Recruiting Trends Survey found that the demand for healthcare services is predicted to swell over the next 10 years. Unfortunately, the supply of healthcare providers is unlikely to keep up with this increased demand, creating a shortage of qualified physicians – especially those in family medicine, psychiatry, internal medicine and a variety of other specialties.

Health eCareers offers tips for healthcare employers and recruiters to address the intense hiring challenges created by the gap between physician supply and demand.

Factors Creating Physician Shortage
Bryan Bassett, Managing Director of Health eCareers, says four demand-side factors are driving this shortage: millions of newly insured people entering the system due to the Affordable Care Act, aging baby boomers with increased medical needs, aging caregivers reaching retirement age and a stronger economy.

There are also lifestyle factors at play causing shortages in specific fields, such as primary care. “Although more students are actually entering medical schools and residency programs than a decade ago, today’s young physicians often choose to specialize rather than choosing primary care as a way of ensuring a better work-life balance than their predecessors,” says Bassett.

But there’s also good news for hospitals hoping to hire new doctors.

“In the past two years, we have seen more physicians who want to be employed by healthcare organizations rather than going into private practice,” explains Barkley Davis, Senior Director, Physician Recruitment at LifePoint Hospitals®, a public company with 70 hospitals in 22 states focused primarily in non-urban markets. “They’re looking for a stable environment that has financial backing and a lot of things already in place, such as a built-in practice, electronic records, billing and collections and minimal financial risk. It’s a security thing.”

Five Tips for Hiring Doctors Today and Tomorrow
Bassett and Davis offer tips to healthcare employers and recruiters to address the physician shortage without shorting the bottom line with new and expensive physician incentives.

1. Anticipate shortage cycles and plan ahead
Much like the financial markets, the healthcare landscape is in a constant state of flux. “The biggest issue of all for recruiters is planning for the unknown,” says Bassett. His advice to recruiters is to look ahead and make succession plans now.

Davis offers another idea: use stipends to build affinity with doctors while they’re still in training. “If residents can commit early to practice with us, maybe one-to-two years out, then we have a package where we can start paying them a monthly stipend,” he says.

2. Design new types of compensation packages
Recruiters must recognize and respond to the changing needs – both financial and lifestyle – of new physicians.

Davis cautions against relying solely on salary to attract new doctors. Instead, he says it’s important to look for other financial incentives that aren’t tied directly to salary. “The number one thing that almost all new doctors need is debt relief,” explains Davis.

Bassett adds that the needs and wants of today’s providers – ultimately, being happy and satisfied in their work – aren’t always financially motivated. “You’re going to need to design things like job sharing and thoughtful compensation packages that are economically feasible for your hospital but also give professionals the work-life balance they want.”

3. Build and nurture your pipeline
Building a pipeline of talent could be all in who you know – or who you don’t know you know.

“There needs to be more forward thinking about using talent relationship management, as well as job boards and association contacts, to meet candidates and stay in touch with those who might be available in a year or two when you need them,” says Bassett.

This pays off in succession planning, and it may even help healthcare employers get a jump-start on the next specialist cycle. “Make sure you’re recruiting in specialties where you can make hires today, even if you’re a couple years out because those areas will get tight again,” he advises.

4. Stretch the chain of command
Aggressive tactics often come into play in physician recruiting because doctors provide a lot of income to hospitals. But from a capacity standpoint, hiring managers may want to consider the trend of hiring highly qualified non-physician providers, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who can take on much of the workload.

“For physicians, we have to figure out new ways to do things more efficiently,” explains Davis. “Today you see two-physician offices with maybe four other non-physician providers, such as PAs or NPs, helping out. It’s almost like you triage a physician’s office depending on what patients need; it’s not about always seeing a doctor anymore.”

5. Use technology and use it wisely
Health eCareers’ data reveals that 45 percent of respondents are not using any alternative candidate pools (such as travel or per diem staff, retired professionals, international workers, etc.) to fill difficult positions. But many are using technology to find new candidates: Nearly 80 percent use job boards, 48 percent use social media sites, and 43 percent use their in-house applicant tracking system (ATS).

“We’re located in non-urban places, so seeking primary care physicians has been a big, big push because of the shortage of candidates,” says Davis  “We’ve found that tweeting our jobs is a good way to reach doctors on social media. We also use email and cell phones, because you must also continue to contact doctors directly.”

Most importantly, to get the most from your recruiting budget, it’s critical to use targeted job boards. Health eCareers’ survey shows that online healthcare job boards like usually outrank even a company’s website as the most effective method for filling job openings.

“We are working hard to bring more qualified candidates to healthcare employers and recruiters and more effectively convert them with a better user experience built on rich job opportunities and compelling employer content,” adds Bassett.

To learn more about hiring the best healthcare talent, visit the 2015 Healthcare Recruiting Trends Survey blog series at and download the full 2015 Healthcare Recruiting Trends Survey Report at

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *