[White Paper] Physician Workforce 2030: Getting Ahead of the Recruitment Curve


The physician workforce shortage creates a competitive recruitment marketplace. This white paper offers practical advice on what to do today to focus your recruitment strategy for long-term success.


Physician Workforce through 2030: Get Ahead of the Recruitment Curve

There’s been heavy discourse the last few years about the growing physician shortage in the United States. Based on a recent detailed study, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) now projects a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030.

A complex set of assumptions factor into the models resulting in projected shortage that vary in degrees of magnitude depending on the location, specialty and population served.

The Affordable Care Act has helped push the percentage of insured Americans to nearly 90 percent, creating a greater need for primary care physicians to see new patients.

At the same time, uncertainty around healthcare legislation and the sheer complexity of reimbursement is enough to steer many physicians – both aspiring young doctors and those with years of experience – away from patient care.

Our population is shifting older; the Census Bureau project that the population 65 years and older will become larger than the population under 18 years old by 2056. And while America ages, so do its doctors. Nearly 30 percent of active physicians are now over the age of 60.

Specialties with the Greatest Demand

Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, and Psychiatry

Jackson Physician Search compared open jobs by specialties from ten top job boards and compared them to the number of third-year residents for those specialties, as provided by MMS data. Assumptions that played into our research model: The turnover rate for doctors hovers around 6.8 percent, according to the American Medical Group Association. We recognize that retirees – and practicing physicians who change jobs – both leave vacancies that will most likely be filled fro the pool of graduating residents. Some are advertised on multiple job boards, while others are not advertised at all.

Based on this analysis, the specialties with the greatest demand are: family medicine, internal medicine, and psychiatry. Young medical students are forgoing these for more technical specialties that result in more defined hours, high mobility, higher incomes, and the perception of greater prestige than primary care. The stigma of mental health may be a factor in turning medical students away from psychiatry, in which only half of residency programs in the U.S. are filled, according to Dr. Adam Brenner, a psychiatrist and associate professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

The Disparity of Physician Workforce Coverage

Not only are there not enough doctors to go around, they aren’t evenly distributed. The resulting barriers to accessing specialty care creates significant – even tragic – disparities in health and well-being among many rural Americans.

Nationally, there are, on average, 91.1 active primary care physicians per 100,000 people, but some states fared better than others, according to the AAMC, which based their distribution map on census and American Medical Group data.


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3 Traps to Avoid When Recruiting Physicians


For every month it takes to fill an open physician job, thousands of dollars in potential revenue may be lost. For instance, average annual revenue for an internal medicine doctor of $823,900 equates to more than $68,650 in lost revenue per month while you’re waiting for a new internist. Keep reading to learn what to avoid when recruiting physicians so you don’t miss out on potential revenue.

Consider, also, the potential long-term impact if patients are forced to visit competitors because your facility lacks important services while waiting for a new physician. You may be losing ancillary revenue from specialist referrals and services provided by your hospital.

The sense of urgency to hire is important as the physician shortage intensifies. But, it is also important to balance the cost of a vacancy with the risk of a poor hire. While it’s more difficult to measure, it’s more expensive in the long run.

Avoid these three critical – but very common – mistakes, and you will become more efficient, effective and strategic in hiring. Your overall return on investment will increase as a result.

  1. Failure to Continuously Recruit

Once candidates are identified and interviews are being scheduled, the natural instinct is to stop recruiting in that specialty. But we caution: keep recruiting until you have a signed contract and are assured a physician is coming on board. Letting the engine “go cold” at that point in the process can prove fare more costly than the investment in continued sourcing.

One reason is practical: any number of unforeseen events can derail even the most promising candidate, and place you back at square one. The other is psychological: when your candidate of choice sees your efforts to recruit have stopped, their negotiating leverage goes up and their sense of urgency goes down.

Continuing to engage candidates is a smart move for other reasons. Even if multiple candidates do not advance to finalist, if they have a favorable and memorable experience with your organization, they will help you build your network of referral sources for future needs and in other specialties.

  1. Onboarding Too Little, Too Late

In most organizations, onboarding is merely a fancy word for “orientation.” With the clock ticking toward a start date, too many physicians receive a packet of paperwork rather than an “easy button” for getting ramped up for practice and moved into the community.

It is important that you start the onboarding experience before you hire. Deliver an experience that will help the candidate and their significant other envision their future with your practice and your community. Keep the lines of communication and information flowing throughout the negotiation process. Once they are signed, be sure they are assigned a navigator who guides them through a holistic onboarding program that includes mentorship and family integration into the community. For rapid ramp-up to productivity and long-term retention, the most successful onboarding programs start early and last up to one-year post-hire.

  1. Fixating on Cost Per Hire

The days of open-ended recruitment budgets are long past. Recruitment is not exempt from the need for transparency and accountability. However, viewing recruiting expenses as “costs” adversely influences thinking and behavior. If you measure only the cost but not the quality of a hire, then you have prioritized cost as more important than quality. This can be extremely expensive in terms of turnover, disruption to the practice and loss of patient loyalty.

Engage Resources that Drive ROI

Engage resources that can increase your efficiency. For example, an extensive array of job board postings may be too costly for a single hospital, as can be the new digital, social and mobile technology platforms that reach passive candidates effectively. However, a trusted recruitment partner can cost-effectively deploy these tools for you.  Let them cast a wide net for qualified candidates and apply their “fit for hire” skills on your behalf, while your internal team focuses on the quality of the interview process, engaging key decision-makers, and keeping the contract and credentialing details on track.

In the race against time, the winning strategy leverages both efficiency and a focus on fit and retention. This approach will enable you to measure value per hire over time and deliver a sustainable return on your recruitment investment.

A basic rule of thumb is: Don’t get caught up trying to cut corners in the short term, only to have it negatively impact your bottom line in the long term.

Working with an experienced search consultant can improve your competitive advantage by empowering you to find, hire and keep physicians to meet your community needs. Contact us to learn more about what to avoid when recruiting physicians.

Tony Stajduhar is president of the Jackson Physician Search. With more than 25 years in the industry, he is a sought-after speaker for national medical associations and residency programs. Tony can be reached here.

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