Strong Leadership and a Supportive Culture are Key to Recruiting and Retaining Physicians in a Post-Pandemic World

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The psychological impact of COVID-19 on frontline healthcare workers, including physicians, is yet to be fully realized and understood. From initial worries about having enough PPE to working endless hours treating those afflicted with the virus, the past several months has taken a toll.

To bring more awareness to the issue, MGMA hosted a webinar, “Hiring Physicians in the ‘New Normal’: Addressing the Psychological Dimensions of COVID-19.”  Jackson Physician Search president Tony Stajduhar presented and was joined by Kathy Cooperman, President of KC Leadership Consulting, and Dr. Russell Livingston, Psychiatric Physician and President of Livingston Consulting.

In addition to touching on the psychological impact of handling patient care during these unprecedented times, they discussed how hospitals and healthcare administrators could adjust their recruiting, hiring, and retention practices, with an eye toward understanding and mitigating concerns that physicians may have regarding COVID-19.

To view the MGMA Webinar in its entirety, click here.

During the webinar, participants were asked to use one word to describe the mental health of their frontline healthcare providers.  Unsurprisingly, the results pointed to providers being overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed.  How these stressors are going to impact physician recruitment and retention is yet unclear. Still, it is essential to consider that physicians will seek new opportunities. Tony Stajduhar highlighted the market dynamics of physician job seekers by pointing out that 50,000 physicians will accept new positions in 2020, and summer is the prime time for them to make a move.

Recruiting Physicians in the New Normal

Studies clearly show that physicians are much more likely to accept a position with an organization whose culture and values are aligned with the physician’s own. Hiring for fit has never been more critical than it is today because of the costs associated with a competitive recruitment environment.

Some physicians are seeking out new positions because of their experiences dealing with COVID-19, or they just find themselves ready to explore new opportunities.  Your understanding of how the pandemic may have impacted them should be reflected in how you recruit and interview potential candidates. For example:

  • Don’t shy away from talking about the pandemic and the steps your organization took to support the physicians and other staff.
  • Let the candidate know that you understand the anxiety and trauma experienced by your physicians as they tried to balance patient care with their own safety and by extension the safety of their families.
  • Highlight the ways that your leadership team addressed the trauma and the steps that were taken to help mitigate the stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.

It is essential to have actual examples of how the culture within your organization helped your staff cope with the uncertainty caused by the events unfolding around them. It could be as simple as how the executive team held town hall meetings to share information and provide staff with an opportunity to express their concerns. In other cases, it is providing each employee extra time each day to find a quiet room for meditation or yoga.

“During times of crisis, people fall back on their core values when making decisions.”

~Kathy Cooperman

Physicians spend their days caring for others and, likewise, want to feel like they are in an environment where everyone cares for each other. When interviewing physician candidates in the post-pandemic world, it is critical to sell them on the organizational culture that they would be joining. Consider that they may be coming from an organization where they didn’t feel supported during their most trying times. Counter this by explaining how your organization found ways to proactively support the staff.  Share the positive work experiences that occurred during even the most difficult times.  Recounting these real-world actions will resonate with a candidate and help them to envision what they can expect during times of crisis in the future.

Keep a Steady Hand on Physician Retention Strategies

We have acknowledged the fact that physicians are feeling significant psychological stress and trauma from trying to manage patient care throughout the pandemic. Administrators everywhere need to step forward and provide critical leadership at this time as part of their overall physician retention strategy.

During the webinar, Kathy Cooperman described the challenges involved with leading through times of change. While physicians are scrambling to provide care under uncertain conditions, healthcare leaders need to take on a more active and visible role for their staff.  It is critical to provide as much clarity about what is known and unknown, to support, and even nurture their teams through encouragement and reassurance.  This is a time where healthcare systems that have put time and effort into building an open, honest, and supportive culture will see the results.

Dr. Livingston advises administrators to encourage staff members to express their feelings and concerns in a structured environment. While it may need to be professionally facilitated, it is important for physicians and other care providers to feel that they are being heard.  Statistically, a pandemic situation exacerbates the risk of burnout, and the trauma caused by feeling overwhelmed leads to an increase in PTSD symptoms. Much like a typical trauma ER environment, leadership needs to have a plan to mitigate the trauma symptoms being experienced by staff.

“PTSD-like symptoms adversely affect the level of care. This is why it is imperative for administrators to have a plan in place to help mitigate the effects of trauma being experienced by their physicians.”

~Dr. Russell Livingston

Staff morale is a critical component of any healthy work environment.  In a crisis situation, all employees are going to seek to find certainty amid the chaos, and this is where strong leaders find ways to be consistent in their message and cultivate a sense of support and stability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely altered the ways that healthcare organizations will attract, hire, and retain physicians going forward. Clearly, one of the takeaways is that strong leadership and supportive culture will help sell an organization in this highly competitive hiring environment.

Jackson Physician Search has the healthcare industry experience and nationwide reach to be your partner in physician recruitment and retention.  Contact our recruitment professionals and discover how partnering with Jackson Physician Search can make a difference for you today.

 

[Infographic Guide] The Do’s and Don’ts of Virtual Interviews

Virtual interviews will likely have a permanent place in the recruitment process.

Overcoming COVID-19 Recruitment Challenges Through Collaboration and Creativity

It’s human nature to look for positive outcomes in even the most challenging of situations, and in spite of our current reality, these times are no different.

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Click the Get Started button if you’re ready to speak with one of our physician recruitment experts.

Demand for Psychiatric Specialties Continues to Grow

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A December 2018 report from the University of Michigan concluded that the passage of the Affordable Care Act fueled the ever-increasing demand for Psychiatrists.  Upon its passage, the ACA expanded access to behavioral healthcare to more individuals, and current projections are that the shortage of psychiatric professionals is expected to worsen by 2025. To illustrate this shortage from a national perspective, the National Council for Behavioral Health noted that 77% of U.S. counties are considered to be underserved. The largest increase in demand might be around the corner still.  In an article from the JAMA network about the impact COVID-19 has on the mental health of healthcare workers, Dr. Perlis writes, “Across the world, physicians, nurses, and other frontline health care workers do heroic and lifesaving work in stressful settings on a daily basis.  However, the toll that providing such care takes must also be recognized: sooner or later, every clinician is also a patient.”

Given the demand for psychiatric specialties, healthcare administrators are finding it increasingly difficult to fill vacancies. Currently, the average time to fill for a psychiatry vacancy is almost eight and a half months forcing healthcare administrators to be more creative and proactive in their recruitment efforts.  The average monthly gross revenue generated by a physician is more than $81,000 making an extended vacancy quite costly. You can see the impact reducing time-to-fill on your practice’s revenue by using our Physician Recruitment ROI Calculator.  Below is a snapshot of how healthcare administrators can effectively recruit psychiatry professionals.

Be Proactive

Administrators have to plan ahead for vacancies.  To avoid being caught off guard, it is critical to maintain good relationships and open communication with your psychiatry staff.  This is the easiest way to stay informed about potential retirements or impending vacancies.  Maintaining strong relationships with your physician staff also helps when it comes time to recruit. Having physicians that are willing to reach out to their personal network of colleagues is always helpful to your recruitment efforts.

Cast a Wide Net

Given the increased demand we have already referred to, hospitals and health systems have a lot of competition for psychiatry specialists. Being creative in sourcing candidates is crucial to attracting a Psychiatrist to fill your vacancy.  In many cases, your search has to be nationwide in order to increase your candidate pool.  Another way to expand the candidate pool is to establish relationships with university residency programs and ask your current staff for recommendations from their professional network.  Lastly, an often overlooked way to keep your brand top of mind is to take as many opportunities as possible to present at physician and other healthcare-related conventions.

Guaranteed Salaries and Incentives

In addition to inequities in Medicare reimbursements for psychiatric services, cancellations and missed appointments are much higher for psychiatry appointments than other specialties.  Complicated salary structures for psychiatry professionals can be a deterrent when trying to fill a vacancy. As they have with other hard to fill specialties, healthcare administrators are turning to better compensation packages as a way to attract and hire candidates. These packages include signing bonuses, loan forgiveness, generous relocation reimbursements, and other incentives.

Work-life Balance

Psychiatrists are no different than other physicians when it comes to their desire to achieve a better work-life balance.  As part of any employment offer, administrators are becoming more creative in designing schedules and offering increased vacation and personal time to attract candidates. Another way that administrators can help their psychiatrists reduce the amount of time they are spending in the office is by expanding their commitment to virtual office hours. Expanding virtual services allows the physician to “see” patients at times that are better suited to their home life.

Find a Search Partner

No matter how effective a healthcare system’s in-house recruitment team is, for hard-to-fill vacancies, finding a trusted recruitment partner can help reduce fill times.  For example, having a partner such as Jackson Physician Search will give you access to a larger candidate pool and deploy digital recruitment tools to find the qualified candidates you need.  Also, having a trusted search partner allows your in-house team to focus on other staffing needs, coordinating site visits, onboarding, and other critical components of a successful hire.

There is no single approach that can solve hard-to-fill physician vacancies.  Instead, a full-spectrum approach where you are employing many different strategies, including finding outside help, is the most effective means to successfully recruit psychiatric professionals.

Jackson Physician Search has decades of physician recruitment experience. Contact us today to find out how we can help you meet your physician recruitment challenges.

 

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Going Beyond Compensation: 3 Tips to Win Top Physician Candidates

Offering a competitive and well-rounded compensation and benefits package is important to win over physician candidates, even more so in rural areas.

Removing Bias When Hiring Physicians

Five Ways to Remove Bias When Recruiting Female Physicians

When you consider that 58% of the U.S. civilian workforce is female, it stands to reason that a similar percentage of female physicians in our country might exist.

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Advanced Practice Providers Serve a Critical Role in Patient Care and the Primary Care Shortage

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There is no questioning the importance of Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) in modern healthcare. The roles of Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) came into existence in the 1960s as a way to mitigate the impact of the emerging primary care physician shortage. Today, these care providers are even more prevalent in healthcare. In fact, it’s a common occurrence for patients to be offered an appointment with an NP or PA as a way to get into the office sooner.

Considering the expanding role that APPs have in our primary care system, healthcare administrators are beginning to focus on their recruitment and retention in the same manner as physicians. Let’s look at some of the differences between APPs and primary care physicians in terms of education, training, and scope of practice, as well as how to increase access to care by recruiting these professionals as part of your staffing plan.

Education and Training Requirements

Interestingly, there is lack of consistency for the education, training, licensure, certification, and scope of practice for APPs.  Each of these areas varies significantly from one state to the next.  Nurse Practitioners generally achieve education and clinical training at the master’s or doctorate level, along with the completion of at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice in a focused area.  The specialized focus is typically in pediatrics, adult, or geriatric medicine.  Oversight for NPs is provided by the state nursing boards.  To demonstrate how NPs are treated differently between the states, nearly half have laws allowing NPs to practice independently without oversight.  All states allow NPs to have prescription writing authority, even for controlled substances.

Physician Assistants are typically trained alongside medical students, for two years before receiving their master’s degree.  Before graduating, PA students will have completed 2,000 hours of supervised practice.  While state nursing boards regulate NPs, the PAs come under the jurisdiction of the state medical board, and have to practice under a supervising physician.  As with NPs, prescribing authority is afforded to PAs; however, Kentucky is the lone state that doesn’t allow PAs to prescribe controlled substances.

Contrasting this training to a typical family physician illustrates one of the reasons why we have a primary care physician shortage.  A family practice physician completes 15,000 hours of clinical work through five years of additional training and residency.  In that same amount of time and cost, more than 3 NPs could be trained.

Scope of Practice

NPs and PAs have a significant overlap in scope of service when compared to their physician counterparts.  For example, in VA hospitals, nearly half of all inpatient services are performed by APPs.  Administrators within the VA system are relying heavily on NPs and PAs and recognize that there are only minor differences in a patient’s perception of care.  Another area where APPs are being relied upon are in rural and underserved communities.  A study published in 2015 by the National Institutes of Health cited NPs are more likely to deliver care in inner cities and rural settings than primary care physicians.  Additionally, the study concluded that an increase in the numbers of primary care NPs would serve to expand access to primary care for vulnerable populations.

Recruiting APPs

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for NPs and PAs will not be slowing down anytime soon.  Both occupations are still listed in the top ten fastest-growing occupations and are expected to grow by up to 30% through 2028.  This demand is a sign that healthcare administrators need to treat the recruitment of APPs the same as they do physicians.  Here are a few ways that administrators can proactively attract APPs to their organizations.

  • Work with local or regional university systems. You often hear of healthcare systems establishing relationships with medical schools to provide opportunities for student doctors.  This same approach should be developed for APPs.  Bringing advanced practice students into your clinical setting provides you with a perfect opportunity to evaluate how their skills and personality translates to your care team.  In the long run, if they are a good fit, you have an excellent opportunity to retain them upon graduation.
  • Work with your state’s professional associations. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Academy of Physician Assistants are two organizations that healthcare administrators should have an established relationship.  Most states have chapters that support graduating and experienced APPs in their job search.
  • Have a social media strategy. While physicians tend to rely more on physician-specific job boards and websites like Doximity, APPs are more prone to utilize traditional social media sites.  Many APPs are very active on professional networking sites, such as LinkedIn.  Understanding this critical difference between how physicians and APPs use social media can help administrators more effectively tailor their recruitment strategy.
  • Be creative with scheduling. Like physicians, APPs value work/life balance and are more attracted to positions that allow flexibility.  Healthcare administrators who are expanding their utilization of APPs, need to be creative in developing part-time positions, building in Telemedicine hours, and finding other ways to offer flexibility and variety into their APP schedules.
  • Work with a recruitment partner. Finding a trusted recruitment partner has been an essential component of physician recruitment for healthcare administrators for years.  As demand for APPs continues to rise, it is becoming increasingly more important for healthcare organizations to expand their reach in finding qualified candidates.  Recruitment firms have access to candidates that administrators may not otherwise reach for their vacancy.  Finding a recruitment partner that has a nationwide candidate pool, plus the technology and means to cast a wider net, can be the answer to your hard-to-fill vacancies.

Jackson Physician Search can be the trusted recruitment partner that your organization needs.  Whether you are looking for physicians or advanced practice providers, our team of experienced healthcare recruiters can help you reach more qualified candidates.  Contact us today.

 

4 Ways Tech Impacts Health System Admins

Four Ways Technology is Impacting Health System Administrators

When discussing artificial intelligence and the use of other technologies in healthcare, it is natural to assume that doctors are impacted the most.

How to Drive Retention by Creating an Inclusive Workplace

The first thing most healthcare administrators think about when considering the current physician shortage is, “How are we going to recruit to fill vacancies?”

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Five Ways to Move the Needle on the Physician Shortage

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Five Ways to Move the Needle on the Physician Shortage

For the healthcare industry, the COVID-19 pandemic is raising new challenges that no one expected in our lifetime. It is also shining a spotlight on challenges that have been around for a while—like the physician shortage.

Many people wonder whether the easing of out-of-state licensing restrictions will remain once the crisis subsides. But there is also debate about other interesting approaches that might help address the shortage once our world gets back to normal. Here is a recap of five key approaches I believe will be front and center in the coming months whenever the discussion turns to: How do we solve the physician shortage post-COVID-19?

1. Make Licensing Waivers Permanent

If anything good can be said about the coronavirus, it’s that it is providing a beta test for doctors licensed in one state to practice just about anywhere. The Federation of State Medical Boards reported April 23, 2020 that 48 states and the District of Columbia had adopted waivers to licensure requirements in response to COVID-19.

That helped make possible, for example, the more than 21,000 out-of-state healthcare professionals to volunteer their services in New York, the state with the most U.S. coronavirus cases at the time of this writing.

Will the waivers continue once the pandemic is over? I know there is much debate over the possible move to a single national standard for physician licensing. But who can argue with slashing red tape to make it easier to provide care to those who need it?
As the author of a recent Forbes magazine article puts it: “Why should a doctor who’s good enough to practice in California be unable to do so in New York?”

Licensing Waivers

Why should a doctor who’s good enough to practice in California be unable to do so in New York?

If one does view the waivers as the de facto adoption of a national standard, it will certainly be of interest to see the data on how it impacted the practice of medicine during the pandemic.

The rise of telemedicine, especially its value during the pandemic, will no doubt fuel the argument that we should continue to make it easier for physicians to care for patients in other states. At the very least, some sort of lasting mutual recognition agreement, in which states honor each other’s physician licenses, might be in order.

Streamlining the licensing process would also ease the way for international medical school graduates, who make up almost 25% of today’s physician workforce.

Streamline the process

2. Do Something About Physician Student Debt

Physicians have shown their heroic stripes during the pandemic, especially Millennial physicians who volunteered to work in high-impact areas because of their reduced risk of catching the virus. Federal government hazard pay such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal for front-line workers is one way to recognize their effort, but young doctors point out that the few extra thousand dollars is pocket change compared with the hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt they owe.

We endorse the American Medical Association’s April 7 request to Congress extending federal student loan forgiveness for doctors caring for patients on the frontlines of the COVID-19 epidemic, but it doesn’t address what happens once the epidemic is over.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), median medical school debt was $200,000 in 2018. That debt pressure can steer new doctors away from research, community-based work and general practice, which may not be as highly paid as medical specialties

Student Debt

Not every school can do what the NYU School of Medicine did to be the first private U.S. medical school—and the only one ranked in the top 10—to offer free tuition to all its students. The yearly tuition costs covered by the scholarship are $55,018. While few institutions have the endowment for this kind of undertaking, it raises an opportunity for others to explore. The free-tuition initiative began more than a decade ago, when NYU created the endowment and began raising the roughly $600 million it estimates will be needed to keep the program ongoing.

What about public medical schools? The student debt burden isn’t as high as private medical schools, but still substantial. The average four-year cost for public school students is $243,902, according to the AAMC, compared with $322,767 for private school students. Still, paying off loans for those four years is a big burden to carry.

The average four-year cost for public school students is $243,902, according to the AAMC, compared with $322,767 for private school students

Sure, there are tools like the federal government’s income-driven repayment program where monthly payments are a percentage of discretionary income, rather than traditional repayment plans where students make payments based on the amount of money they owe. By working for nonprofit facilities or the government, working in medically underserved areas, or joining the military, students can reduce medical school debt, as well.

While such programs offer some relief, they don’t get to the heart of the problem that medical school costs are simply out of reach for many qualified students. Shortening the path to becoming a doctor is one approach to bringing costs down.

3. Make Becoming a Doctor More Affordable

In the 1970s, rising gas prices were one of the factors that led the auto industry to redesign American cars to be smaller and more efficient. That same kind of evolution is brewing among some medical schools today.

The Forbes article mentioned earlier points to the lengthy path in the U.S. for a student to become a physician. While in the U.S., the typical doctor spends four years in college, four years in med school and anywhere from three to seven years in post-graduate residency and fellowship, students in almost every other developed country can earn a medical degree in six years or less—and then begin residency.

While in the U.S., the typical doctor spends four years in college, four years in med school and anywhere from three to seven years in post-graduate residency and fellowship, students in almost every other developed country can earn a medical degree in six years or less—and then begin residency

As the article points out, some U.S. medical schools have responded to the pandemic by graduating students ahead of time to help fight COVID-19. Measures like these don’t have to temporary, writes the author of the article.

Three-year M.D. programs that started before the pandemic—like those at Texas Tech, NYU and Duke—have shown strong signs of success, helping cut student debt and produce grads faster.

The savings are significant. An AAMC report quotes research showing that, with tuition cuts and an extra year of salary, the lifetime savings afforded by a three-year program is about $250,000.

Skeptics argue that the shorter cycle robs young doctors of valuable experience before they begin practice, adds to stress that can lead to early burnout, and limits the time students need to explore all the specialty options available. Proponents of the shorter programs cite research showing that three-year grads perform on par with traditional four-year grads.

Three Year Programs

We feel certain the debate will continue, but momentum is growing for a wider range of three-year programs for young hopefuls to choose from.

The same AAMC report states that there were 150 three-year program grads in the U.S. in 2019, compared to fewer than 10 in 2013. And the Consortium of Accelerated Medical Pathway Programs, launched in 2015 by eight schools in the U.S. and Canada with funding from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation, grew to 16 last year.

4. Increase Residency Slots

One bright piece of news in the stories about the physician shortage is that U.S. medical school enrollment has increased by 31% since 2002, according to the AAMC. Combined with first-year matriculation at osteopathic schools, medical student enrollment is now 52% higher than in 2002-03.

It’s the result of an AAMC initiative begun in 2006 that called on medical schools to increase first-year enrollment by 30%. That target was reached in 201819, when first-year matriculation reached 21,622 students. Osteopathic schools increased their enrollment by 164% during this same time period, with 8,124 first-year students enrolled.

Residency Slots

The next step is to increase the number of residency slots

The next step is to increase the number of residency slots. “From a supply side perspective, what we really need to focus on now is the residency slots,” says Atul Grover, MD, PhD, executive vice president of the AAMC. “We’ve done everything we can on the medical school front to reduce the physician shortage, and I think the numbers bear that out. The federal government needs to resume covering its fair share of the costs. That starts by lifting the caps.”

Residency Expansion

Residency training positions have expanded at a rate of just 1% a year, due in large part to a congressional cap on federal funding in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Most of the costs of residency training — about $171,855 per year, per resident on average, according to AAMC data — are supported by teaching hospitals and their faculty. Medicare (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) has historically paid for 21% of the training.

However, that support has been largely frozen since 1997 with the unfortunate state of gridlock in Washington, D.C. A house bill introduced last year – the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019 (H.R. 1763) – would add up to 15,000 Medicare-funded residency positions over five years as a means to increase the number of practicing physicians, and is similar to an AHA-supported bill introduced in April in the Senate. The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and the House bill to the Subcommittee on Health.

It’s shameful that an adequate number of residency slots for a nation struggling with a physician shortage has become a political issue, but that’s the way of our world today.

Some teaching hospitals are supporting residency positions over their caps without any federal support. They are also working with hospitals that have never been teaching hospitals to establish new residency training programs.

5. Change Payment Mechanisms

Public opinion is a fickle thing, but I think the COVID-19 crisis, and the heroic role physicians have played in it, might very well sway public opinion regarding how doctors get paid in the future. I also think it might very well embolden doctors—and rightly so—to demand better payment for their services—or at least demand a greater choice of payment options for their services.

The days of COVID-19 are rough for physicians. With elective surgeries put on hold across the country as hospitals grapple with the influx of patients infected by the coronavirus, group practices are struggling. Physicians are temporarily shutting their doors

Let’s face it. The days of COVID-19 are rough for physicians. With elective surgeries put on hold across the country as hospitals grapple with the influx of patients infected by the coronavirus, group practices are struggling. Physicians are temporarily shutting their doors or—those who can afford it—retiring in response to the pandemic. This will in turn pose a challenge to hospitals already grappling with staffing gaps and attempts to return to normal once the crisis subsides.

The American Medical Association opposed a California price-fixing bill that would have set rates for all health services covered by commercial health insurance plans using Medicare rates as a benchmark, and the bill eventually failed. But that doesn’t mean other states might not consider similar measures in an attempt to lower healthcare costs after the height of the COVID-19 crisis. Our doctors deserve better.

The AMA argued eloquently that physician payments are not a major driver of increasing health care costs and have risen only 1.2% from 2006 to 2016. Other complicated issues such as long-term care, lack of access to preventive care, chronic disease, prescription drugs, cost transparency and others contribute a larger share to rising costs. Maybe the COVID-19 crisis will help the public—and its lawmakers—understand those issues better—and pay physicians what they are worth.

It has been encouraging in recent years to see hospital payment models shift from being based not only on productivity goals but also to reflect the physician’s contribution to quality improvement as the value of care is measured. And hospital administrators are becoming creative by including flexible scheduling, reduced or no call hours, signing bonuses and student loan forgiveness to attract candidates to ongoing vacancies.

Rising Costs

Build a better house

I heard a great analogy the other day that went something like: If your house burns down, are you going to rebuild it exactly the way it was, or are you going to build your dream house? It’s obvious that old ways need to change if we’re going to seriously tackle the predicted shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032. The ideas presented here are a starting point, at least, for building a house that everyone in the healthcare industry can be proud of.

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COVID-19: Stories from the Healthcare Leaders Bring Hope, Inspiration

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It’s clear that COVID-19 has changed our world.

The days are more stressful as we respond to challenges we’ve never faced before. Many people find that sheltering in place is a challenge in itself. Long days offer more time for self-examination and worry about what the future holds.

Speaking for myself, I’ve spent much of the time listening.

Heroes in our midst

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with physicians and other healthcare leaders who are tirelessly working during the pandemic. Their stories are amazing—heartbreaking, stressful, yet encouraging in the emotion,  commitment and collaboration all these individuals share.

While our recruiting work goes on at Jackson Physician Search, we’re sharing these stories in a series of online interviews to show how COVID-19 is impacting the physicians and healthcare leaders we work with.

Professional impact

First and foremost, the pandemic is taking doctors far outside their comfort zones.

Dr. Gene C. Liu, president of Cedars-Sinai Medical Group and an ENT practicing at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, says one of the biggest challenges for him as a surgeon is not being able to charge in and fix a problem like removing tonsils or straightening a septum.

“There’s not that instant gratification,” he says. “You’re really a bystander, making sure patients get enough oxygen … giving their bodies the medical support they need to fight the bug.”

Dr. Richard Bowe, an anesthesiologist for nearly 32 years with Phoebe Putney Medical Group in Albany, Ga., also found himself transitioning to a completely different clinical role when COVID-19 cases rose to alarming levels in the town of 80,000.

With elective surgeries on hold, Dr. Bowe has joined other anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists in helping to staff one of the two new ICUs created to handle the influx of the critically ill.

Family impact

With his wife and children away from Albany to avoid possible infection, Dr. Bowe finds the loneliness compounds the challenge. “It’s a challenge to see these patients as sick as they are, and then coming home to an empty house at night, trying to decompress without having anybody to talk with.”

For Dr. David M. Gonzalez, an interventional cardiologist in a program that has saved countless lives over the last decade at Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, Idaho, it’s a similar story of living at home alone, away from his wife and family of seven children. He acknowledges it’s part of the new reality.

Dealing with fear

“Every time you go to the hospital, there is an element of fear and anxiety that strikes you before you walk in,” Dr. Gonzales says. “The biggest thing is dealing with your own fears. Not only for yourself, but also that you could spread it [the virus] to your family or someone else.”

Making it particularly difficult is working in the protective gear and the discomfort of the N95 masks. He manages the stress by keeping to his exercise routine and starting each day with a stop at the coffee shop where he has been a customer for 14 years. “It’s nice to see some smiling faces first thing in the morning.”

Cory Ferrier, executive of business development with Adventist Health in Los Angeles, says he’s been amazed by the ingenuity the hospital’s physicians have shown in the face of fear and uncertainty. “I had no idea how many of our physicians had 3-D printers at home,” he says. Working together, the physicians used the printers to build intubation kits that protect clinical teams from aerosolization during the intubation procedure.

Recruiting impact

Ferrier says recruitment is on stand-by at the hospital, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t reaching out to candidates via Zoom, Skype or Facetime. “I’ve learned whenever there is a change or shift or a disaster, that’s where the most opportunity is. While we might not be able to send a contract to a physician now, I make sure they know when this settles, we’ll be able to make them an offer.”

Dr. Gonzales predicts the pandemic might bring more doctors to rural areas. He has recently recruited a new doctor from New York who will start in July. Working in a big city hospital dealing with a severe outbreak, the physician “can’t wait to get out,” Dr. Gonzales says. “He’s worried for his family. He can’t get here fast enough.”

Financial impact

The financial side of the crisis is harrowing, too.

In Albany, Dr. Bowe says, “We don’t know what reimbursement will be like for these COVID patients. The health system has taken an attitude of ‘we’ll work that out later and take care of people first,’ and I agree with that completely.”

Instead of furloughing staff, the system has them taking temperatures at hospital entrances and cleaning computer keyboards and door handles, so they’ll be ready to resume their normal jobs when the crisis subsides.

Despite the challenges, Dr. Bowe says he finds rewards in what he is doing today. “I can’t imagine doing anything differently than what I’m doing now,” he says.

A lesson in sacrifice, a reason for hope

As I speak with these physicians and other healthcare leaders, I’m humbled by the stories of courage and sacrifice I hear. They’re giving up family time, sleep and personal safety to ensure our healthcare system keeps moving forward.

Listening to them gives me hope.

May it do the same for you.

The Physician Recruitment Process Under Transformation: Will Video Interviews Become the Norm Post-COVID-19?

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A slow return to a new normal means some of the millions of displaced Americans will begin returning to work, and financially hard-hit medical groups will schedule previously postponed elective procedures. Additionally, hospitals and other healthcare organizations can start hiring more physicians to handle the inevitable rush of patients and to meet 2020 staffing planning goals.

Of course, there’s great concern among the medical community, political officials, and citizens that successfully reopening the country come in tandem with improved diagnostic testing to keep the virus at bay. As history has taught us, a pandemic seemingly under control can return for a second wave with a vengeance. We are right to be cautious, which means some degree of social distancing will remain part of our daily lives for months to come.

Surprisingly, as a physician recruitment firm, we have found that the current shelter-in-place orders, travel restrictions, and banned onsite interviews haven’t halted physician recruitment. We’ve seen an increase in candidate activity, likely because physicians remain future-focused, and summer is an ideal time to make a major move to a new part of the country.

Knowing that 50,000 physicians are expected to relocate before the end of 2020, the majority of healthcare administrators have also kept an eye on the future even while battling the pandemic. We learned from a live poll taken during last week’s MGMA20 | The Operations Conference Online that only 14% of medical groups aren’t currently interviewing due to COVID-19. For those that are, they’ve adapted the interviewing process to continue filling key vacancies and to keep candidate pipelines full.

With the light beginning to appear at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it’s becoming clear that the initial, in-person physician interview seen as a staple in the recruitment process may not always be necessary.

Video Interviews are Here to Stay – Potentially Reducing Recruitment Costs and Time-to-Fill

Another discovery during last week’s MGMA conference poll is nearly 63% of medical groups are currently interviewing candidates via video and phone, and some have no intention of stopping, as was uncovered during the subsequent Q&A. In the executive search realm where competition for candidates is sometimes less intense, the initial slate of candidates is usually interviewed via video. Only the final contenders are invited onsite for face-to-face interviews, as well as facility and community tours.

Now that tech-savvy healthcare organizations and recruitment firms who were already set up to deliver a digital, yet personalized, candidate recruitment experience have learned that the initial interview can be effectively done via video, it may be difficult to justify going back. Yes, for those physician searches that are ultra-competitive or where the need is immediate, the initial onsite interview may be the best approach. But for others, time and expense can be saved early in the recruitment process. Here are a few tips to provide an outstanding candidate experience:

  • Choose a Professional Location Where You Won’t be Interrupted. Make sure your office is well-lit, avoid having visible clutter, and eliminate the risk of interruption. You want to provide a professional atmosphere just as you would if the candidate was onsite with you in a boardroom.
  • Test Your Setup. Even if you are familiar with video conferencing technology, always do a test run with a colleague. This is to make sure your internet connection is stable, your webcam produces a clear picture, and your audio is working well.
  • Close Unnecessary Tabs and Turn Off Your Cellphone. Before the video call, shut down programs on your computer that aren’t needed and turn off your cell phone. The candidate is your number one priority.
  • Have the Candidate’s CV and Prepare Your Questions. In a typical interview environment, you would have questions ready. Physicians want to know that you are prepared and respect their time just as you want the same.
  • Focus on Connecting with the Candidate. Demonstrate engagement by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and smiling as you normally would. Remember, culture fit plays a huge role in a candidate’s decision to accept a job offer. So, be yourself and connect with the candidate authentically.
  • Follow-up. Provide timely follow-up and next steps, so that candidate interest remains high during any delays.

Create a Virtual Community Site Visit that Increases Enthusiasm

During the MGMA20 | The Operations Conference Online, a medical group administrator asked if the virtual site visit will also be the norm post-COVID-19. Permanent physician recruitment is unique in that it almost always requires relocation. Even the most adventurous prefer to visit the new location before uprooting family. But this doesn’t mean the virtual site visit can’t play a role even when travel resumes.

As recruiters, we’re accustomed to physicians occasionally rejecting a location before visiting. It’s our job to help them consider the total picture, which often includes a professional opportunity that could be a great stepping-stone towards their goals or a culture that is better aligned with their values. When this happens, we use a variety of tools that the travel and tourism industry has been using for decades to create a virtual visit. It’s effective in combatting pre-conceived notions about a region, state, or city.

As we anticipate seeing the initial interview done more often via video, consider adding a virtual site visit as part of your organization’s candidate experience. Here are some tips:

  • Schedule a Video Chat with Fellow Physicians. Typically, the site visit is an opportunity for physicians to get a first-hand look at the facility and to meet potential colleagues. If there’s a mismatch in personalities or culture, it can result in a lost candidate. This is an efficient way to introduce candidates to potential colleagues sooner in the process. Ideally, you would also connect the physician with someone who recently relocated and can relate to what the candidate is facing.
  • Show Off the Best Side of Your Community and Facility. Physicians are concerned with the well-being of their families when considering relocation. While you will still invite a candidate onsite for a final interview, don’t delay building excitement about the community and your facility. If your organization hasn’t already delved into video, hire a film crew to interview key stakeholders and get drone footage of your facility. Then, look to travel and tourism websites to find video footage of the community. Whether you upgrade the careers section of your website or have a standard email you share with candidates, these can go a long way.
  • Introduce Physician Candidates Early to Professional Resources. Candidates facing a relocation will seek out a real estate agent to assess the housing market. Save them time by vetting these professionals. Also, you could include school district information, religious institutions, personal banking advisors, sporting and cultural events, and anything else unique to your community.

For many of us, life feels upside down. We are optimistic that the world is starting to come through to the other side thanks to the tireless and heroic efforts of healthcare providers and other front-line service workers. While many lessons learned will be focused on improving the procurement of testing supplies and personal protective equipment, as well as accurate anti-body testing and vaccine development, there will undoubtedly be other valuable lessons available in all walks of professional and personal life.

More than 50,000 physicians will relocate in 2020 – Here’s how your organization can get ahead of the curve and hire faster post-COVID-19.

Once you identify there is mutual interest between your organization and a candidate:

  • Set up a phone call or video conference between the candidate and key stakeholders to conduct an initial interview.
  • If interest remains high, stay in touch weekly with the candidate, arrange additional discussions with potential colleagues, and send links to community information.
  • If appropriate, share potential agreements with the candidate.
  • Tentatively schedule the final onsite interview and explain the post-interview process.

Jackson Physician Search is currently the fastest-growing physician recruitment firm in the nation. A decade ago, we pioneered an all-digital recruitment methodology that helps hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers, and medical groups to recruit physicians, physician leaders, and advanced practice providers.

We are recognized for our track record built on trust and transparency of processes and fees. Lean on the Jackson Physician Search team for guidance on how to jumpstart your hiring.

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Coping with Stress: How Physicians can Maintain their Well-being During COVID-19

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No one is immune to the physical, emotional, and even financial side effects of COVID-19. Stress levels are at an all-time high worldwide, as everyone is grappling with the uncertainty of when life will return to normal.  But for physicians, staving off feelings of fear, anxiety, and burnout is as critical as saving lives while getting through this pandemic.

Jackson Physician Search president Tony Stajduhar has been checking in via video calls with several of his physician and healthcare administrator friends and most report feeling growing levels of fear and anxiety.  Each has isolated themselves in homes separate from their spouses and children in a valiant effort to protect.  That means after a long day, suited in full protective gear that is anything but comfortable, they arrive to empty homes.  More than ever, physicians could benefit from the support and companionship of their loved ones.

Feelings of burnout were already prevalent among physicians, but now loneliness is settling in as well.  The one constant in COVID-19 is that we are continuing to learn as we go.  Fortunately, many organizations are trying to get in front of a mental health crisis by putting together resources and daily practices that healthcare providers can use to protect their mental health.  Let’s take a look at some coping strategies that you can practice to maintain your emotional and physical well-being during this challenging time.

Prioritize Your Health

Your health and well-being are essential during this global health crisis.  The world relies on you to help us get through this unprecedented event, and we’ll also need you for all our health issues that are currently taking a back seat. As you know, the benefits of eating well and partaking in physical activity are both physical and mental.  Continue your exercise routine and, if you can get outside and enjoy the spring weather while doing so, that’s all the better. Don’t be afraid to indulge once in a while in some comfort food or a guilty pleasure.

Take Breaks

While taking a break may seem impossible when the flow of patients doesn’t appear to let up, fatigue and stress have a direct impact on performance.  The same applies to your nurses and other support staff, making it even more critical to set the example and find time for regular breaks.  Stepping away for a few minutes will provide you with an opportunity to pay attention to your mind and body.

Prioritize Sleep

No one needs to explain to you how a lack of, or poor sleep, can affect an individual’s mental and physical well-being.  The challenge is that as stress levels increase, sleeping well becomes more difficult. Adding to that, many physicians and healthcare professionals respond to elevated patient loads by working excessively long hours at the expense of their own well-being.  Unfortunately, the less time your body spends in sleep, the more compromised your immune system becomes. In a pandemic, that is an especially dangerous combination.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindful meditation is usually practice seated and can be done for as little as one minute. This breathing practice is an excellent time to exercise compassion towards yourself, so don’t let your mind wander to negative thoughts and keep your attention on your breathing. Body scan exercises, available online, are a great way to assess your mental and physical well-being while giving yourself a chance to relax and decompress in the process.

Stay Positive

Controlling negative emotions during a crisis is probably one of the most difficult challenges front-line healthcare workers face right now.  Like finding time for a break, and allowing yourself to sleep, being kind and compassionate to yourself starts with a positive mindset but requires intentional effort. It is important to acknowledge the fact that you, your family, and your colleagues are experiencing similar challenges.  Taking a supportive and positive approach during such a difficult time goes a long way toward helping everyone successfully navigate another day.

Connect with Family and Friends

Call someone you love every day and talk about something meaningful. Use Facetime or another video calling tool to get a digital face-to-face conversation with someone you haven’t seen in a few weeks or even a few years. Resist the urge to binge-watch Netflix alone and instead find something more engaging. If you are going to watch a show or tv to unwind, netflixparty.com allows you to with others using the Chrome browser on your computer.

Ask for Help – Know That You’re Not Alone

Reaching out for help is a sign of strength and emotional awareness.  Many hospitals and health systems are ramping up the availability of psychological therapists to help their front-line healthcare professionals during this time.  If you don’t want to sit down with a therapist, reach out to a trusted friend or a mentor, and allow yourself to verbalize your feelings. Talking to someone you trust can be liberating and may help you emotionally process the situation.

Get Ahead of the Physical Toll

While the emotional toll of COVID-19 is high now for all healthcare providers, the physical toll is yet to come. Many of you are have patients with elective procedures and other treatments that are currently being postponed. Adopting a good set of coping strategies now only serves to help you through the rush of patients that will follow this crisis.

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 will leave many lessons learned in healthcare and in all areas of life. May some of those lessons be a new emphasis on managing mental health and achieving a healthy work/life balance. For immediate support, we’re pleased to see that The American Medical Association has curated mental health resources to help physicians during COVID-19. You can find more information here. If prioritizing a better work/life balance or moving closer to home is best for you and your family, trust Jackson Physician Search to guide you through the job search process. You can search our open jobs and apply today by visiting jobs.jacksonphysiciansearch.com.

 

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Tony Stajduhar Featured in MGMA Connection Magazine – Combat the Turnover Trap

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Medical group and hospital administrators face constant demands to maintain high-quality patient care while also meeting and exceeding revenue targets, and a major player in both pressure points is physician staffing. The nation’s aging population, legislative efforts to increase the number of insured individuals and a physician population in which 30% are at or near retirement age mean administrators must grapple with a growing shortage of doctors and an ultra-competitive recruitment market.1

The ongoing physician shortage has repercussions for the time to fill physician positions, particularly in certain medical specialties. In a 2019 Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR, formerly ASPR) annual survey, 40% of vacancies had gone unfilled by year-end 2018,2 and a 2018 report from the Society of Hospital Medicine (SoHM) showed 66.4% of hospitalist positions were unfilled at adult-care medicine groups.3

 

Read the full article on Combating the Turnover Trap on MGMA.com.

How Shelter-in-Place Orders May Affect (But Don’t Have to Derail) Your Physician Job Search

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With more states issuing shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19, healthcare administrators are working tirelessly to procure personal protective equipment for their providers and medical devices to save the lives of their patients. They are also focused on keeping up with a myriad of other essential responsibilities required to keep hospitals running effectively during these challenging times and, for many, that includes reviewing their staffing planning goals.
 
As a physician recruitment firm, we are finding that several healthcare organizations are continuing to recruit and fill physician vacancies. Because 50,000 physicians are expected to relocate for a new position before the end of 2020, interviewing, site visits, and job offers continue, albeit there are some noticeable differences to the traditional process.
 
If you’re seeking a new opportunity, keep applying for positions that interest you and read on to learn what you may expect as the new “temporary” normal.

Video Interviewing Takes Precedence

Virtual interviews are frequently used in many other industries to conduct the initial screening, to interview candidates who will work remotely, and to interview out-of-town candidates in lieu of travel. With air travel drastically reduced, and social distancing practiced everywhere, video interviews are becoming more prevalent throughout the physician hiring process. Here are a few tips to consider when preparing for your video interview:
  • Choose a Location. With stricter shelter-in-place orders more common than not, chances are that you will be doing the video interview from your home. If you don’t have a home office, choose a room that is well-lit and one where you won’t be interrupted. It is also best to avoid having a lot of clutter visible in the background.
  • Test your Setup. Even if you are familiar with video conferencing technology, always do a test run with a friend or family member. This is to make sure your internet connection is stable, your webcam produces a clear picture, and your audio is working clearly. Have a light source in front of you rather than behind you and put your computer/webcam at eye level for the best video.
  • Dress for an Interview. Treat the video interview as you would a face-to-face meeting. You wouldn’t wear workout clothes for an in-person interview, so don’t do it for a video interview. Wearing a suit or other professional attire will project your professionalism and also subconsciously put you in an interview frame of mind.
  • Close Unnecessary Tabs. Before the scheduled video call, shut down any tabs or programs on your laptop that aren’t needed for the interview, especially social media and email. Your interviewer will see if you are distracted and working on other things during the meeting.
  • Turn Off the Cellphone. At a minimum, keep your cell phone on silent mode, but preferably turn it off altogether to avoid the potential for distraction.
  • Be Prepared. In a typical interview environment, you would walk in with your CV, a pen, and a pad to write on. Have those same essentials available during your video interview. Jot down any questions that come up and have your CV available for reference.
  • Act Naturally. One of the most widely accepted interview tips is to maintain natural eye contact with your interviewer. That shouldn’t change with a video interview. Maintain eye contact, nod, and smile as you normally would to demonstrate engagement. Looking off into space or continually turning your eyes toward something off-camera is not a good look. Also, if you typically talk with hand gestures, don’t try to depress your natural way of communicating. Be yourself, and your personality will come across as authentic.

Conduct Your Own Virtual Community Site Visit

While the projection models show that we’re going to be dealing with COVID-19 for the near foreseeable future, there’s no way to know precisely when stay-at-home orders will be lifted, travel will resume, and life will return to normal. Physicians who are actively pursuing a new career opportunity are often looking at jobs from one coast to the other. Moving your family is a very real part of the job-hunting consideration process, so finding new ways to narrow down your options is important when a traditional community site visit isn’t viable.
 
In addition, assessing cultural fit with the organization and its people is vital to long-term employment. You might not be able to shake hands – or even tap elbows or bump feet – but you can still meet your colleagues and staff before accepting an offer. Here are some suggestions:
  • Video Site Visit. Typically, the site visit is an opportunity for physicians to get a first-hand look at the facility and to meet potential colleagues. Now, you may be invited to a video conference to meet your fellow physicians, members of the board, and even some of your staff. Much like when you were the video interviewee, this may be your best chance to assess the different personalities on the team and determine if you are finding a good cultural fit. Plan your questions ahead of time and interview everyone you can about the organization.
  • Community Information. With travel mostly prohibited, you can do investigative work online to learn as much as possible about the community, including school systems, religious centers, sports teams, entertainment options, and anything else that is important to you and your family’s happiness and well-being. Your potential new employer will likely have someone assigned to “show you around,” but now it will be a virtual experience. Instead of being there in person, they will probably point you to online resources and give you telephone and email information for important local contacts, so you get your questions answered from the comfort of home. An excellent resource to find out about crime, schools, and even weather for any community in the United States is www.city-data.com. Travel and tourism websites are also great options and many feature drone video footage to give you a bird’s eye view of the area. It may take a leap of faith to consider accepting an offer in a community unseen, yet physicians and other adventurous executives do it every day.
  • Real Estate. If you are planning to buy a house in your new location, you may end up doing a lot of the preliminary work online anyway. This might include interviewing real estate agents via phone or video and doing virtual tours of houses on Zillow or other real estate websites. Just like it would be if you were there in person, finding a good real estate agent is going to be the key to a successful house hunting experience.
 
It goes without saying that much of life feels upside down right now for everyone. At Jackson Physician Search, we’re here to support you by continuing to work day and night to help facilitate your next career opportunity, while also assisting hospitals and healthcare organizations with staffing their facilities. As our new “temporary” normal continues to take shape, we’re here to guide you through the interview and job selection process. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have – together, we will get through this. You can also review our commitment to you during the COVID-19 crisis by clicking here.
 
If you are looking for a physician job search partner, contact a Jackson Physician Search recruitment professional.

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IMPORTANT COVID-19 MESSAGE FOR CANDIDATES FROM OUR PRESIDENT, TONY STAJDUHAR

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Hello,

Just when I thought I’d seen it all, COVID-19 hit. I continue to be inspired by the way you, other healthcare workers, and first responders are responding to this crisis. Your dedication doesn’t really surprise me. But it seems when life is most difficult and people need help, you are the very people who transform into superheroes right before our eyes. It’s remarkable.

I want to reassure you that our entire Jackson Physician Search team is working overtime – day and night – to support you. One of our guiding values is to be an ‘Others First’ organization, so if you receive a call or email from us, I hope you will trust that our intent is not to be disrespectful or insensitive.

By nature, recruiters are great listeners. We want to listen and meet your needs – even if what you need most at the moment is to vent about the day’s challenges! We are committed to being the best matchmakers in the industry, but if in trying to meet your immediate needs, we happen to catch you at an inopportune moment, please let us know. We will always respect your wishes.

Our team has transitioned to a fully functional work-from-home model, allowing them to continue to connect you to our hundreds of clients across the nation – uninterrupted. We will continue to provide Nordstrom-level service and to think outside-the-box. We have been asked to adapt our process and assist with complying to new hospital policies. Some of these changes may include scheduling video interviews, or scheduling interviews outside of the medical campus.

Hopefully, sooner, rather than later, this crisis will pass. And as we all know, there is already a physician shortage that COVID-19 isn’t going to improve. While you focus on you and your family’s most pressing needs, we’re still focused on your future career goals.

I am praying for everyone daily, and our thoughts are with you and your family – please take care of yourself and feel welcome to call us at any point. Together, we will get through this and, hopefully, come away with valuable lessons learned.

Be well,

Tony Stajduhar
President