According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare now creates 1 in 5 jobs. As a recent article in HealthLeaders Media points out, this is a “bright spot in an otherwise drab economy.” The article also states that hospitals have created 52,600 new jobs in 2011 thus far, compared to 15,800 new jobs in 2010. Hospitals are hiring and more doctors are moving away from private practice to work for hospitals.

Research also indicates, however, that there will be a shortage of U.S. physicians – an estimate of 90,000 by 2020 and 150,000 by 2035. I think this is a really interesting (and alarming!) statistic that begs the question, why is there going to be this drastic decline in U.S. physicians? Lack of funds for teaching hospitals plays a large role. An article in the health section of the Wall Street Journal points out that teaching hospitals primarily rely on Medicare to fund residency slots. In 1997, Congress put a cap on funding these slots. This has hurt hospitals trying to expand residency positions. Unfortunately, the new health care bill passed in March 2010 did not address this issue.

So with more open positions but fewer doctors available, how can recruiters prepare for this looming physician shortage? Recently, Jason Crepeau, Solution Specialist for HealthcareSource Physician Recruitment Manager, published an article in the Journal of the Association of Staff Physician Recruiters (JASPR) with some tips on how healthcare HR professionals can combat this trend. Here are three things to consider:

    1. Build a database of quality physicians
    2. Automate the recruiting process to save time
    3. Retain the great physicians you have

As a former Recruiter, I’m particularly interested in how building a database of candidates and automating the recruitment process will assist physician recruiters as the physician shortage grows. Firstly, automating the process eliminates some of the administrative tasks. Jason points out in the article that with a web-based applicant tracking system, you can streamline time consuming processes such as the background check and referencing of potential candidates. Secondly, this automation process facilitates more time to build your database.With these tools, you can then present physician candidates to managers as a complete package, rather than sending bits of information at a time. And you can always go back to reference information in your database, quickly and from any computer, rather than shifting through paperwork or having access only through your work computer. Time is money and time is also vital when there are fewer viable candidates.

quality physician candidates
Retaining quality physicians can definitely help combat the shortage. Research from Cejka search and American Medical Group Assocation (AMGA) shows that 54% off physicians who move on leave their position within the first five years and this decision is sometimes made within the first three to six months. That’s why a smooth and efficient onboarding process is so key. To keep your doctors happy, obtaining feedback during the onboarding period is important. Automating that process means nothing will be ignored. Sending out regular satisfaction surveys to your physicians is also a good way to keep up with issues and maintain employee satisfaction.

To re-cap: collect and organize useful physician data, automate the recruitment and onboarding process, and focus on retention. Unfortunately, you may not be able to stop the inevitable physician shortage, but you can prevent it from negatively impacting your organization.

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About The Editorial Staff

The Editorial Staff is a team of writers with a passion for helping healthcare organizations manage their biggest and most important investment: their employees.