Mission Impossible? Physician Recruitment and Retention

It's a recruiting dream... The physician that is a perfect fit, the staff loves them and they stay with the organization working up to their retirement day. The reality is that recruits like these are not commonplace and the bottom line is when a Physician leaves an organization there are many losses. Losses in staff morale, revenue, coverage, patient satisfaction and funds invested in recruiting and training their replacement can hit an organization hard. While there is no magic formula for recruiting and retaining Physicians, there are a few techniques you can employ to increase your chances of success.

Mission Impossible? Physician Recruitment and Retention

Sell Your Location

In real estate, the saying is "Location, Location, Location". Physicians frequently cite location as a prime selling point for employment. To effectively recruit candidates you must also sell your location. Physicians aren't just choosing a job they are choosing a place to live. While you are selling them on your organization, remember to also put your local community in the spotlight. A spouse's opinion of an organization's local community is also influential in shaping Physician employment choices (1). Talk up your town's award winning schouls, great weather, parks, restaurants, recreation, shopping or lifestyle.

Use Behavior-Based Interviewing (BBI)

Behavior Based Interviewing is a technique that involves asking candidates a series of scenario based questions. These questions require the candidate to respond with real world examples of how they have handled similar scenarios in the past. This technique gives the prospective employer insight into a candidate's work habits, problem solving skills and their ability to deal with conflict and adversity. An example of a BBI question could be "Give me an example of when you last had a staffing issue in your clinic and how did you solve it". BBI has been shown to produce valid interview results while also decreasing subjective interpretation of candidate responses(2).

Optimize Your Onboarding Procedures

Onboarding provides a new hire their first impression of your organization, so it is important to make sure it is a positive one! A favorable onboarding experience can be created by ensuring your procedures are streamlined and that the newly hired Physician feels informed and supported. There are some strategies you can employ to enhance your onboarding that include:

(1) Assign a Mentor

Mentorship provides a positive and supportive model for new physicians. Mentors assist new hires with "learning the ropes", they provide peer to peer advice and model organizational values. They also provide Physicians with immediate access to a support system so they feel like they are part of a community.

(2) Use Onboarding Navigators

Consider assigning new hires an administrative rep that can guide them through the process start to finish and is available to answer questions as they arise. It's also important to evaluate your onboarding process with current employees and obtain feedback regarding their experiences to assess for other areas of improvement.

Try Some Inventive Retention Strategies

America has a 6.8% Physician turnover rate(3). While you might not be able to retain all your hires, there are certain areas you can address that may increase your retention rates. According to the 2014 Survey of America's Physicians, 81% of Physicians feel they are overextended and working at full capacity with many planning to reduce their workload in the near future. As an organization, there are several strategies you can employ to address these concerns.

(1) Try Flexible Physician Scheduling

There are scheduling options that can be adapted to meet your organization's needs such as job sharing or work schedule compression. Physicians with children frequently find themselves seeking more time with their families and a job with a good-work life balance is very attractive. Possible part time or job sharing employment can be especially attractive to younger Physicians with children and can be a real selling point for your organization.

(2) Consider Hiring Midlevel Providers

Midlevel practitioners like Physician Assistants (PA) and Nurse Practitioners (NP) can be a cost effective solution to help decrease clinic workloads. Primary Care Physician's median salaries are $221,419/year compared to a Physician Assistant's $98,180 a year(4). This considerable cost advantage can increase productivity and decrease physician workloads without having to hire more Physicians.

(3) Consider Employing Scribes

A frequent complaint by Physicians pertains to the increased amount of nonclinical administrative tasks they are asked to perform. 46% of Physicians think that EMR use distracts them from patient care (5). By utilizing scribes Physicians are able to concentrate on patient care and enjoy a decreased administrative burden. Employing scribes has also been shown to improve Physician satisfaction levels and productivity(6).

Recruiting and retaining Physicians in today's market can be especially difficult. There are many groups competing for a candidate's attention so your organization must be the best choice both before and after the hire. Applying effective recruiting and retention strategies are essential to ensure this success.


(1) Rosenthal, T. et al. Factors In The Physician Practice Location Puzzle: A Survey Of New York State Residency-Trained Family PhysiciansJ Am Board FaIn Pnct 1992; 5:265-73.

(2) Macan, T. The employment interview: a review of current studies and directions for future research.Human Resource Management Review. 19 (2009) 203-218. doi:10.1016/j.hrmr.2009.03.006