Is Anybody Out There?

In a tale all too familiar to HM group leaders, whether they head two- or three-physician services or the large, multistate hospitalist companies, Heather Bellow, MD, FAAP, is trying to recruit a pediatric hospitalist to her midsize Midwest town.

Her sales pitch, though, seems to focus more on the bounties of Lansing, Mich., rather than the work to be done as the fourth full-time member of Sparrow Hospital Inpatient Pediatric Services. Dr. Bellow often talks up the culture, lifestyle, and the vibrant atmosphere Michigan State University provides the community. And yet, she struggles to find new hires.

Her story is the new norm: Group directors outside the nation’s largest markets agree that they often work for months at a time to recruit hospitalists. Some relent and hire a steady string of residents from nearby institutions. Others throw money at the problem, only to lose those well-paid hospitalists to other groups that throw more money at the problem. The problem is particularly acute in secondary- and tertiary-population areas, where hiring managers often find themselves battling each other for the same hospitalists.

Who’s Hiring Whom?

Recruitment is a two-way street. Groups need to have a clear hiring plan before they start interviewing, and candidates should take ownership of their job search. Inpatient Management Inc. of St. Louis offers these tips:

  • Employers should have a clear understanding of their practice culture, the work-life balance it affords, practice style, and patient volumes.
  • HMGs need to target “the” candidate, not “a” candidate. Type-A personalities might not be the best fit for HMGs with a business-casual approach.
  • Directors need to do their homework. Pre-interview assessments, review resumes for red flags, follow through on reference checks: All are basic and effective tools.
  • Hospitalists need to know their boundaries. Determine your perfect situation, then decide the parameters of employment. Know the things you are willing to compromise on and the things that are deal-breakers.
  • Job-seekers, do your homework, too. Research the practice you are interviewing with; check out patient volume; talk to the potential employer’s physicians.
  • Money isn’t everything. A signing bonus is nice, but if the fit isn’t right, it probably won’t be worthwhile to uproot and move across the country. If the job is right, the money tends to be less of a factor.—RQ

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Dr. Bellow says. “How do you find that outside person that’s willing to come to small-town USA? I really don’t know.”

About Richard Quinn

Richard Quinn is an award-winning journalist with 15 years’ experience. He has worked at the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and currently is managing editor for a leading commercial real estate publication. His freelance work has appeared in The Jewish State, The Hospitalist, The Rheumatologist, ACEP Now, and ENT Today. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and three cats.

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