At the 2008 SHM Annual Meeting in San Diego, I had the pleasure of serving as moderator for a panel commenting on the opportunities and challenges faced by hospitalists. I’m not sure how well our predictions will withstand the test of time, but two things came up that I’ll discuss here:
1) Nearly every group is recruiting, and many seem to think the hospitalist shortage will last throughout the careers of those in practice today.
2) Nearly all hospitalist groups are looking for more doctors. I asked the approximately 1,600 in attendance how many are recruiting for more hospitalists. Nearly every hand in the room shot up. It was impressive; one friend (Bob Reynolds) told me he was sitting in the back and could feel a breeze in the room from all the hands being raised. Only about three hands went up when I asked how many thought their staffing was adequate.
Bear in mind that based on the show of hands nearly every group in the country is recruiting. Many groups are looking to add three to six hospitalists this year alone. This is on top of the average group growing about 20% to 25% the past two years, based on my study of data from the “Society of Hospital Medicine 2007-08 Survey: The Authoritative Source on the State of the Hospitalist Movement.” The survey showed the number of FTE doctors in the average hospitalist group grew from a median six to eight hospitalists (the average went from eight to 9.7).
Hospital medicine is the fastest-growing field in the history of American medicine, and it looks like the demand for hospitalists may be increasing even faster than the supply.
I was tempted to ask for a show of hands from doctors at the meeting who were looking for a hospitalist position, but feared it could disrupt the whole conference as those seeking new doctors pounced on the potential candidates in a piranha-like feeding frenzy. So there is good news for anyone interested in joining a hospitalist group: You should have a lot of choices. If you’re recruiting, you’d better get to work to make sure you have really good plan. Let me offer a few ideas.
Never stop recruiting. Dr. Greg Mappin, VPMA at Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood, S.C., told me his philosophy is to “recruit forever, and hire when necessary.” I agree.
You should build and maintain a robust candidate pipeline by ensuring your practice maintains a high level of visibility before your best source of new doctors. The best source for most groups is the closest residency training program, though other nearby hospitalist or outpatient practices might be a secondary source of new manpower.
I suggest you engage residents by hosting a dinner near their hospital once or twice a year and inviting all second- and third-year residents to attend regardless of their interest in becoming hospitalists. You might do this even in years you may not need to add hospitalists to ensure your dinner becomes a regular event for them and to ensure they’re very familiar with your program. Some hospitals develop night and weekend moonlighting programs that employ nearby residents, which increases the chance some will join the practice upon completion of their training.
Ensure all hospitalists—especially the group leader—actively participate in recruiting. Your hospital or medical group’s physician recruiter can be a terrific asset. He/she can provide advice regarding how to find candidates, arranging interviews, etc. Yet, it is critical for the hospitalist group leader to actively communicate with every candidate, including responding to every inquiry within a day or so.