Practice Economics

Spousal Consent


When recruiting a hospitalist for his company, Jason Stuckey makes it a point to call the candidate’s home. His goal isn’t to speak with the hospitalist the company is interested in hiring—it’s to talk with the candidate’s spouse.

“One of the top five mistakes recruiters make is to not involve the spouse in the [recruitment] process,” says Stuckey, who directs HM recruiting for TeamHealth, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based company that provides healthcare staffing and administrative services to hospitals in 14 states.

Hospitalists are generally so busy with work that the spouse is often the person in the family who takes the lead in the job search, says Tim Lary, vice president of profession staffing for IPC: The Hospitalist Co., a national physician group practice based in North Hollywood, Calif.

The spouse often gives final approval on a decision to accept a job offer, adds Peggy Fricke, director of physician staffing for Eagle Hospital Physicians, an Atlanta-based company that manages hospitalist practices for hospitals in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.

“The physician could be making the most money, but if their spouse and family are not happy, then they won’t stay in the position long,” Stuckey explains. “I’ve also found that if the spouse is not on board with moving and uprooting the family to a new location, then it’s not going to happen.”

As a result, recruiters and prospective employers often spend just as much time engaging the spouse as they do the actual job candidate, the recruiters say. For this reason, hospitalists who are searching for a new job would be wise to include their husband or wife as early as possible in the job hunt in order to get the most out of the recruiting process.

For example, while the hospitalist focuses on determining if the work is the right fit professionally and financially, the spouse can appraise the community to see if it meets the family’s needs in such areas as schools, neighborhoods, religious services, community groups, and entertainment/cultural outlets. If the hospitalist is invited for an on-site interview, it’s important that their spouse makes the trip as well.

“We always do a community tour, and we will do school tours when asked,” Fricke says of Eagle’s recruiting efforts. “We can introduce the families of the other hospitalists in the practice so a spouse can meet and get to know them.”

If the spouse is not on board with moving and uprooting the family to a new location, then it’s not going to happen.

—Jason Stuckey, director, HM recruitment, TeamHealth, Knoxville, Tenn.

Upfront Inclusion

When the spouse is involved in the process, they usually are more receptive to receiving information about what opportunities exist in other communities and more open to the idea of moving to a new place, Stuckey says.

For instances in which children are involved, the spouse is most often interested in learning about the location’s school districts and private schools, and determining if the community has a good quality of life for families, Fricke says. For situations in which there are no children or the children are grown, the spouse often focuses on job prospects in their own profession.

Hospitalists with a husband or wife who works and whose career is important to them should see if the HM recruiter can help put their spouse in touch with potential employers in the community, because many times they will, says Fricke, who has connected spouses in IT and engineering fields with people who could assist them in their job search.

“It goes back to making sure everyone is happy. If the spouse can’t find work, that is going to affect their happiness,” says Darren Swenson, MD, medical affairs director for IPC of Nevada and regional chair of IPC’s national advisory board.

Aside from schools, quality of life, and their own job opportunities, spouses also ask about what their hospitalist husband or wife’s work schedule would be and how much vacation and holiday time they would have in the prospective job, Dr. Swenson says.

“It’s extremely important that we look at our hospitalists and their spouses being happy in their home life, because if they’re not, that is going to spill over into in their work life,” IPC’s Lary says.

Good Partnership, Bad Partnership

Times arise when the spouse takes a proactive role in evaluating the actual HM job offer, the recruiters say. “In all couples, there is someone who is dominant and someone who is not,” says Fricke, who has seen spouses participate in job interviews with hospital administrators. “If the spouse is dominant, we try to understand them and listen to what is important to them.”

Sometimes the spouse is an attorney or other type of professional who wants to review the hospitalist contract and has the most questions about it, Dr. Swenson says. When that happens, recruiters will often have group members sit in to answer their questions, he says.

“Absolutely, without question, the spouse has to be involved. But if the spouse is too demanding and everything has to be run through them, to an employer, that can be a big turnoff,” Stuckey says.

When it comes to business matters, the physician—not the spouse—has to take the lead, he says. If the physician doesn’t, it could make the prospective employer wonder what challenges could be ahead should the candidate be hired, Stuckey says.

Two-Physician Families

One time when it is acceptable for a spouse to get intimately involved in the contract and negotiations is when he or she is a hospitalist who also is being recruited by the same prospective employer.

“It’s a unique situation. It’s great to have two for the price of one, so to speak,” Stuckey says. “But there are challenges from the employer’s perspective—for example, scheduling—that have to be resolved on the front end rather than when they get there.”

While still relatively rare, husband-wife hospitalist couples are becoming more prevalent because there are more hospitalists, Fricke says. They tend to meet each other in medical school or residency, she says.

“Even though they are a couple, we treat them as individuals during the recruiting process,” Fricke says. “I think the most important thing is we try to do anything we can—within reason, of course—to help the hospitalist and their spouse make the best decision for themselves and their family.” TH

Lisa Ryan is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.

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