Accepting a job in a new city, state, or country can be invigorating for professional and personal reasons, but making the actual move often is stressful, irritating, and more than a little overwhelming. Multiple factors are involved when you transition from one community to another.
For hospitalists relocating for a new job, the good news is it’s almost a given you will receive financial assistance and more than a little guidance to make the move as smooth and hassle-free as possible, says Tommy Bohannon, vice president of hospital-based recruiting for Merritt Hawkins & Associates, a recruitment firm that specializes in the placement of permanent physicians. Ninety-eight percent of physician and certified registered nurse anesthetists are provided relocation assistance, according to a Merritt Hawkins review of recruiting incentives conducted from April 2008 to March 2009. The Irving, Texas-based firm found that the average relocation allowance is $10,427, the highest amount offered since it began tracking recruiting incentives in 2005.
The Upper Hand: HM Still in Demand
While the struggling economy has put a damper on relocation allowances in other professions, it has not had a similar effect on HM, says Cheryl Slack, vice president of human resources for Cogent Healthcare, a Brentwood, Tenn.-based company that partners with hospitals to build and manage hospitalist programs. Hospitalists have become harder and harder to recruit as demand for their services continues to far outpace their supply, she says.
“Relocation assistance is the nature of the beast,” says Slack, whose company typically covers a hospitalist’s move from Point A to Point B, storage fees for a few months, and sometimes travel costs to and from their former home to tie up loose ends. “We see it as the cost of doing business.”
Because most relocation allowances are not tied to a time or service commitment, hospitalists can use the money to facilitate their move without the worry of having to pay some of it back if the job doesn’t work out. They can get the most mileage out of the assistance by comparison shopping (see “Internet Resources for Relocations,” right) or using companies that have a relationship with their recruiter or employer. “We actually have an in-house relocation team and a preferred-rate contract with a national moving company,” Bohannon says. “The vast majority of our candidates work with the in-house team. We help them with the physical move itself. We assist them in taking an inventory of their belongings to get an idea of how much it will cost to move, and we get the moving company in contact with them.”
Temporary vs. Permanent Decisions
Hospitalists might want to consider renting or taking advantage of temporary housing, if offered by the new employer, in order to get acclimated with the new community and its neighborhoods, says Christian Rutherford, president and CEO of Kendall & Davis, a St. Louis-based physician recruitment firm. In the current housing market, renting or using temporary housing might be the best option for hospitalists who are still trying to sell their last home.
When hospitalists are ready to buy a home in their new community, they should check with people at their new job or their recruiter to get names of real estate agents who have considerable insight into the community and local property values. “When we first discuss an opportunity with a candidate, we will pass along pretty detailed information about neighborhoods, schools, housing costs, churches, local clubs that cater to their interests, and hobbies,” Bohannon says. “The market has changed to where the candidate is interviewing the opportunity. We’re pretty hands-on to make sure they have access to the information they need to make a good decision.”
Community Comes First
—Tommy Bohannon, vice president of hospital-based recruiting, Merritt Hawkins & Associates, Irving, Texas
For most job candidates, 50% of the “sale”—the decision to relocate—is the community in which they will work and live, says Mark Dotson, Cogent Healthcare’s senior director of recruitment. Candidates want to know about the neighborhoods, school systems, and cost of living, and nearby entertainment, cultural, and social amenities. Even though a lot of information is available on the Internet, it is not always dependable. Recruiters and potential employers often provide comprehensive community information packets for hospitalists; many organize a community tour while hospitalists are in town for their on-site interview. Some employers and recruiters schedule meetings with real estate agents, school administrators, even Chamber of Commerce representatives.
“I’ve talked to hospitals about providers’ spouses and where they might be able to find work. It’s all part of the recruitment process and determining what the individual provider’s needs are,” says Mimi Hagan, regional director of hospitalist accounts for Hospital Physician Partners of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a medical management company that partners with hospitals to build emergency and hospitalist practices. “The last thing we want is for a provider to walk into the hospital thinking this isn’t the right fit for them. It’s not good for the provider, it’s not good for the hospital, and it’s not good for us.”
Hagan and Rutherford advise hospitalists who are seriously contemplating relocating and have families to bring their partners with them for the on-site interview. They might want to consider making another trip to their new community with the children in tow. “Relocating to a different area is a really big cultural change. Candidates have to make sure their spouse is as excited about the change as they are,” Rutherford says. “Don’t ever underestimate how much of a strain this can be on the kids and the spouse.” TH
Lisa Ryan is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.