Physician Recruitment Fraught with Pitfalls

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Many hospitals, clinics and managed care companies have established in-house physician recruitment and retention programs but are going about it the wrong way, according to Roger G. Bonds, CEO of the American Academy of Medical Management and President of the National Institute of Physician Recruitment and Retention in Atlanta, speaking at a seminar held in conjunction with the American Hospital Association meeting.

Too often, hospitals and others underestimate the time and commitment needed to attract good physicians. It costs an average of $27,300 to recruit a physician, and on average one in-house recruiter needs about a year to recruit seven physicians. Bonds suggests an incentive system rather than a straight salary to compensate recruiters. The average base pay for an in-house recruiter is $52,000 to $56,000, plus bonuses and benefits.

The hardest step of recruiting is sourcing or identifying a group of good candidates. While the employer might use an outside recruiting firms, which Bonds calls “sourcing factories,” today there are dozens of ways to source physicians on their own, but most don’t know their options. The second most difficult task is closing the deal, which has to be a group effort involving the management team, other doctors and support staff. “Today we also teach our members how to attach financial incentives and disincentives to close the deal,” states Bonds.

“Retention starts during the recruitment process. That is, recruit the physician who is the best long-term fit in the first place,” Bonds said. “But remember, just because they’ve signed, some physicians never show up because they get grabbed by the competition.” Then, just because the physician shows up doesn’t mean he or she will stay. Average physician turnover (including retirement and death) is 8% per year for hospitals and for a clinic it is 6%, with most turnover occurring in the first three years.

Other suggestions Bonds made for physician employers interested in improving an in-house recruitment program include: giving the recruiter the responsibility to make decisions quickly without being second guessed by committees or several layers of management; consolidating recruitment efforts to have a true picture of the costs involved; realizing that recruiting is selling; and write the contract so it’s a sales tool that the doctor wants to sign instead of serving as a hurdle.

More doctors are asking hospitals to hire them as employees, but Bonds cautions that recruiting an employee requires a hospital to be very careful with federal employment laws that impact hiring based on sex, age or race. Contracting with a physician for his or her services, however, still allows hospitals to choose candidates based on these criteria.

Each medical specialty requires a different approach to sourcing and recruiting a physician, Bonds said. Therefore, a customized campaign is more successful than a shotgun approach.


Physician Recruitment is challenging enough without our own self-made problems. Learn more about AAMM’s seminars and resources.

Roger Bonds is the founder of the American Academy of Medical Management and president of The National Institute of Physician Recruitment & Retention, based in Atlanta, GA. Find AAMM on FacebookLinkedIn, Twitter.and YouTube. Email AAMM at [email protected], or call their main office at 770-649-7150.