Recruiting doctors a constant, costly chore for hospitalsIt’s not only doctors and medical students who hear from recruiting agencies. Hospitals are deluged as well.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
It’s not only doctors and medical students who hear from recruiting agencies. Hospitals are deluged as well.
It was so incessant that it became a distraction, said Rick Breuer, CEO of Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet. He has started telling recruitment firms he will keep their information on file, but if they keep calling him he’ll throw away that information.
“I have recruiters calling me every single day,” Breuer said. “I have no idea how many physician-recruiting companies there are.”
Yet Breuer has used a recruiting firm only once in more than a decade at Community Memorial. That was the first doctor he hired, at the end of 2001.
With a small-town lifestyle and easy access to Duluth, Community Memorial Hospital doesn’t have the same recruiting challenges as “deep rural” communities with one or two doctors, Breuer said.
But filling future vacancies is always something the hospital has in mind, he said.
“You’re working with the schools actively in trying to identify someone early on,” Breuer said. “We do a lot of work with the schools already, having residents in here, having students in here. … And some of those doctors do come back to us in the future.”
Breuer has been the hospital’s in-house recruiter, but that will become a primary responsibility of a chief operating officer who is to be added to the administrative staff this summer, he said. Fairview University Medical Center-Mesabi in Hibbing takes a hybrid approach to recruiting, said Jim Bymark, vice president of clinical development, whose responsibilities include physician recruitment.
The hybrid consists of a combination of recruitment agencies, hospital staff and the recruitment services of the parent Fairview Health Services. To some extent, it’s a matter of being aware of homegrown talent, Bymark said.
“Oftentimes the communities we live in are good referral sources for potential candidates,” he said.
St. Luke’s hospital has two recruiters and also uses recruitment services, said Sandra Barkley, vice president of clinic. She’s typically trying to fill 25 to 30 vacancies for St. Luke’s and Lake View Memorial Hospital in Two Harbors.
“And no matter how many you find, it seems like that list always stays the same,” she said with a laugh.
Essentia Health’s 69 clinics have a total of 15 openings in family medicine, said Kris Olson, vice president of physician and professional services.
“We know we’re going to find them; it’s just making sure we get the right people for the right locations,” Olson said. “I’m not worried.”
Olson, who works out of Fargo, N.D., heads a team of 41 people, including four who exclusively recruit physicians. One of those is dedicated entirely to family medicine. Another recruiter seeks physician assistants and advanced-practice nurses in family medicine.
Compare that to Dr. Barbara Hemenway, the only doctor at Northland Family Physicians in the Northland Medical Center in Duluth. The practice, which is adjacent to St. Luke’s but separate from it, currently consists of Hemenway and a physician’s assistant. Hemenway has been looking on and off for a partner since September 2010.
It costs $25,000 to hire a search firm, prohibitive for a small, independent clinic, Hemenway said. Northland Family Physicians is part of the Duluth-based Integrity Health Network, which hired a recruiting company. But although she’s gung-ho about Integrity, the recruiting firm it hired didn’t yield a good fit for her practice, said Hemenway, 63.
Hemenway hasn’t set a retirement date, but when she comes to that time, she’ll need another doctor in place for the practice to survive, she said. At least some of the problem is money.
“It would be very difficult for me to meet what the market is right now,” Hemenway said. “Would you like to know what the market is? I was quoted by a doctor in a larger independent clinic as: first year, $170,000 plus a $30,000 signing bonus. Guaranteed for the first year. Little tough to come up with that from this office.”
The medical clinic at the Fond du Lac Reservation, which is fully staffed at seven physicians, has been dealing with shortages for the past three years, said Phil Norrgard, human services director.
“Recruiting efforts have gotten increasingly competitive,” Norrgard said. “So salaries have gone up, signing bonuses have gone up, and loan-repayment opportunities have increased.”