90,000 - Per a study by the Medical School Association, that is the projected number of the physician shortage the United States will experience by 2025. Although the physician shortage has been common knowledge for some time, many practices have yet to adjust their recruiting process to reflect this new reality. Most hiring managers assume that successfully recruiting a physician comes down to the employment package. While that is paramount, another element of the recruiting process, which is just as vital, often gets overlooked: recruiting timeline.
Start Your Search Earlier: Simply stated, the vast majority of practices are not realistic about the time needed to source and vet a suitable candidate. Very rarely, if ever, will a physician be able to start within the month. Almost every working physician will be required to give some notice and that could range from 30 to 120 days. If you’re in a rural or highly competitive area, it could easily take 4-6 months to hire and onboard a suitable physician. If you wait until you really need the physician, you could be looking at 3-4 additional months beyond when you want them to start, which puts a significant amount of strain on your practice. This could include extra financial strain, as you may have to utilize a temporary locums solution or reduce new patient admissions.
Benchmark Projections are Key: So you know you need to start your efforts earlier, but how much earlier? Your best tool for figuring this out is a mix of projections and local considerations. To begin, you should create an internal growth benchmark that, when achieved, triggers the search for a new physician. For instance, if your providers currently see 500 patients per month, find a way to start the search when you hit 100 new patients in a month. It may seem too early, but if you’re growing by 100 patients a month, you’ll have just 4 months before you need another physician - leaving just 1 month for the recruitment process, if the physician has to give a 3-month notice. If you’re located in a rural or competitive area, you may need to adjust even further to acknowledge those hurdles.
Financial Planning: As we get closer to 2025, it will be critical for practices to not only understand their growth trends, but also to have some idea of what their revenue looks like going forward a year or two. If you don’t offer a robust benefits package, or are on the low end of salary expectations in your area, you’ll need to parse those projections to see if you’ll be able to adjust to a more competitive place and, if not, decide what changes you’ll need to make to get there. To give you an idea of how the market has changed: in 2013, the average mid-level provider sign-on bonus was $3,000 and only 11% of providers received one. One year later, as the physician shortage grew and mid-level providers became more in demand, it had more than doubled to $7,500 with an increase to 50% receipt. On top of that, 78% required relocation assistance, with the average relocation package coming in just above $9,000. These demands are even higher for physician candidates and are creating a more competitive market across the board. By configuring your compensation adjustments and options ahead of time, you’ll provide clarity to your recruiting team and ensure the financial stability of your practice.
Admittedly, projections aren’t fun and they can be time consuming. But, as with all things in life, the more prepared you are, the more successful you will be. By dedicating some time now to knowing when you should truly begin your physician search and ensuring that you’ll have the resources to successfully recruit your ideal candidate, you’ll save yourself the anxiety, and possible financial hardship, of the last-minute physician placement.