In a small Kansas town, an independent medical practice is taking an innovative step to attract talent.
The practice owner and his team of six clinicians believe they need at least one more physician but expect the position will be part time, at least to start.
The owner developed a training program with a local hospital that allows new physicians he hires to get hours at the hospital, thereby creating the equivalent of a full-time position attractive enough to draw high-quality applicants, says Jillian Schneider, MHA, manager of practice support at the American College of Physicians, who has worked with the practice.
Many practices have difficulty recruiting and retaining clinical staff, but small and independent practices often face the biggest challenges as they try to compete for talent against larger entities that are better able to promote all they can offer.
Small, independent and rural practices don’t have as many recruitment and retention resources. They typically don’t have the financial capacity to offer compensation packages as generous as larger or system-owned practices, or offer the high-profile work environments that exist in major research healthcare centers. They might not even have a full-time schedule to offer to start, as the Kansas example illustrates.
Management experts stress that a well-crafted plan can help these practices be more successful in hiring the right people for their teams, ensuring the longevity of their practices, and, ultimately, serving their patients in the most efficient and effective manner. “At a small practice, there’s only so much money that can be spent on compensation, so they have to consider the types of the benefits they can offer, like flexibility and work-life balance. Those are big perks that money can’t buy,” Schneider says.
Target the talent
Smaller, rural and independent practices can be particularly hard-pressed to attract qualified candidates, says Travis Singleton, executive vice president of the physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins.
These practices sometimes struggle to attract physicians and other clinicians because prospective employees are often unfamiliar with smaller practices, how they operate, and why they can be good places to work. Singleton says younger physicians typically train at hospitals or in larger practices affiliated with healthcare systems, so they’re only familiar with practicing in such settings.
To attract physicians, Singleton says, independent practices should search for candidates who come from rural areas and are therefore likely familiar with life in those areas, the sense of community they often have and perhaps even how healthcare practices in those areas operate. Practices should use professional networks, medical schools or physician associations to identify clinicians who fit that profile.
But that is just the first step. Independent practices also should work with medical schools or regional medical associates to attract potential candidates. “Physicians in small and rural practices should be reaching out to schools, saying, ‘We want students to come to us. We want them to learn about small-practice medicine, rural medicine, so let’s form programs so they can be exposed to this kind of environment,’” she says.