First steps in your job search

Whether just done with residency, an experienced hospitalist seeking new work, or a private practice physician transitioning to hospitalist work, a job hunt, at the outset, is an exercise in information-gathering.

Whether you're fresh out of residency, an experienced hospitalist looking for a new job, or a private practice physician transitioning to hospitalist work, a job hunt, at the outset, is an exercise in information-gathering. Consultants and recruiters cite three basic areas for consideration:

1. Location, location, location. "The number one reason people take and hold on to a job is because they're comfortable in and have ties to the area. They need to have reasons outside of work to be there," says Michael Tucker, senior consultant for the St. Louis physician recruitment firm Cejka Search. Confine your job search to a region that's compatible with you and your family's lifestyle. In a field as wide-open as hospital medicine, there's no need to take a job in a disagreeable location in the hope that you'll acclimate.

2. Type of hospital. "Each hospital type-academic vs. community, rural vs. suburban vs. city, general vs. specialty-has a somewhat different patient population and flavor," says Patrick J. Cawley, MD, chief medical officer at the Medical University of South Carolina and immediate past-president of the Society of Hospital Medicine. "Think about which you prefer. Consider, too, whether the program is large or small, and whether it's a mature program or startup," he adds.

"Ask, too, how long the hospitalist program has been in place," says Tucker. "That will tell you something about the stability of the program. What is the hospitalist turnover rate? How is the service viewed by the local medical community? Extend your inquiry to nurses and others on the staff. They'll have insights that will yield a more complete picture of the hospital."

To zero in on job opportunities, look at classified advertisements in print publications and on the Internet. The website, for one, is devoted exclusively to hospital medicine, and the Society of Hospital Medicine lists positions on its website ( and in its print publications, The Hospitalist and Journal of Hospital Medicine. Physician recruitment firms, such as Cejka Search and Merritt Hawkins, offer employment search and consulting services. If you prefer the direct approach, many hospitals have a physician recruitment department.

Because hospitalists are in great demand, recruiters will almost certainly come to you. Tucker acknowledges that it's not uncommon for aspiring hospitalists to hear about several job opportunities daily. To better utilize recruiters as a resource, be frank about your preferences, says Tucker. "For example, if a recruiter sends you a notice about a hospitalist opportunity in New Hampshire, but you have your eye on Massachusetts, it might be worthwhile to respond via e-mail, 'I saw your mailer about the position in New Hampshire. It's not what I want, but if you have something in Massachusetts I'd like to hear about it'."