Report: Primary care recruitment frenzy settling down

Family physicians are no longer the most sought out healthcare providers to be recruited after a 14-year run at the top.

Family doctors are no longer the most recruited healthcare providers in the industry as they’ve been dethroned by nurse practitioners (NPs).

According to news release detailing the results of the 2021 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives produced by medical search firm Merritt Hawkins, over a 12-month period the company performed more searches for NPs than any other type of provider. This is the first time in the 28 years the report has been prepared that physicians did not hold the top spot, and the first time in 14 years that primary care doctors were not the most sought after.

“COVID-19 and other market forces are changing the dynamics of physician and advanced practitioner recruiting,” Tom Florence, president of Merritt Hawkins, says in the release. “Primary care physicians are still a vital part of team-based care and will be increasingly responsible for coordinating the care of older patients with multiple chronic conditions, but the recruiting frenzy in primary care is over.”

Family physicians are now the second most sought out providers, but searches for the specialty only made up only 18 percent of the firm’s engagements. This is down 4 percent from two years ago. Specialist physicians, on the other hand, made up 64 percent of Merritt Hawkins’ search engagements over 12 months, the release says.

The firm ties this increase in the search for specialists with the population aging and requiring their services. At the same time specialists are, on average, older than primary care physicians and many are nearing retirement which is limiting the supply, the release says.

Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has suppressed demand for doctors temporarily as the number of search engagements dropped by 25 percent year-over-year. The same dynamic seems to be having the opposite effect on the market for NPs; which has seen an increase year-over-year, the release says.