When the Recruiting Dam Breaks – Will You Have a Boat?

Aug 28, 2020

I heard a new term last week. “Crisis Fatigue.” Basically, it means that we are so inundated with crisis, that we give up. Considering 2020 has already delivered killer hornets in Washington, a global pandemic, West Nile Virus mosquitos, a hurricane moving up the eastern seaboard, the polar ice caps melting at alarming rates, riots in the cities, and a very strange presidential election, crisis fatigue makes a lot of sense. In the future when they teach history, 2020 is going to occupy a full semester.

Most people understood that healthcare in the US was headed for a crisis, but no one expected this. More than 97% of practices surveyed by MGMA experienced significant financial losses in the first weeks of the crisis. In a survey of 558 US primary care physicians conducted at the end of May, 6% of smaller practices were already closed and 35% have furloughed staff. Across the country small practices are setting up GoFundMe pages to save their practices. 

As the healthcare system goes, so does the physician recruiting industry. No elective procedures meant locum tenens physician contracts ended immediately, physician recruiting firms had contracts cancelled, as recruitment simply stopped in all but the largest systems. Recruiters found themselves in COVID support roles. One internal recruiting executive was assigned the task of creating a plan to determine who got a ventilator in the event that they ran out. 

As the pandemic drags on and healthcare gets better at managing COVID-19, people are returning to their roles and some semblance of planning for the future returns. Several of our clients report that this crisis made them acutely aware of where their talent shortages are.   

Eric Rose, West Regional Director of Physician Recruitment at HCA, graciously agreed to talk about the future of recruiting at The Inline Sessions in July. He confirmed that hiring has slowed dramatically and many organizations have moved physician start dates into the future. Certainly, recruiters pivoted and created new ways to interview as onsite visits screeched to a halt. In one case, a hospital rented an RV for a physician. He used it to travel to the location and as his lodging during his onsite interview. Crisis almost always breeds creativity.

As a veteran in this industry, Eric has never seen anything like this and believes neither has anyone else. He anticipates the demand for physicians and the open opportunities won’t go away, but will come crashing back in early 2021. 

Here are a few of the points he shared:

  • Physician and provider movement will exist at never before seen levels, with 36% of physicians reporting that they will retire, quit, or change jobs after their obligations to COVID care expire.
  • Hospitals and community health centers realized the need to work together and walls are coming down.
  • Urgent care continues to grow rapidly.
  • Sub-specialty roles are making a comeback.
  • Physician contracts are changing, fewer income guarantees for example and longer hiring time as priorities remain focused on virus response. 

Eric offered a piece of advice that confirmed what we are hearing from many of our clients. “Stay engaged, even if you need to put some positions on hold, stay in the market.” Certainly, things will continue to change, when the industry bounces back, you need to be ready. 

Statistically, the industry has always used 7% to define the market of physicians and advanced practitioners looking for jobs. If the predicted 36% occurs, the dam will burst and you need to be ready. Consider what happens if, in addition to your current openings, you suddenly lose 36% of your physicians. You need a plan. 

We are telling our clients, “The market is wide open and physicians are either making changes or preparing to. Keep your hat in the ring. Stay relevant and we all know that frequency breeds relevance. Our clients who kept looking are beginning to make hires. In fact, we saw a threefold increase in hires in July.” Don’t wait until it is too late. 

If you didn’t get a chance to join Eric Rose’s Inline Session, you can find it at theinlinesessions.inline.group.