5 Tips for Hiring a New Physician

Rheumatology Practice Management October 2016 Vol 4 No 5 - Employers’ Perspective

Hiring a new physician is a huge undertaking that has a lasting impact on your practice. Finding exceptional candidates who make patient safety and satisfaction a top priority benefits both your patients and your practice, because physicians who enhance your reputation are vital to long-term success.

The National Organization of Rheumatology Managers recently spoke to Iris W. Nichols, Practice Administrator of Arthritis & Osteoporosis Consultants of the Carolinas (AOCC), Charlotte, who has extensive experience with the hiring process and recently added new physicians to her practice, as well as Reuben Allen, Rheumatology Practice Consultant, Wilmington, NC. This article features their best nuggets of wisdom applicable to rheumatology practices of any size. If you are planning to hire a new physician within the next few years, reading this article should be your very first step.

1) Have a long-term strategy when it comes to hiring.

One of the most common mistakes Ms Nichols sees practices make is waiting too long to begin the hiring process.

“You can’t decide today that you want a new physician in three months,” she cautions. Instead, practices should start talking about hiring a full year before they think they will need a new physician, then start tapping into residency and fellowship programs, and placing ads. During AOCC’s last round of hiring, they searched through all 3 of these avenues.

To find qualified candidates, both Ms Nichols and Mr Allen recommend sending letters to the department chairs of fellowship programs across the country, and to professional contacts in academia, explaining what you are looking for and offering some information about your practice. Centers often want to keep their fellows for academic reasons, and it can be difficult to broach the subject of drawing them away. A well-worded and direct letter of interest helps to break the ice.

2) Headhunters can help—if you find the right one.

Sometimes you need a little extra help finding the right candidate, and in these cases, a reputable headhunter can be a useful shortcut. Ms Nichols points out that AOCC is in Charlotte, a large, metropolitan area, which makes it easier to attract talented doctors. Rheumatology practices in smaller towns often have a harder time making their case.

“A headhunter can work for you and help make your city more desirable to potential candidates,” Ms Nichols explains. Practices can also offer extras to sweeten the deal, such as a signing bonus, moving expenses, and other perks.

Mr Allen agrees that smaller practices are often at a disadvantage, especially when competing for candidates with hospitals in bigger cities. He recommends stressing the benefits of a small practice, such as the fact that physicians have a better chance of becoming a partner sooner, more freedom to do things their own way, and less overhead. He also adds that smaller practices may be better off posting job listings through the American College of Rheumatology and skipping the recruiter route completely, as they can often be expensive. Most job seekers will check the American College of Rheumatology’s website, so they will know about your job opening even without the help of a recruiter.

3) Check references before the interview.

References are not just for show. Make sure you ask for references and call them to learn more about each candidate. Taking this step before you bring the candidate in for an interview can be very illuminating, especially when it comes to potential issues or questions the references may bring up. Candidates should have no problem coming up with a required number of references, but excellent candidates will offer a few key people. These include their department chair or chief, mentors at their fellowship program, and a colleague who can describe what they are like to work with day to day.

4) An interactive interview is key.

When it comes to the actual interview, AOCC has developed a routine that is illuminating for both the candidate and the hiring staff. Either the day before or the morning of the interview, the candidate shadows a partner for 1 to 2 hours while they go about their day. This gives partners the opportunity to speak with the candidate 1-on-1 and answer any questions they may have. It also gives the candidate a chance to see firsthand how the practice operates, and what level of care is expected from the physicians.

Candidates also have an opportunity to spend 10 minutes with each department in the practice, so they have a better understanding of the services the practice offers.

“They’ll be working with labs, x-rays, everyone,” Ms Nichols says. “Meeting the people in those departments is just as important as getting to know the partners.”

5) Have a standard contract on hand when you make an offer.

When it is time to make an offer, it is important to have a standard contract—the only deviation should be the salary. At AOCC, contracts are drafted by an attorney and are renewed yearly until the new physician is offered partner status—usually after 2 or 3 years, although this is purposely left open-ended and not specified in the contract. The contract can also include a bonus structure that outlines when, if, and through what machinations bonuses are offered. Although the process of finding a physician can take a year from start to finish, the time from interview to offer is usually completed by AOCC in 30 to 45 days.

Reprinted with permission from the National Organization of Rheumatology Managers. 5 Tips for hiring a new physician. Published June 21, 2016. Accessed October 17, 2016. Content developed by Sage Island

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