Retaining new physicians ... the first five years
It takes a lot of time to recruit the right physician. When you finally find a physician that is a great for your community, you want to be sure you do everything you can to make this a successful partnership. You need to help him/her and their family assimilate into the community and make them feel like a welcome addition to the team. If a physician is moving from out of state, it can take 6 months or a year for them to get moved and get their practice started. You need to do everything you can to help them move to the community, get settled and then get to work.
Much like being the new kid in a school, it’s easy to feel like an outsider—even when you are a physician. There are a number of steps a leadership team can take to make sure a physician not only relocates to a community, but also makes it their home.
1) Credentialing – Credentialing can take a lot of time. If they are not licensed in your state, try to convince them to apply while you are negotiating the move. Some states allow a physician to “walk” their application through the process to speed it up. Many states do not. This process can take a lot of time. There are companies that can help with the credentialing process. As soon as the physician agrees to the move, get them to work filling out that medical staff application. When a physician finally makes a decision to move, they want to get moved and get to work. Credentialing will delay their ability to start if you do not keep them focused on this process.
2) Welcome the spouse and family. Introduce the physician and their spouse to a trusted realtor. A realtor can work with them to find a home that meets their needs. If there are children, they may need help finding the right schools. They may have specific religious or cultural needs. Connect them to people in the community who can help develop their new network of friends. Does the spouse work outside the home? Ask if they need help identifying opportunities for work in your community.
3) Offer to help get the physician’s office set up. This may be easy if the physician is joining an existing group. If they are independent and starting their own practice, it can be challenging for them to get the office ready to go. Office equipment, furniture, computers, staffing—there is a lot that goes into setting up an office. This can be especially difficult if they are moving from out of state. It is probably worth the expense to hire a professional company to set up the independent practice. You don’t want the physician trying to get the practice set up after they’ve moved. This delay will lead to physician frustration.
4) Market the physician to the community and other physicians.
a) Set up meet and greets or coffee get-togethers or after hours mixers to allow the physician a chance to highlight his/her specialties. These meet and greets should be with other physicians, staff, leaders and the community.
b) Use social media such as Facebook or advertise in newspapers including online community newspapers. Find the physician's target audience and reach out accordingly.
c) Create welcome billboards visible at the entrance of the hospital to announce the physician to hospital employees and visitors.
d) Ask the physician to create content highlighting his/her specialty area and then have it placed in the local newspaper-including online community newspapers. Put it on the hospital blog and share it onto the Hospital’s Facebook page(s).
5) Hospital orientation. Provide the physician with a list of people they will be interacting with on a daily basis and let him/her know what to expect. Make introductions to those leaders with whom they will be interacting. Ensuring a new surgeon is familiar with the surgical services leadership team will make for a smoother transition. Your middle management team should all be checking in with the physician to make sure they and their patients have everything they need.
6) Check in with the physician frequently. Stop by the physician’s office to check in with them. It helps you understand their practice if you meet in the physician’s environment. Get to know their staff. Make sure the office manager has your contact information. You want them to call you if there are any issues interfering with the physician being able to practice. Check in with them in the hospital when they are rounding. If your new doctor is a surgeon, check in with them after they finish surgery for the day by going to the recovery room for a quick 5-minute chat. Make sure they are settling in beyond the first couple of weeks. You want to resolve any issues quickly.
There’s a three to five year window in which to get the physician completely rooted in your community. Years 1 and 2 are new, exciting. They are building a practice and getting to know their patients. Their patients are learning to trust them. Years three to five are the riskiest years. By year three, if they are not satisfied or continue to struggle for volume, they start thinking they have made a bad decision. They can be lured away by other offers. If you can keep them through year five, they and their family should be well rooted and feeling a part of your community.
Physician recruitment is one of the most important and challenging responsibilities of a hospital president. Spending the time and energy right from the start to help a new physician become part of your community will pay off in the long run.