Candidates weigh in on how they found their dream practice
For physicians, there’s no such thing as a typical job-search process. Some physicians explore several practice types; others choose one early on. Some need visa help; others don’t. Some stay put; others move across the country. These variables and many others mean your search may include twists and turns your colleagues never experience.
The good news is that’s OK. Your goal is finding a practice that fits you. After all, that’s the test of a successful job search: Are you happy where you land? Exactly how you land there is up to you.
We found three physicians whose job searches were quite different, yet all successful. Here’s how they found their perfect fits.
Physician job search method #1: The proactive approach
The physician perspective
Otolaryngologist Michael Vietti, M.D., had been actively looking for a new position for about a year before accepting a role as a staff physician at Wilson Health in Sidney, Ohio.
His search tactics consisted mainly of speaking with the steady stream of contingency recruiters who called with new opportunities and regularly scanning online job postings. The sites he checked most frequently included academies such as the American Academy of Otolaryngology, as well as career sites such as PracticeLink. It was there that he spotted a listing at Wilson Health in Sidney, Ohio, a little more than an hour from his former position in Columbus.
Before beginning his search, Vietti had made a list of what he was looking for - the must-haves as well as what he was willing to give up.
Although Vietti was willing to give up his Columbus location, he recognized that his spouse was less interested; she wanted to stay in the Columbus area until their child finished high school. A position in Sidney was close enough that he could almost commute.
So Vietti did a little research, looking into Wilson Health’s staff roster, facility, and digging to uncover any recent issues. Seeing that there might be a fit, he called the in-house recruiter, David Andrick, directly for the scoop. After that conversation, he submitted his CV for consideration, followed by a couple of trips to Sidney to meet with staff members and administrators in person. He also asked Andrick for a list of staff members he could call about the hospital’s work environment.
The more he learned about Wilson Health, the more Vietti saw that it met all of his must-haves.
Vietti’s search was successful in part because he was patient. And that’s the advice he offers other physicians regarding their own search: "Take your time." Don’t jump at the first opportunity. "It’s a business decision," he points out, so try and look at each facility or practice objectively as you weigh your options. Don’t be pressured into signing a contract on your first site visit, or before you’re sure this is the best opportunity for you right now. Take the time to carefully research and vet each opening.
Today, Vietti drives back and forth between Columbus and Sidney two or three times a week, spending alternating nights at an apartment close to the hospital. "There’s no such thing as perfect," he says, but for him, Wilson Health came close.
The employer perspective
Rather than sitting back and hoping to be contacted, David Andrick, director of physician recruitment and relations for Wilson Health, takes a decidedly proactive approach to get in front of physicians who may be thinking about making a move. He advertises in journals, posts on websites like PracticeLink, uses contingency recruiters, sends direct mail and attends national specialty meetings.
In fact, Andrick did all of these things in order to attract attention from leading otolaryngologists when the hospital had an opening about 24 months ago. "One doctor had retired and another was pulling back on his hours, so we needed to fill that role," Andrick says.
In this case, it was the PracticeLink posting that caught Vietti’s eye. Andrick asked for Vietti’s CV, reviewed it, and set up a site visit soon thereafter. The fact that Vietti was almost local was promising from the outset.
"We have good schools in a small town with a solid hospital," says Andrick. "It’s a nice place to live and work," which Vietti already recognized. For candidates from outside the area, Andrick tries to "get personal fast," to help prospective hires feel a part of the community right from the start. Because if they can see themselves living and working in Sidney, the recruitment process becomes much easier.
Andrick hires 6 to 12 physicians a year, so "bringing one or two new doctors in can have a major impact" on hospital operations. In Vietti’s case, that impact has been all positive. "He did more ENT surgeries in 2015 than we had done in the last five years combined," says Andick. "He has been one of our most important placements to date."
Because of the size of the facility, hiring is "a very selective process," says Andrick. Once a need is confirmed in the community, Andrick initiates the outreach process to find candidates. Even then, however, Wilson Health is extremely selective. Because it is a smaller community, it’s important to bring in people who will be a good fit. Says Andrick: "You have to be careful who you recruit because you’re going to have to live with them."
Physician job search method #2: The referral approach
The physician perspective
The bonds Laura Hahn, M.D., formed with internal medicine faculty members during her residency ultimately led to her perfect job. After graduating from West Virginia University School of Medicine, Hahn started a residency at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. She hoped to stay in the area after residency, so she started networking and exploring opportunities in earnest during her third year. She spent time in clinics and shadowed in an outpatient setting to learn more about it. Shadowing confirmed her inclination toward an outpatient-only practice in Baltimore.
Once she knew where she wanted to end up, Hahn let others know what she was after. Communicating her goals attracted the attention of attending physicians. "I had several attendings talk to me about openings," she says. They subsequently made introductions for her. "The doctors were eager to help," says Hahn. Since they knew her well, the physicians could see she would fit well in such a practice. "You develop close relationships with faculty, and they see you in action and how you are with patients," says Hahn. Those relationships gave her an in with local practices where her attending physicians worked.
A residency at a smaller community hospital helped Hahn get to know those physicians, too. She had only 11 internal medicine residents in her class, compared to the typical class size of 30 to 60 at larger hospitals.
But even in a small class, Hahn stood out because she wanted to pursue a practice position in Baltimore straight out of residency instead of applying for a fellowship. She asked attending physicians lots of questions about contract negotiation, employers’ reputations and their personal experiences with the hiring process. As a result, Hahn says, "I had all the attention from the attendings."
Hahn began interviewing with several practices in October of her last year in residency and finished up in December, accepting an offer from the first place she had met with: Mercy Medical Center. "I saw how different the practice was, how open and honest they were in response to my questions," she says. No other practice gave her the same comfort level.
But she didn’t just rely on her impression from that one interview. Hahn also spoke with physicians already employed at Mercy. Sandy Edwards, senior vice president of physician delivery systems at Mercy, interviewed Hahn, gave her a list of all the physicians at Mercy and each of their email addresses, and encouraged her to ask them for an insider’s perspective on the workplace. Hahn emailed about 10 on that list; all of them responded and assured her they were very happy with their employer.
The employer perspective
When one of Edwards’ physicians told him that "the best resident we’ve ever had" was interested in working at Mercy, Edwards acted quickly to bring in Hahn and interview her.
Edwards felt the need for speed in hiring because finding primary care physicians is highly competitive. "There is a tremendous shortage of primary care doctors, with their numbers declining for the last 20 years…even as the number of doctors needed rises," explains Edwards. He says that the shortage in 2000 was the equivalent of 9,000 doctors and that by 2025, that figure will rise to 65,000. In the short term, that means there are fewer people to recruit.
To attract strong candidates to grow a practice or replace a retiring physician, Edwards relies heavily on the 210 physicians at Mercy to identify and recruit new physicians.
Fortunately for physicians who want to do primary care in Baltimore, Mercy is a solid option. "We are known as doctor-friendly. We treat everyone as professionals, and we have a good reputation," says Edwards.
Physician job search method #3: The try-before-you-buy approach
The physician perspective
Like Hahn, leading pulmonologist Thomas O’Mara, M.D., was in demand. He was already at a private practice in Charleston, South Carolina, when recruiters started calling.
After relocating to central New York to be closer to family a few years later, O’Mara started searching for a permanent position that would provide a good salary and security for his family. "With private practice, you know that you have pay coming in - the security of a regular paycheck," he says.
He was looking primarily for a permanent position, but he also considered other career options. He filled out an online request to learn more about locum tenens work and almost immediately received a call from a recruiter from CompHealth in Utah. The recruiter explained how locum tenens positions worked. O’Mara was intrigued but not ready to give up his search for a steady paycheck.
But the recruiter was persistent, checking in regularly to see if he could do anything to interest O’Mara in a trial position. "[He] did not give up," says O’Mara about the recruiter. Although O’Mara was fielding plenty of other recruiter calls, his discussions with the CompHealth recruiter were different. "He was always very nice, professional, courteous, and he always remembered little details that no one else did," says O’Mara.
Then one day, the recruiter called and told O’Mara, "I’ve got a place in South Carolina that could really use you for a weekend. Why don’t you give it a try?" Figuring he had little to lose since there was no commitment beyond that weekend, O’Mara agreed. "I was hooked after that," he says.
That opportunity to work as a locum tenens physician allowed O’Mara to learn what employers expected, what the routine was like, who he would be working with, and what issues could arise. It was exactly what he needed. It helped him see that many of his preconceived notions about locum tenens were inaccurate.
Instead of working a full week for a regular paycheck, O’Mara can now decide how much he works and, effectively, how much he earns. Today, he works about two weeks away from home and then flies home and has two weeks solid with his family. In 2015, O’Mara took five straight weeks of vacation. "I couldn’t have taken that time off in private practice," he says.
The employer perspective
Rachael Fletcher now serves as O’Mara’s key contact at CompHealth. Fletcher and O’Mara have worked together so long that their professional relationship has also become personal. "I consider him a friend," says Fletcher.
As a friend, Fletcher has a good idea which opportunities are good fits for O’Mara and his family, and which he would never consider. She knows him so well that in some cases she can convince him to take a second look at assignments he initially would have rejected. Fletcher invested time in understanding what is important to O’Mara, and she does this with all the physicians she recruits.
During the initial interview process, Fletcher looks for key attributes. "I’m looking for someone who is trustworthy, who is going to get [his or her] paperwork in on time, and someone who is flexible," she says. Locum tenens physicians need to be highly adaptable. They have to switch between different types of facilities and workloads. Thus, during the first call with a potential locum tenens physician, Fletcher asks a series of qualifying questions to assess how well a candidate would fit the job and how easy it would be to bring him or her on board.
Having interviewed O’Mara, the team at CompHealth knew he would quickly become in-demand, and he has. His temporary employers regularly ask him to sign a permanent contract, and he always declines. After initial hesitation, O’Mara has learned to love the locum tenens life.
Marcia Layton Turner is a frequent contributor to PracticeLink Magazine.