Managers urged to broaden ‘recruitment parameters’ amid rheumatology shortage
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In light of a worsening rheumatologist shortage in the United States, practices that wish to not only recruit physicians, but also retain them, will have to offer competitive compensation with personalized incentives, and potentially look internationally to widen the talent pool, according to a presenter here.
“My recommendation for practices who don’t want to just buy a rheumatologist — don’t want to just have any warm body filling the position — but have someone they want for the job who they can retain, is to remember that the median annual compensation for rheumatologists is $256,000 to $260,000,” Michael Byman, BS, senior director for Jackson Physician Search, in Georgia, told attendees at the National Organization of Rheumatology Managers Annual Conference.
“Sell the big picture,” he added. “Have a competitive base salary. That first year is going to be the most important — just make it as attractive as possible. Also, remember that an incentive to one candidate might be different to another candidate. If there is one candidate who needs an extra week of vacation, or if someone needs extra CME, or student loans that need to be paid, make sure you are thinking outside the box to outthink your competitors.”
However, he added that widening the search to rheumatologists outside the country could potentially be just as important as offering competitive salary and personalized incentives. According to Byman, 51.7% of all current residents are international, and the field of rheumatology is only going to grow more diverse with time.
In addition, with only approximately 5,200 rheumatologists practicing across the U.S., and approximately 50% of those aged older than 55 years planning to retire in the next decade, looking toward international graduates could prove key to meeting demand, he said.
“This is a big one,” said Byman. “I travel about 50 to 120 days out of the year. I’ve been everywhere, from small rural places to big places, and you have no idea what I have heard from administrations, from hospitals, private practices and medical groups. But this is what I am telling everyone — open up your recruitment parameters.”
“If there is a physician who can communicate and practice medicine well, and has a family who fits in with the community, you better take an extra look at that physician,” he added. “I understand concerns about communication, but if there is a physician who is willing to make a move, especially to a rural area, and move their family, and their communication skills are good, and you believe the family will fit in with the community, you hire that physician. It shouldn’t be a question.”
Byman also stressed that managers and practices should seek to “control everything they can control” regarding the hiring process, since so much of it is actually outside their control. Those seeking to hire rheumatologists cannot often control their location, or change the fact that they are in a rural market. They also cannot control the size of the overall workforce, or the compensation packages offered by their competition.
However, managers can control their own interview process, incentives and how their other staff performs around the prospective candidate. Byman recommended that practices personalize and strategize every interview for each individual candidate. Spouses should also be invited to the first interview, since they will likely have equal say in any decision to move their family, he added.
Byman also encouraged attendees to have a “yes mentality” regarding incentives.
“Focus on what you can do in the practice for the physician, and eliminate talking about what you can’t do,” he said. “If the incoming physician says he wants $300,000, don’t say, ‘We can’t do that.’ Because, you know what? The hospital can. Or the practice in another state can.”
“Instead, focus on how we can create this together, he added. “Say, ‘If you need $300,000 to equal what you are making right now, how about I give you $250,000 in base salary, plus an incentive program that I built in, so you have an opportunity to make the $300,000, including a marketing bonus, and patients seen, whatever it might be. It’s not just about base salary. There is also location, quality of life and incentives. There is a formula that can work for your practice.” – by Jason Laday
Byman M. Recruiting for retention — 2019, best practice; Presented at: National Organization of Rheumatology Managers Annual Conference; Sept. 13-14, 2019; Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Disclosure: Byman reports no relevant financial disclosures.