Physician Recruitment and Social Media Networking

Source: Calvin Bruce serves as senior staff writer with Jackson & Coker and has contributed to RPT a number of times. He also manages the firms 10 social media sites. Robyn Melhuish is creative manager with HealthcareJobBoards and has previously published articles on social media.

Social media networking is a growing phenomenon that adds a new dimension to traditional physician recruitment. This innovative approach allows in-house recruiters to reach busy prospective candidates through a wide variety of web-based technologies and digital applications that “engage” participants in real-time virtual conversations.

“Effective recruitment has always been a matter of establishing ongoing relationships with doctors who are either passively or actively job hunting,” mentioned Edward McEachern, vice president of Jackson & Coker. As a faculty member of the American Academy of Medical Management, he occasionally teaches seminars on social media and physician recruitment to in-house recruiters and hospital administrators.

“The key to social media networking is to connect with physicians in the virtual doctor lounges where they visit. Using a low-key, indirect approach to introduce them to appealing practice opportunities establishes trust and confidence, something that busy doctors appreciate,” McEachern further explained.

The Growth of Social Media
Over the last few years, social media sites have sprung up like dandelions. YouTube boasts hosting over 100 million videos daily. Since May 2010, around 65 million tweets have been posted on Twitter daily (over 2 billion monthly). From 2009 to 2010, LinkedIn experienced a meteoric growth from 42 million to over 70 million members worldwide. Perhaps the fastest growing social media site, Facebook now has over 500 million fans worldwide, with content posted in over 70 languages.

The tremendous growth of social media has substantially impacted the medical profession. According to the “Hospital Social Network List,” as of Fall 2010, over 870 hospitals manage one or more social media sites.1 Furthermore, its estimated that 65 percent of practicing physicians regularly participate in some form of social media communication.

Some hospitals, in fact, have hired full-time social media managers to teach their physicians and other staff the techniques and protocol of social media participation.2

A number of established medical organizations have also incorporated social media into their recruitment and staffing program, notably:

  • Kaiser Permanente (Facebook)
  • Maryland Medical System (Twitter)
  • Tenet Healthcare (Facebook)
  • Hardin Memorial Hospital (YouTube)

As social media becomes more conducive to physician recruitment, these initiatives will serve as models for other hospitals and medical groups to develop their own tailor-made recruitment strategy using social media networking.

Of note, the Mayo Clinic, a pioneer in physician blogging, recently established the Center for Social Media. The center offers educational programs and tools to help health care providers adopt social media platforms in order to advance their organizational mission. The Mayo Clinic boasts having over 80,000 Twitter followers and a Facebook page with over 25,000 connections.3

Social Media as a Recruitment Tool
A number of direct and indirect benefits are associated with social media as an indispensable recruitment tool in physician searches.

  • The potential reach to prospective candidates in cyberspace is unlimited. Once content is tweeted or posted on social media sites, its instantaneously transmitted to “fans, friends, and followers” across the globe. They, in turn, can forward the information to others within their social networks that might be interested. Through LinkedIn, for example, doctors can disseminate information throughout their online circles of influence, much like the rippling effect in a pool of water.
  • The speed of communication is greatly enhanced through social media networking. Posting a position opening on Twitter can reach prospective candidates much more quickly than sending out a mass mailing, running a print ad, or emailing a professional association. When physician searches are acutely time-sensitive, reaching prospective candidates expeditiously is extremely advantageous.
  • Social media sites like YouTube add a personal touch to marketing a medical practice. What better way to sell the practice and opportunity than to send prospects a video describing the hospital, showcasing the medical staff, and highlighting the areas drawing cards? Candidates can take a virtual tour and feel part of the medical community long before they set foot on the premises.
  • Through social media, its possible to tap future recruitment prospects: doctors in the Gen X or Gen Y category, who are avid users of technology and digital apps. Although medical students, interns, and residents in training programs are not current targets as prospective candidates they can be in the future. If theyre digitally connected to a hospitals or medical groups cyberspace presence, theyll be more likely to keep the organization on their radar screen when they are ready to explore career opportunities.

Practical Tips for Using Social Media to Recruit
Depending on organizational policy and recruitment focus, hospital and group practice recruiters can benefit from using social media as a helpful tool in developing a candidate pool.

Start with LinkedIn
LinkedIn is the largest social network with a professional focus; so its a great starting point for establishing new professional connections. If they havent done so already, recruiters should create a personal profile on LinkedIn and start establishing a network of connections. Recruiters should also ensure that their facility has a complete company profile. The personal profile serves as a way of reaching out to others, while the company profile allows potential candidates to research the facility itself and get a glimpse of who is already working there.
Make It Easy for Physicians to Find You
Think of each social network as a “virtual doctors lounge.” Some doctors prefer to spend time in the third floor lounge, while others prefer the first floor. Likewise, some doctors prefer Facebook, some like Twitter, and others restrict their social network activity to LinkedIn. Recruiters should utilize all of these channels to ensure they are in a position to connect with physicians wherever they are.

To reach Twitter fans, consider following these accounts: @physicians, @doctorslounge, @doc2doc (reaching physicians around the globe), @psychiatrists, @radiologists, @internists, @surgeons, and so forth. Smart use of a search engine like Twubs will produce other hashtag (#) and @ Twitter sites worth considering. As your recruitment team follows these sites, their followers will be drawn to your corporate Twitter account, thus promoting an indirect form of recruitment.

Keep in mind the characteristics of each network and respect the type of interaction that is expected. For example, in a more open network, such as Twitter (where the default setting allows any user to “follow” another user without requesting approval), it is appropriate for a recruiter to reach out to a physician user. On the other hand, sending a Facebook “friend” request to a physician whom the recruiter doesnt already know would be considered inappropriate.

Alternatively, a recruiter should create a Facebook page for their facilitys recruiting efforts, where they can post jobs and spotlight the benefits of working there. They may also want to use Facebook ads to drive appropriate candidates to the facilitys Facebook page or main website.

As mentioned previously, LinkedIn is perhaps the most obvious place to make professional connections. In addition to utilizing the recruiters personal network, they may also want to post jobs, join groups, or purchase “In Mail” credits to send messages to prospective candidates outside of their extended network.

Use Videos to Introduce Your Facility to Potential Candidates
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Busy physicians are much more likely to watch a two-minute video about your facility than they are to read the extensive “About Us” page on your website. Videos posted on your YouTube channel can showcase your medical facility, introduce department heads, interview staff, or even highlight the surrounding community and its amenities. Whether you host the videos on your facilitys website or simply upload them to YouTube, be sure to use a variety of social channels to distribute the videos.

Don't Forget Blogs
A blog provides another great way to introduce the facility to potential candidates. Whether the staff recruiters, C-level executives, medical staff, or some combination thereof writes the blog, it should have a clearly defined purpose (in this case, recruiting top medical providers) and be optimized for keywords that a provider might use to do an online search for your facility. You should link to the blog from your facilitys website and use RSS feeds to distribute new posts to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Ask for comments on the blog and be sure to respond to comments left by your readers. A helpful starting point is the “Top 50 Blogs by Physicians.”4 The list was selected based on Google rankings as well as by how often the sites were recommended by other doctors.

Utilize Your Marketing Department
Chances are your facilitys marketing department is already engaging in social media. Ask questions and get their opinions on how you might leverage these channels for recruiting purposes. They will likely be happy to help and appreciate you getting their advice before creating another Facebook page on behalf of the facility. It definitely pays to work with the marketing team to ensure that the facility presents a united front, supporting a consistent organizational brand throughout all social media initiatives. 

A Caveat
As enthusiastic as hospital recruiters may be to incorporate social media into their recruitment programs, they should seriously consider the ethical and legal ramifications associated with their efforts. A noted employment attorney offers some practical guidelines for health care staffing professionals in this regard.5 As always, “look before you leap.”

Endnotes

1Ed Bennett, “The Hospital Social Network List.”

2Bob Cook, “Hospitals new specialist: Social media manager,”

3Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.

4“The Top 50 Blogs by Physicians.”

5Lester Rosen, JD, “Legal Precautions Concerning Social Media in the Hiring Process for Health Care Staffing