Physician Recruitment Amid COVID-19

RPT_CoverPDFThis research is brought to you by the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR) in partnership with Elsevier.

Over three months after the United States began restricting movement to flatten the curve of COVID-19, in-house physician recruitment teams are still innovating and adapting to a new form of recruitment and hiring. AAPPR recently queried of its members through both an online survey and personal interviews to hear directly from them on what had changed in their profession. Results are based on responses from 273 internal recruiters, received June 4–15, 2020.

The data shows a tale of two roads diverging: those who stopped and those who kept recruiting. The impact of those two differing paths remains to be seen. AAPPR surveyed its members in June 2020 and conducted qualitative
interviews that examine members’ experiences. Interviews were done with members from large and small organizations and from coast to coast. In every member interaction today, AAPPR hears stories of adaptability and resilience. Some don’t wait to be redeployed; they become leaders and share their transferable expertise. Mentoring has grown, especially with or by those who have been furloughed. This has been a time to reflect and invest in oneself. The stories our members have shared with us are truly inspiring.

Study Highlights

  • Most everyone is working from home, and many expect to be working from home indefinitely. Teams have adapted to being fully remote. Communication norms are changing, and they realize that they may have to work harder to keep up comradery and reduce isolation. Many report their work production is also better.
  • The balance between work and personal life remains a challenge. Whether your work and home location are the same or your team has been furloughed, work demands either remain the same or greater because of furloughed team members. For some, the absence of travel has created a calmer, more measured pace of work.
  • Candidate site visits slowed but didn’t stop entirely for everyone. Several factors are often at play when considering site visits:
    • How critical is the hire?
    • How insistent is the candidate on doing a site visit?
    • Where is the physician/candidate coming from, and is quarantine a consideration when the candidate returns home?
  • Some members have seen increases in the physician candidate pool or, at a minimum, a more responsive candidate pool.
    • “Many physicians took the opportunity to reassess their current situation. Some were thinking about a change for a long time, and now might be a time to make a change."
    • “Some physicians who have been
      furloughed or have received a cut in
      pay don’t think their job will ever go
      back to where it was.”
    • “A number of physicians are experiencing increased burnout as a result of the pandemic, and we’re working on a better response and support, but we know they are reassessing their practice and location as a result.”
  • Many agreed that recruitment is a long-term strategy. It can take at least 6–9 months until a new physician starts seeing patients. Organizations that are poised to recover are not pulling back.
    •  “I have a progressive C-suite who understands you can’t stop recruiting because you’ll get behind the ball.”
    • Virtual interviewing is a must for most organizations, and while recruiters and interview teams are still learning the best platforms and approaches, many are finding success. In some cases, recruiters can be more consultative to interview teams, able to coach or provide guidance by sometimes being a witness to more interviews.
  • Most budgets were cut naturally by the inability to travel. Members expect more cuts for the next fiscal year due to the same.
    • “We’re looking at cutting nonessential budget items. Anything that isn’t already committed or encumbered, we’re going to be asked to cut by 70–80% (travel and things we can easily get rid of first). We don’t know what that means yet. Maybe it means not filling vacant positions.”
  • Delays:
    • “Our onboarding and start dates have changed or been delayed.”
    •  “Advanced practice providers have been impacted as well (lack of preceptors)."
    • “Residents and fellows are impacted, and it’s been a challenge to determine where people should go.
    • “We had to delay the openings of clinics as well.”
    • “Until the patient volumes come back or unless there is a critical need, we expect the demand for locums to be less.”
  • People and organizations are worried about and are planning for the resurgence of COVID but are also cautiously optimistic.
    • “I’m not expecting anything ‘normal’ for a year or two. We are preparing for this to be our structure. I think we’re going to be okay.”

Peer Advice

  • “Ensure that you’re vocal enough to get the tools you need to effectively do your job from wherever you may be.”
  • “Make yourself invaluable.”
  • “Keep working hard.”
  • “Explain to leadership that this is the time to be out there actively recruiting and interviewing.”
  • “Overcommunicate with physician candidates and go above and beyond to engage them where they feel like they know you and the organization, so they either wait for when it’s safe to travel or sign for the job.”
  • “Stay networked with other recruitment teams, know what they’re learning, and get an education online.”
  • If an organization has stopped recruiting?
    • Look at your medical staff planning and onboarding procedures.
    • Double-check and audit of your systems.
    • Clean out your candidate pools.
    • Strengthen your residency program relationships.
    • Work on your succession planning for the next 3–5 years.

• “I’ve learned to be patient through this and to give people some grace right now. It’s not always easy to do it, but it’s necessary