As a physician, you dedicate much of your young adult life learning everything you need to know to be a physician. This can involve choosing the right undergraduate education; taking the right pre-med classes; passing the M-CAT exam; four years of medical school; residency match process; long hours and difficult rotations during residency; fellowship applications and matching process; fellowship program and, for some, even advanced fellowship training. Let’s face it: the road to being a physician is a long and hard-fought battle. The same holds true for navigating your job search.
For those of you who are not aware, we are facing a significant universal physician shortage in the United States. There are many factors that are contributing to the nationwide physician shortage. Some of the most compelling include: the aging baby boomers; rising cost in medical education—some choose not to take on additional debt and loans; and the challenges and economics of medicine—cuts in reimbursements Medicare and Medicaid, for example. The other factor that is contributing to the shortage is that physicians are choosing specialties that are favorable to a desirable quality of lifestyle.
It is well documented that the “perfect storm” of the supply/demand problem is expected to peak in the year 2020. It is estimated that we will have at least a 200,000 to 250,000 shortage of physicians in this country. So what does that mean to physicians looking for career options? First and foremost, you should not have too much difficulty in finding a position. The reality is that no matter what your specialty, your skills are in high demand. That having been said, remember: as a physician, it’s important for you to understand the different types of recruitment professionals and the different options available to you.
Making the physician shortage work for you
Finding a high-quality position involves dedicating much time to the process and knowing what you are looking for in a job. Talk to your peers and network with faculty in your training programs. Try and picture what type of work you hope to be doing in three years. There is an alarming statistic that nearly 70 percent of residents and fellows change positions within the first three years of post-residency and fellowship training. As a recruitment professional, I encourage you to start exploring your career options at least one to two years in advance of completing your training. Yes, there is a significant shortage but, if you want to land the top positions, you will need to dedicate time and energy to the process and start early. Some suggestions: occasionally open your mail, explore the job sections and ads in journals and on websites—including this very magazine and its website; and consider attending a few physician job fairs locally and nationally.
Don’t underestimate the power of networking!
Networking is probably the most underrated activity you can do to explore career options. One of the most significant changes I have seen in the past ten years is the unlimited access to information—thanks to the internet. You can find almost anything you are looking for by going to a few search engines. For instance, prior to going for an interview you can visit the practice website and read about the history of the practice. You can usually find out where all the physicians trained and completed residency before you interview and meet them. Asking to speak to a former resident or fellow who completed training a few years ahead of you is an excellent strategy. They can typically give you a few pointers or recommendations on a few do’s and don’ts in your job search process. Physician recruiters are also good sources for some of the industry trends. We typically know who is hiring and in what areas including the local and regional competition.
The rule of thumb is to at least look at—and possibly interview for—four to six positions. Narrow down your search to two and develop a pro and con list for the final choices of consideration. It’s been my experience over the years that, all things being equal, physicians end up going where they feel most welcome!
Be wary of the large income guarantees being offered. Ask yourself, after the income guarantee period is over: Are the business and volume of patients there to earn a decent paycheck?
Get some legal counsel
Before signing a contract, hire your own legal representative to review the contract on your behalf. Pay special attention to restrictive convents and non-compete language. I can’t stress enough the importance and peace of mind in hiring your own attorney to review the contract on your behalf. The other, often overlooked, aspect of the job search process is the community. Does the community meet your needs outside of medicine? It might be the “perfect job,” but if you are not happy outside of your job and your basic needs, hobbies, or areas of interest are not met, it’s likely you will make a change sooner than later.
As a physician, you worked too diligently to become a doctor to settle for an average position. If you dedicate the extra time and energy to your job search, perhaps you can lower the percentage of physicians who up-root and look for a new position in another three years. Best of luck to you in making one of the biggest decisions of your life!
Brett Walker is Director of Physician Recruitment for Clarian Health in Indianapolis and President-Elect of ASPR (Assoc. of Staff Physician Recruiters). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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