Barlow/McCarthy Blog

Physician Recruitment - Learning to Just Say No

Dec 20, 2017

By: Allison McCarthy, MBA |

My husband, Joe, has mastered the art of saying “no.”  It’s his “default” response to most things – providing him with time to decide if “yes” or “no” is his final choice.  But saying “no” doesn’t come as easily to me.  It’s a much bigger challenge.

Experts say “no” is hard because we don’t want to disappoint others and hurt our relationships.  But I’ve learned that saying no is essential if I am to successfully deliver expected results.

Physician recruiters constantly face the “no” challenge given increasing search volume plus with growing responsibilities for onboarding and retention.  It’s particularly intense within health systems expanding by acquiring other hospitals.  The new hospital entities come with the expectation that the larger entity will improve their physician recruitment success – given the system’s brand strength and dedicated physician recruitment resources.

Yet, nothing changes within the system’s physician recruitment function.  The team continues doing things in the same way and readily saying “yes” to more search volume – all the while expressing concern about the team’s ability to deliver results.

I’ve learned that saying “no” can be done while still maintaining good working relationships and retaining credibility.  Its more about “how” it’s done.   Here’s what the experts suggest.

Clarify Priorities

Define what is most important – from both the organization’s perspective and yours by:

  • Meeting with leadership to prioritize searches based on the entities’ strategic plan or service line initiatives.
  • The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt recommends a technique like the “March Madness” bracket exercise. Number each of your priorities (ex. 1-8).  Then decide which priority trumps the next and moves on to the next round.  For example, is #1 more important than #2 – that priority moves on to the next level.   Continue with #3 versus #4 until the first round is completed.  You now have identified the top 4 priorities.  Repeat the process and you have now rank ordered your priorities.
  • Defining those tasks that only you can do and delegate the rest. Practice managers, marketing colleagues or credentialing staff may not manage a site visit or nurture an onboarding physician as you would.  But it may be time to move away from the “ideal” and share more of the workload – with you providing training and facilitation support.

Learn to Present Alternatives

By providing options – rather than assuming full responsibility – you can demonstrate that you are a good team player and adaptable to change.  It just requires some creative thinking to identify those other approaches.  Responses to common requests might be:

  • To bring a “full court press” to this search, I would need to pull back on efforts to recruit _______, ________ and ____________. Or we could look at (resource) to help with that search.  What would be your preference?
  • I can create an (onboarding/recruitment/retention) plan and facilitate/coach/organize a team to work on this. When would you like to meet to talk through those recommendations?
  • We have several searches that are not yet fully defined and it hinders our ability to effectively “sell” physician prospects in our initial conversations. I recommend these searches be put on hold until they are ready to market.

As a next step, set aside a few minutes and prioritize your responsibilities.  Then with that in place, the next time you’re asked to add something else to your agenda, pause and ask yourself, “Will this harm my capacity to focus on the most important things?” If yes, then consider other potential solutions and voice those as your “No.”