Physician to Provider Recruitment – What’s Different About Recruiting Advanced Practitioners?

By: Betsy Finkelmeier, RN, MBA | bfinkelmeier@barlowmccarthy.com

“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” – unknown

One of the more significant transitions in physician recruiting has been the incorporation of advanced practitioner (AP) recruitment into the job responsibilities.  In fact, many recruiters find this reflected in their title changing from Physician to Provider Recruiter.

Several factors have provided impetus for this change.  While the physician shortage continues, the number of APs being trained has accelerated.  Both the regulations governing resident work hours and the movement of primary care physicians to outpatient practice have necessitated creating an alternate provider workforce to complement hospitalists in 24/7 oversight of hospitalized patients.

Clinical leaders are increasingly willing to consider employing APs as a means of extending provider coverage in a variety of practice settings.  The significant increase in recruitment searches for nurse practitioners and physician assistants underscores the growing acceptance of APs as healthcare providers.  For the third consecutive year, APs were the fifth most requested recruiting assignment as reported in the Merritt Hawkins 2016 Review of Recruitment Incentives.

So, what does this transition mean for recruiters?  As a start, the recruiter needs to become educated about the training and expertise associated with AP preparation.  While Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant are the two most commonly recruited APs, Nurse Practitioner is only one of the four Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) types.   A Certified Nurse Midwife, Certified Nurse Anesthetist, or Clinical Nurse Specialist, also APRNs, may be more appropriate for specific specialty AP searches.

The well-informed recruiter can support clinical leaders in determining the potential provider options for each practice opportunity.  Clinical leaders with no prior experience may be reluctant to consider any type of AP.  In those settings in which APs have worked, there may be a bias toward hiring one specific AP provider type.  While it’s important to find an AP with expertise that best complements the existing team, in actuality, there are few practice opportunities that are best suited for only one type of AP provider.  In a recent study by Reid Ponte and K. O’Neill of nurse practitioner and physician assistant education and licensure requirements, scope of practice, and roles, the authors concluded that similarities between the roles far outweighed the differences. And, they said, preferential hiring practices should be replaced by an individualized approach, in which positions are filled by whichever candidate best meets the role requirements.  This is clearly an area in which an innovative provider recruiter can support the practice in considering both AP provider options.

Yet another difference with AP recruitment is the scope of organizational investment.  The compensation package and upfront investment for an AP recruitment is generally considerably less than for a physician, particularly when physician recruitment is associated with expectations for growing a practice.  Hiring an AP who intends practice less than ten more years may be very cost effective for the organization; the same may not be true for a physician recruitment.

Despite the differences between AP and physician recruitment, one thing remains the same for both provider categories.  The key to effective recruitment is finding a great fit for the practice and the candidate.  Just as with physicians, advanced practice providers are looking for a “practice home,” including a collegial team, the opportunity to learn and develop expertise, fair, market-based compensation, and a favorable work/life balance.  A proficient physician recruiter, who understands the unique characteristics of AP practice, can transform easily into a skilled provider recruiter.