Engaging the Medical Staff as Part of the Physician Recruitment Team

by Allison McCarthy, MBA

There is no better “messenger” of our physician recruitment pitch than a member of the medical staff. But they can also be our greatest challenge. We can spend as much time managing medical staff angst as we do prospecting for candidates. Is it possible to have a medical staff positively engaged in physician recruitment? The answer is yes – and here is how.

Start Early

Gathering physician input during medical staff development planning or annual recruitment priority setting sessions sets the stage for requesting their support in specific search efforts. Not only is the planning effort enriched with their insights around local referral patterns, clinical preferences and professional aspirations, but the planning recommendations are made with physician involvement.

When introducing the final recommendations, it is far more effective to meet with individuals or small groups of physicians rather than the broader medical staff group. The customized conversation allows for the recruitment priorities to be put into a “personal” context for those physicians and offers them the opportunity to ask questions or raise concerns in private. These conversations then supply an additional vetting filter by identifying situations that need more internal deliberation to gain physician support.


“The secret to using your energy and resources wisely is to work with, not against, the nature of things.”

Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard


Ensure a Positive Practice Environment

Searches ready for the recruitment market have a solid professional offering, a collegial medical staff/hospital atmosphere, a well-defined recruitment process and an internal team committed to their specific roles and expectations.

Physician recruits look to the testimonials of other physicians to determine if these positive practice attributes are in place. Through conversations with the medical staff, they learn how involved the physicians are in organizational decision-making. They glean the degree to which the physicians believe they are supported through practice management capabilities, hospitalist teams, EMRs and clinical technology.

Characterize Their Participation

Recognizing that every minute a physician is not with a patient results in a productivity gap, we need to involve medical staff members in physician recruitment at the right time and in the right way.

Before a physician is pulled into the interview process, candidates must be thoroughly vetted in light of the position. The role of the physician is for the purpose of assessing clinical and collegial fit. If the process asks them to do more, they perceive their time being consumed inappropriately and their professional contribution being misused.

Before asking medical staff members to participate in on-site interviews, we need to define for them what role we want for them to assume, what information we want them to provide to candidates and what aspect of the candidate we want them to query. They then have a specific value and contribution – as a representative of the referring physician community, a call coverage partner, a tenured physician that can provide insight about building a local practice, etc.

Be Present

It is just so natural to give more time and attention to physician recruits than we do to our current physicians. But doing so can create tension – when existing physicians see the dedicated marketing attention and community recognition given to these newly established colleagues. Unless we are in continuous dialogue with our medical staff, we can easily miss their cues of discomfort. That sense of connectedness reassures them that as we move the recruitment initiative forward we have not lost sight of their interests and concerns.

Successful recruitment requires dual strategies – one focused on the external recruitment marketplace and the other on the internal practice environment. If we bring new recruits into the organization, but then disenfranchise current members of the medical staff, our recruitment efforts are short-changed and our organization fails to grow. To truly win in the market, the organization must add to the capacity and compliment of the existing medical staff. Since physicians recruit physicians – we need medical staff cooperation and participation in the recruitment effort.