Physicians Have Career Aspirations Too

By: Allison McCarthy, MBA

[box]Over 244,000 physicians have found positions in hospitals, due to a variety of reasons: changes in lifestyle, decreased interest in owning a business, levels of regulation, and more. Meanwhile, hospitals are seeking out physicians as a way to increase coordination and manage costs. -AHA 2015 Health Care Talent Acquisition Environmental Scan [/box]

Physicians work hard to develop a deep and intimate knowledge of their chosen fields of practice. They are trained specialists and, those of us in the administrative ranks naturally assume they want to stay that way. After all, why would anyone spend so much time and money building a clinical, research or academic career only to choose a different path just as they’re hitting their stride?

The truth is: Many professionals do just that. Why should doctors be any different?

Physicians, like all career-minded people, often reach a point where they crave more rewarding challenges and opportunities. When you consider how fast healthcare is changing (brought on by hospital employment, more women entering the profession, the desire for work/life balance and increasing numbers of dual-career couples) it’s not surprising that career shifting is on the rise.

When it comes to recruiting, our assumptions about doctors and their aspirations are often reflected in our messaging.  For example, we often send “generic” position descriptions to a target prospect group based solely on geographic location. We rarely take the time to think about deeper, more profound reasons that might motivate ambitious doctors to look for new opportunities or desire to work toward a greater good.

When dealing with physicians already on staff, we need to be just as mindful. How can we offer them the career opportunities that truly inspire them? Even if we do, what will they need from us in terms of support? If they decide another practice is where they need to be, how can we ensure they leave with positive thoughts about the organization?

By not engaging in these discussions, we’re clinging to an ideal of the medical profession that simply no longer exists. To inspire a different generation of physicians,   one that accepts practice opportunities, builds practices and stays in the community for their entire careers, we must understand a physician’s evolving needs and professional goals. One of the best ways to achieve meaningful engagement with medical staff is to be creative and willing to re-design not just practice opportunities, but also our traditional mindset.

With employment comes obligation. Medicine has changed. Doctors’ aspirations have changed. The gender balance has changed. And, the profession has changed. Healthcare is now more sub-specialized and compartmentalized. It is higher intensity and increasingly less tolerant of uncertainty. On-call is difficult, the work day is long, and burnout is increasingly common.

As recruiters and employers, we must change the way we engage with physicians. By working more proactively to address changing career aspirations (rather than shrinking away from those conversations), we can create a more fulfilled and engaged group of physicians.