Is the Demand for Primary Care Impacting Physician Recruiting?

Dawn Pascale

The short answer is a resounding, “Yes!” The demand for primary care providers is at an all-time high. The latest research from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) says the U.S. will face a shortage of up to 120,000 doctors by 2030. On the primary care side, the study anticipates a shortage between 14,800 to 48,200 physicians.

As you might imagine, these shortages have made the job of recruiting new talent much harder. The aging baby boomer population is putting extensive pressure on the system along with the retirement of a high volume of older primary care providers. How are physician recruiters coping with these unprecedented figures?

Responding to Increasing Demand

The best recruiters always find a way, of course. But the new reality of a serious shortage of clinical family practice doctors will have a detrimental impact on the American healthcare continuum. This will add to the pressure recruiters and hiring managers face.

The industry as a whole is seeing more creative offers for employment, with higher salaries, unique work environments, and an increase in benefits. It is certainly a “buyer’s market,” and family practice doctors understand they can demand top dollar – even in a specialty area that traditionally paid less than some of the more lucrative surgical or other specialist roles.

Ironically, in addition to negatively affecting patient outcomes and access to care, the primary care provider is the hub of the healthcare universe, serving as the referral hub for all the specialist spokes in the care delivery wheel.   When primary care roles are unfilled, communities and their healthcare providers suffer.   According to a survey compiled, “physicians are significant economic engines for hospitals.” The survey also reports that 2018 was the 12th year in a row that family medicine doctors were the most requested physician candidates on the market. Nurse practitioners were the third most in-demand, and internists were at number four.

It’s clear that something needs to be done – and fast. Here’s how recruiters and hiring managers are responding to demand.

Tough Times – Creative Solutions

Recruiters must work closely with healthcare hiring teams to ensure everything is being done to attract top primary care talent.  Some of the techniques we’ve seen include:

  • Higher and more creative compensation packages. We have been tracking the steady increase in primary care salaries over the past few years. Higher salaries plus more robust packages of time off, CME allowances, student debt forgiveness and other financial perks bring in more talent.
    • This includes sign-on bonuses that exceed $100,000 with a written retention agreement spanning several years to get full payout.
  • More flexible work schedules to help prevent burnout and provide the physician with a better work-life balance. We’ve seen four-day workweeks or working longer each week to get an extra day off every other week.
    • Alternatively, having the ability to pick the schedule they want is a perk for some clinicians. When clinicians are given the autonomy to schedule amongst each other, there’s more buy-in and flexibility.
  • Make culture a priority where employees not only want to come work for you but want to stay for a long time.  Today’s workers consider culture no longer just an option, it’s expected.  While the culture that works for one company might not work for another, you can learn a lot from companies who are doing it right.  For instance;
    • Southwest Airlines gives employees “permission” to go that extra mile to make customers happy, empowering them to do what they need to do. 
    • Zappos offers new employees $2000 to quit after the first week of training if they decide the job isn’t for them.
    • Bayada Home Health Care pays a STAT rate when employees help out when short-staffed. Bayada bucks are given out and can be exchanged for items in the prize catalog.  Monthly schedules are sent out to all employees via email.

Good recruiting leads to good retention, however, in this highly competitive market, you must think outside the box.  At MedSource Consultants, we have some great ideas to help you be creative in your recruitment and retention efforts.  Contact our leading physician recruiters to find out more information.