Addressing The Physician Shortage As A Health Care Provider: Recruitment Changes


By Thomas DeRosa, CEO, Physician Retraining & Reentry

Health care providers across the U.S. are concerned about the lack of medical professionals to serve patients. From clinicians to nurses to physicians, the growing shortages are impacting care, profitability, recruitment and retention.

Primary care physicians, in particular, are in high demand. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is expected to have a shortage of up to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034. The Covid-19 pandemic only exacerbated an already alarming trend.

Primary care physicians provide preventive care, like routine check-ups, and are often a patient’s first stop to address a specific medical concern. Primary care physicians treat people of all ages for many health care needs. When a specialist is needed, primary care physicians will refer the patient but often stay involved as the primary point of contact or coordinator of other specialists. Primary care physicians are the umbrella category of other physician types, such as family medicine, internal medicine and general practice.

There are steps health care providers can, and should, take to build their primary care physician workforce.

While approximately 83% of physicians are American Board of Medical Specialties or American Osteopathic Association board-certified, 17% of physicians hold alternate or no certification, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards. Hiring primary care physicians who hold other or no certification should be considered. To be board eligible, a medical school graduate must complete a residency or fellowship for three to seven years, apply, take an exam and meet other requirements.

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However, there are plenty of qualified, experienced and dedicated physicians whose paths did not allow for that extra training and, thus, did not qualify for a board certification. There are myriad reasons for physicians not being ABMS/AOA certified, but they can still deliver competent compassionate care.

Let’s think about that statistic in light of the critical physician shortage health care providers are facing. If you run a clinic or a hospital that needs more physicians to keep up with patient care demands, but you refuse to hire an experienced physician who is not board-certified, you are potentially contributing to the physician shortage by creating more stress and burnout for your current physicians while also failing to deliver much-needed quality care to your patients.

Administering routine exams, monitoring for common issues and helping patients make healthy choices are all important preventative measures that primary care physicians assist with. Broadening the physician hiring pool by hiring a non-ABMS/AOA board certification clinician allows health care entities to find more candidate options—including physicians who have a lot to give to their patients and colleagues.

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I recommend health care facilities partner with retraining programs to ensure both the curriculum reflects your needs and to have a recruitment pipeline. There are many programs that offer refresher and retraining courses to physicians looking to make a change or return to practice after time away.

Offer options for recruits to shadow physicians for a week or two to ensure the hire is the right fit. With burnout being a leading cause of the shortage, physician recruits want to be sure that your health care facility has a culture they can connect to. Likewise, your current physicians and staff would welcome the opportunity to “try on” a potential new colleague. This gives them buy-in, creating support and enthusiasm and boosting morale.

It also gives you a chance to see the candidate in action. Allow the candidate to interact with patients under the supervision of your current physicians. Be sure the candidate is allowed to offer their ideas and solutions to the current physicians away from the patients to test out their knowledge and skills.

Use creativity in recruitment advertising to find candidates outside the preconceived mold or community. Businesses of all types, including health care providers, tend to rely on templated job descriptions. Not only do these often fail to provide specific details to attract the right candidate, but they can also be quickly outdated. Review your job listings with a fresh eye and look for ways to include more job details and adjust requirements in order to convey your organization’s culture. For inspiration, look at your competitors’ job listings.

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Once you have an updated job description, think creatively about where to post it. The days of posting once on a job board and sitting back while qualified resumes come flooding in are long gone. Be sure to use more than one platform and incorporate social media, especially Doximity and LinkedIn, into your recruitment activities.

By thinking beyond traditional job descriptions and qualifications and incorporating some flexibility in recruiting approaches, hospitals, clinics and other medical care providers can greatly expand their pool of qualified physician candidates. Your physicians, nurses and staff will be thankful that vacant positions will be filled quicker, and patients will appreciate having their needs met faster.


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