This post is the first of a four-part series on how to acquire and retain emergency medicine doctors. It introduces the topic and outlines the initial steps hospitals should take to acquire and keep the best docs.

Now is a great time to find employment as an emergency medicine physicians. But for hospital administrators trying to recruit and retain highly-qualified candidates, times are tough.

The reason? According to the most recent study assessing the United States’ workforce needs for EM physicians, the nation has 55 percent of what is needed to staff one board-certified EM doctor in each of its 4,828 emergency departments 24 hours a day.

Worse, the ability for hospitals to reduce that deficit isn't favorable. Even if all current board-certified emergency physicians remained in the field, it would take 14 years before the nation’s EDs would have the number of EM docs that patient volume requires.

An attrition rate of 2.5 percent per year extends the length to 33 years. At a worst-case attrition rate of 12 percent, supply would never meet demand.

Add to that an aging Baby Boomer generation, a growing overall population, and an increasing shortage of primary care providers, and we have more patients than ever turning to emergency departments for help.

Lest you think the future is all gloom and doom, there is good news: Recruiting and retaining enough EM doctors is not only possible but also uniquely within your control.

In this blog post, we discuss three steps your hospital can take to meet the demand.

Put a Recruitment and Retention Strategy in Place

Your hospital or recruiting partner should have a defined and trackable recruiting process in place. Begin evaluating its overall effectiveness by asking the following questions:

  • Is your recruiting process generating enough quality candidates and doing so in a timeframe that meets your ED’s staffing needs?
  • Alternatively, is your ED relying on temporary staff, such as locum tenens, for longer than is financially feasible?
  • Are you meeting your goals for quality, consistency, community involvement, or ED team cohesiveness?
  • Are the doctors you're trying to recruit turning down your offer and going elsewhere? If so, why?

Whether the challenge is pay structure, practice environment, or simply different priorities, knowing your ED or hospital’s recruiting challenges will give you an idea of what's needed to win the best candidates.

Evaluate Your Recruiting Processes

If it appears that the weakness lies not in closing the deal with a model candidate but in finding suitable candidates at the start, it’s time to back up and evaluate your recruiting processes.

Ask questions like:

  • How deep is the physician database your recruiter or recruitment partner utilizes?
  • Has the database been cultivated over the course of years, or better yet, decades?
  • Does the database include physicians nationwide yet allow the recruiter to identify those who were raised, attended medical school, or fulfilled their residency near your hospital or in your hospital’s state or region? How often is the database updated?
  • Something else to consider: How well-versed is your recruitment team regarding the differing priorities of EM physicians and their practice environment needs? And, are EM physicians just one of a number of specialties for which they recruit?

Factor Retention on the Front End

Many organizations make the mistake of assuming that retention begins only after an individual has signed on to your ED team. In truth, successful retention starts at the initial recruiting stage.

Essential to the process is to determine not only the kind of asset he or she would be to your ED, hospital, and community but also how much of an asset those entities would be to him or her.

Would working in the area allow the candidate the opportunity to move near family? Perhaps your hospital serves a segment of the population about which he is truly passionate, or maybe the ED offers a clear path to a leadership position she seeks, such as medical director or hospital administration.

In today's employment climate, successful recruiting and retention are less about selling your hospital or ED than it is about listening carefully to the candidate’s particular desires and determining whether or not your facility and practice environment can comply.

Therefore, in addition to understanding what makes each candidate tick, your recruiter’s ability to understand and communicate your hospital and ED’s culture and priorities are essential to making a good match with candidates. Properly aligning the two before contracts are signed will reduce the risk of dissatisfaction or turnover in the future.

Continue reading the series: