Career Development

Before a job switch, know pros and cons of a physician recruiter

Timothy M. Smith , Contributing News Writer

As ever more physicians choose to practice in employed settings, many doctors are finding themselves in uncharted territory. Given the potentially huge differences between employers—from catchment areas to compensation to contractual requirements—finding the right job can be a daunting task, especially when most physicians have little or no training in the business of health care.

So it’s not unreasonable for doctors to wonder whether they should use a recruiter to find their next job. But knowing when and why to use one also can be perplexing.

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Any physician is capable of handling a job search on their own, especially with some guidance, but one of the benefits of using a recruiting firm is time savings.

For example, according to the most recent survey of final-year residents by AMN Healthcare Physician Solutions, formerly known as Merritt Hawkins, 56% said they had received 100 or more job solicitations during their training. Midcareer physicians might not get as many, but sorting through even a dozen opportunities can seem insurmountable, given the hours of research required to vet just one of them.

According to another AMN Healthcare publication, How to Assess a Medical Practice Opportunity (registration required), the process involves eight fairly elaborate steps, from understanding the vision of the organization to making sure its compensation structure is appropriate.

“Not going with a recruiter is almost like not having a realtor when you’re looking for a home,” said Leah Grant, president of the AMN Healthcare Physician Solutions division, a major health care recruiter. “Having that person working behind the scenes to find the ideal house for you is critical.”

You can learn more with a separate AMA STEPS Forward® toolkit, “What to Look for in Your First or Next Practice: Evaluate the Practice Environment to Match Your Priorities.” It is enduring material and designated by the AMA for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™.

The toolkit is part of the AMA Ed Hub™, an online learning platform that brings together high-quality CME, maintenance of certification, and educational content from trusted sources, all in one place—with activities relevant to you, automated credit tracking, and reporting for some states and specialty boards.

Learn more about AMA CME accreditation.

Whereas a real estate agent may look at property taxes and comparable properties, physician recruiters’ checklists could include determining whether a community’s amenities meet your family’s needs and how the financial package benchmarks against the most recent and relevant physician compensation figures. This is their value proposition.

Other questions that physician recruiting firms seek to answer include:

  • Is there is a defined need for your medical specialty in the service area?
  • Are there adequate resources available for you to establish a practice?
  • Does the recruiting facility have a clearly written work schedule with patient volume and on-call expectations?

“That's really what you're getting with a physician recruitment firm,” Grant said. “It’s a lot of work to fact-find on the front end, especially if relocation is involved.”

Learn more with the AMA about understanding physician employment contracts.

Working with most physician recruiters, including AMN Healthcare Physician Solutions, the fees are paid by the employer, so there is no cost to the job seeker. Just know that if you’re not the one footing the bill, the recruiter is not ultimately working for you. Their fiduciary responsibility is to their client—the employer.

Still, that does not mean there’s no benefit to the physician.

“We’re here to make sure we’re fulfilling your short- or long-term career goals, whether that be through locum tenens or permanent positions,” Grant said, noting that recruiters often also provide help with writing or revising CVs. “It doesn't matter where you are in your career path. You could be a final-year resident, mid-career, end of career. We can help guide you through what the best next step in your career should be.”

The AMA has assembled a variety of resources to help physicians flourish in the employment setting. They include the AMA Physicians’ Guide to Hospital Employment Contracts (PDF), free for AMA members, and the Annotated Model Physician-Group Practice Employment Agreement (PDF).