Primary care shortage and physician recruiters

I received this email from a physician recruiter, and it provides another perspective on how difficult it is to find primary care doctors. I didn’t have much to offer, as she has an accurate read on the grim situation.

I just stumbled across your blog and am very impressed with the information you provided in reference to the physician shortages and IM residents going into almost anything but traditional internal medicine practices.

I am a Senior Physician Recruiter and I have seen this first hand. Almost all Internal Medicine residents we encounter are most interested in Hospitalist medicine. I find they are most attracted to these positions because they allow the flexibility of working in block schedules of 7 days on and 7 days off with no call on their days off and higher paying salaries than an Internist practice would generate in their first year.

We have seen a rapid growth in the number of available positions in Primary Care. [My company] has nearly tripled their openings in Primary Care in the last three years. I only work in this industry and am very familiar with the shortages we are facing. Aside from Internal Medicine and Hospitalists, I also recruit Urgent Care and Family Practice Physicians.

What advice could you provide to a Primary Care Recruiter that is trying to fill over 120 jobs? What is the best way to get in touch with physicians that are actively looking to make a career change? I know how busy physicians are and that they get hundreds of calls from recruiters and are often too busy to get back to them.

However, my clients are still begging me for physicians. Any advice you could provide would be very much appreciated.

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  • Anonymous

    The solution is painfully obvious. Pay primary care physicians more. It’s that simple. If primary care compensation were competitive with medical residents’ other career options, the problem would be solved (a la the UK).

    That said, I doubt there’s much you can do as a recruiter to fix primary care physician compensation. Your best bet might be a few well-written letters to Congress after the election. Throw out the bums at CMS who are too lazy to do their job (and therefore rely on the RUC), force a primary care pay increase, and your life will be significantly easier.

  • Anonymous

    Obviously if companies & practices can pay big bucks to middle men to recruit primary care doctors, then they are paying those doctors too little.

    I think the current starting salaries for a full-time internist in the NYC area is around $140-$150k. I'd imagine the recruiter makes almost as much as this.

    But regardless of starting salary, the bottom line is that the outpatient practice of internal medicine is a MISERABLE job, with so many forces working against you. This, in addition to reimbursent issues of course, is why new "specialties" like wound care, palliative care, and hospitalists came to be.

    I think, realistically, for someone to be attracted to a job as an outpatient internist, salaries would have to be almost DOUBLE what they are these days. Young doctors graduating residency see others their age in other fields making six-figure incomes in many, many areas. Working as a slave to patients, families, insurers, and condescending do-nothing specialists, just doesn't cut it for $140k.

    Since it's impossible to garner any sympathy for what doctors are forced to deal with, the answer is simple, and is why med students are overwhelmingly opting against primary care internal medicine.

  • Anonymous

    “What advice could you provide to a Primary Care Recruiter that is trying to fill over 120 jobs?”

    Uhhhhhh……..pay them.

    Negotiate out noncompetes.

    How’s that for a start.

  • Anonymous

    Recruiter can’t do much about salary?

    Well, yes you can. You say, “the chance of your recruiting a physician of any quality at that salary range will be about zero”

    If more aggressive “Don’t waste my time recruiting for a position that pays that badly”.

  • Dr. Know

    Ditto to all of the above. I actually got a recruitment letter that said “cover 4 hospitals, busy practice…blah blah blah, $150K.” Are you kidding? Cover 4 hospitals and work grueling long hours for $150K. No wonder you have openings. Primary care (I.M. or F.P.) is a specialty. The lack of respect and paltry income has delivered exactly what we have. A true crisis and no one is interested!

  • Anonymous

    As a graduating primary care resident, I get about 10 job offers a day from the “caring” recruiters. Just like 203 said, the initial info is mainly BS. Often talking about “great schools”, “shopping malls”, “hike in the great mountains”.. whatever and vague nonsense like “great opportunity”.

    If I get curious I always reply asking for: call-schedule, # of patients/day, 1, 2 or 3 years of income guarantee and at what level and things like sign-on bonus and/or loan repayment.

    At the end, I doubt very much I will go through them to begin with. I didn’t slave for all these years to let some “recruiter” get fat on it.

  • Anonymous

    Just because you “pay more” does not necessarily gaurantee you will find a physician. I work with a Family Practice group where the physicians earn well over $240k a year, low call time at 1:7, outpatient only … and this is in wine country, coastal western U.S.! And it’s STILL a tough fill! Honestly, I am just baffled as to why I don’t have physicians knocking down my door; this is TRULY an excellent job.