Healthcare Staffing Resources

5 tips for managing the challenges of a solo physician recruiter

Woman at computer learning tips for solo physician recruiters

Keeping a healthcare organization fully staffed is a never-ending battle, and most physician recruiters carry a heavy workload. This challenge can be especially hard on recruiters who are the only person recruiting for their organization or division. We talked to two experienced recruiters about the unique challenges they face working solo, and here are their tips on how to make the life of a solo recruiter easier.

Solo recruiting for a large health system

Elizabeth Madurski is a physician recruiter for UPMC, a large healthcare system with more than 40 hospitals. Madurski works as the sole recruiter for her geographic area, which includes five facilities and physician practices.

“Although I’m a solo recruiter, it’s nice to be part of a large system, and I do have support I can lean on,” says Madurski. “While we may not work together on a daily basis, we have an open line of communication, and we’re a cohesive group with the same mission and values.”

Madurski’s main initiative for UPMC is permanent provider recruitment. She also provides light support with credentialing, onboarding, and retention.

“I am especially mindful of the importance of retention and have a strong vested interest in seeing the physicians I recruit succeed in this area,” says Madurski.

Solo recruiting for a small rural hospital

Heather Spinney, talent acquisition and provider recruiter for Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, is the sole recruiter for her entire organization.

“I review every application that comes in — which includes everything from food services and environmental services to providers and management executives. If they’re a good fit, I work with our hiring managers to bring them on board,” says Spinney.

In her role, Spinney handles everything from general employment inquiries, sourcing, and interviewing to onboarding and orientation.

Common challenges in recruiting

Although they hail from two very different health systems, Madurski and Spinney face common challenges as solo recruiters.

“I’m the one on the frontlines handling the majority of our candidates,” says Madurski. “It can be challenging to find enough hours in the day to accomplish all the tasks I need to do.”

Spinney agrees, noting with so many open positions, there is always something more to do.

“Every time I fill a position, I’ll get an email and there are three more open. Sometimes it feels like you can’t get out of the hole, no matter how hard you try,” says Spinney. “I like to be busy, and I thrive in busy environments, but it can be overwhelming sometimes.”

Solo physician recruiter working from home

5 tips for solo recruiters

1. Communication and organization are key

Both professionals say strong communication and organizational skills are key to managing the workload and finding success.

“Everyone is juggling a lot, just like I am. Between candidates, recruitment firms, and colleagues, it’s so important to have everyone on the same page,” says Madurski. “Organization and communication help with accomplishing all the tasks that come with overseeing many service lines. It also keeps recruitment top of mind for everyone and allows us to get things done in a timelier manner.”  

Both rely heavily on their email and calendars to stay organized and on task. Madurski established regular calls with service line providers and maintains a shared spreadsheet, which serves as a checklist and status of all candidates. Spinney employs a healthcare talent management system to track the status of applicants.

“Anything that can automate a process for me, I’m on board,” Spinney says. “I don’t know what I would do without it, I’d be drowning. It’s a huge time saver.”

Spinney also standardized the onboarding process for new hires, implementing bi-weekly start dates and establishing a regular orientation schedule.

“Retention is so much stronger than it was before,” says Spinney. “When we meet with new hires during their 90-day review, so many share feedback about how much they learned in orientation. Our managers have also shared positive reviews, feeling like new hires now have a solid foundation and get to their departments ready to hit the ground running. Improving the organization of our orientation effort has been huge.”

Ultimately, both acknowledge the actual tool you use to stay organized is less important than how well it is used. The most important thing for solo recruiting is having an organized system.

2. Use every tool you can for sourcing candidates

As sourcing strong candidates is a central part of the recruitment effort, both Madurski and Spinney devote a lot of time and energy to optimizing their sourcing strategy.

Both rely on lead-generation tools such as Indeed and PracticeLink and share job information via social media. They also work with contingency agencies to identify candidates, especially for roles that are challenging to fill.

“We put in place monthly calls with our recruiting firms, and it’s been a great way to keep our jobs top of mind for them,” says Madurski. “They send over great candidates, because we’ve just been in contact and they’re thinking of candidates who could be a good fit for our needs.”

RELATED: 4 strategies for recruiting physicians to rural communities

Spinney has also taken a grassroots approach, establishing personal and meaningful ties to her local community. She serves on the allied health board for a local high school and partners with local nursing schools, presenting to students about careers in healthcare.

“When meeting with students, I’m not only getting them interested in health careers, but also letting them know they can have a successful career right here where they already live,” says Spinney. “Getting out into the community and partnering with schools and organizations has helped our community members know more about us and our culture. It’s a more personal, hands-on approach.”

Recruiter in a video meeting

3. Rely on support from your professional network

As solo recruiters in their organizations, Spinney and Madurski also value the support and resources from participation in professional organizations, such as the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment (AAPPR).

“The AAPPR has been a godsend,” says Spinney. “Being able to log in and find things I need, post questions, or search chat groups for answers I need — I don’t know where I’d be without them.”

Madurski agrees, and points to COVID and the desire to connect with other professionals as accelerating her participation in the organization.

“COVID pushed me to be involved with AAPPR faster than I may have otherwise,” says Madurski. “The monthly roundtables, webinars, and chats are so helpful for connecting with other recruitment professionals. If I have a question, I can ask it there and get feedback from people with more experience.”

4. Find a good mentor

Both professionals also affirm the importance of a strong mentor. For Spinney, she values her relationship with her boss, who she says is supportive and solutions-oriented.

“She is so open to ideas and encouraging of solutions and areas for improvement,” says Spinney. “It’s invaluable. Without that support, I feel like my hands would be tied.”

Madurski appreciates her manager and a former colleague, both of whom have served as mentors or sources for support.

“I’ve really leaned on them for mentorship and support,” says Madurski. “My former colleague took me under her wing and devoted time to explain things to me. My present manager has been with the organization for 18 years. I’m still learning, and I’m never afraid to approach her with questions. I look up to her, and I’m proud to say I work for her. We make a great team.”

5. Build relationships throughout your organization

For new recruiters or veteran recruiters entering a solo role, Spinney and Madurski offer the following words of advice:

“Hang in there. Get organized and then get everybody on your side,” says Spinney. “I spent a lot of time in each department learning what their challenges are, how they work, how many beds they have, who their patients are, and what their patient ratio is. I drilled down on who my contact would be — who is going to be my go-to? By investing in and building those relationships, I can easily get the answers I need when I need them.”

“Build relationships and ask questions,” says Madurski. “Especially if you’re entering the physician recruitment world from another arena, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Get out of the office and meet your physicians and service line directors face-to-face. Let them know you’re available, that you’re working for them, and that you want to fill the search with the best, most qualified candidate you can. Building relationships is crucial and leads to building trust.”

Weatherby Healthcare can provide the locum tenens physicians and advanced practice providers you need to help fill your staffing gaps. Give us a call at 954.343.3050 to learn more.

About the author

Allison Riley

Allison Riley is a public relations professional with more than 10 years experience in healthcare and corporate communications. She lives in New York City with her better half and two wonderful daughters. She and her girls are currently contending for world’s slowest recorded stair climb to a fifth-floor apartment, and she enjoys writing so she can just finish her sentence already.