Wide Spread Physician Shortages

Currently there is a widespread shortage of qualified physicians to fill the many vacancies that have been left by individuals who have left their positions to retire, for better opportunities, or for a change of life and career. In addition to the vacated positions, the natural growth of the field has created an increased need for health care services especially in suburban communities. This shortage has created a dynamic market for job seekers, but has left many institutions in compromising positions.

Interestingly, despite the demand to fill these positions, particularly senior management positions, pay has remained relatively steady since about 2001. Some specialties, such as both invasive and non invasive cardiologists, have even experienced a decrease in pay. Many institutions are struggling with implementing incentives to hire new physicians while still trying to balance a practical budget. A common practice among these institutions is to shift their budgets to include performance-oriented incentives and substantial hiring bonuses to attract potential employees. Some institutions are offering target bonuses of up to 28%, the highest wage earners falling into the physician executive categories.

Another move that many hospitals and health systems have made is the implementation of chief medical officer positions since the shortage has allowed them to recognize a need for a senior executive position that can build important alliances with physicians. Once a position that was a bonus to have in a medical institution this chief medical officer position has grown into a necessity, especially in the face of such manpower shortages.

On top of this shortage, it has been noted that there has been a faster turnover in many physician positions than in past years. Recent studies have shown that over 10% of the physician workforce changes position in a year.

To curb this turnover many institutions have moved to create better job security and better job satisfaction. Eventually this trend of job change will effect the industry as a whole and likely create an even more competitive environment for the ever tightening pool of qualified individuals.

The physician workforce has also been influenced by a cultural change of individuals seeking a better quality of life for themselves. Many physicians, new and old, are wanting to spend more time with their families and friends in recreational activities instead of working the demanding hours that these medical positions often require. This has created a clear decrease in job attractiveness that institutions have found difficulty improving upon.

As the need for health care increases, so will the obligation of hiring institutions to show flexibility in meeting the demands of qualified candidates. Attracting physicians through programs that support and balance their jobs and personal lives will become vital in reducing turnover rates and in attracting those looking for new opportunities. In the end, both the physician workforce and the medical institutions seeking to employ them must understand each other’s viewpoint and find a balance that meets the needs of the other as well as the needs of those serviced.

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