Like much of the healthcare industry, physician recruitment has experienced dramatic change since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Physician shortages in overwhelmed communities and rural areas have made for especially challenging circumstances – not to mention the personal toll and rollercoaster of emotions brought on by a new daily grind dictated largely by the crisis.
Tony Stajduhar, Kathy Cooperman and Russ Livingston recently joined the MGMA Insights podcast to consider these topics and more, holding a panel discussion on “Hiring Physicians in the ‘New Normal’ by Addressing the Psychological Dimension of COVID-19.” Stajduhar is the president of Jackson Physician Search, Cooperman, MA, is an executive coach and president of KC Leadership Consulting, and Livingston, MD, is a consultant and psychiatrist specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry.
Fear of the unknownAs practices and physicians engage in hiring amid the pandemic, Stajduhar has seen a fear of the unknown increasingly play into both sides of the process. Healthcare jobs plummeted by 1.4 million in April due to significant drops in patient volume before rebounding with a 312,000 bump in jobs in May. While promising for dentists’ and physicians’ offices, which were mostly responsible for the rise, the industry has continued to see slides in hospital and nursing care employment.
For Stajduhar, that’s meant helping clients get creative with their financials and future plans while also guiding physician candidates through virtual visits with potential employers in lieu of the usual onsite experience.
“From the candidate side, it’s probably the most stressful time ever,” Stajduhar said. “The demand for them has always been so high that it’s almost been like, ‘Oh, yeah, where do I want to go practice? Which one am I going to choose?’ But now, physicians are coming into the job market sometimes out of necessity, where they’ve had a job pulled out from under them.”
The result has been “more pent-up supply than we’ve ever seen before.”
“It’s really an interesting dynamic, one that I’ve never witnessed in 35 years,” Stajduhar continued. “There’s a lot of nervousness out there, on both sides. As it should be, because it’s just the unknown.”
Despite that uncertainty, Stajduhar’s outlook for the future of physician recruitment remains positive.
“What we need to do is stay steadfast knowing that this will pass,” he said. “Our hopes are that it’s going to pass sooner than later, but it will pass, and the needs that we have are still going to be out there. We are still currently in a situation where we have a shortage of physicians. But I feel really good about the future. I’m an optimist at heart. The glass is three-quarters of the way full. We’re going to get through this. We’ve all just got to hang together … and just take care of ourselves. We can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves.”
‘Care for their well-being'Cooperman emphasized that final point during the panel discussion as well, offering exercise, short walks, breaks – from both work and the news – and social interaction as effective strategies for coping with the stress of today’s “new normal.” And that’s just the start for leaders, who also often play a role in the happiness of their employees.
“Two, three, five years from now, people are going to remember how you led,” she said. “A quote I heard one time has stuck with me – ‘People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.’ So, anybody in leadership, just ask yourself: ‘What am I doing daily with the folks in my organization to demonstrate that I truly care for their well-being?’”
Finding beauty in calmnessLivingston closed the discussion with a heartwarming strategy for regulating your mental state in times of distress. The example has proven to be successful with his 14-year-old son, but he highly recommends it for anybody – healthcare workers and humans alike.
For the last nine years, Livingston’s turned to a simple mantra – “When you’re calm, everything that comes out of you is beautiful” – to help soothe his son’s stress levels.
“That’s it,” Livingston said. “All I have to say now is, ‘When you’re calm.’ He goes, ‘I know, dad, everything that comes out of me is beautiful.’ He doesn’t actually roll his eyes when I say this.
“Different toolkits for different people, but when you’re calm, everything that comes out of you is beautiful. That’s what I would remind people of.”
WebinarDon’t miss the chance to hear more from Stajduhar, Cooperman and Livingston on June 11, when they’ll present an MGMA webinar on “Hiring Physicians in the ‘New Normal’ by Addressing the Psychological Dimension of COVID-19.” Click here for more info or to register for the event, which is eligible for ACMPE, ACHE, CPE (live only) and CEU credit.
- MGMA COVID-19 Federal Assistance and Advocacy Center
- MGMA COVID-19 Recovery Center
- Coping with Stress: How Physicians can Maintain their Well-being During COVID-19
- 6 ways COVID-19 is changing physician recruitment and what that means for your strategy
- Coping with physician depression in the era of COVID-19
To keep up with the latest regarding the pandemic, be sure to visit MGMA.com/COVID. You can also connect with fellow members and healthcare peers at community.mgma.com.
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MGMA Insights is presented by Decklan McGee, Rob Ketcham and Daniel Williams.
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