Doctor Recruitment

Looking for a doctor? Don’t rely on others and rethink your message

In August Hantsport blogger and writer Heather Davidson contacted helphealthcare via the Contact Us link.

Heather’s concern was how to get a doctor for her community of 2,500 people which had been without a doctor for 11 months. They had one nurse practitioner and it took six months to get an appointment to see a doctor!

She wrote, “According to Capital Health and to the Department of Health, no doctor wants to come to town to practice. Neither organization know why. How do we find out their reasons? When we know them, we can address them.”

I’m an old marketing guy. Hantsport asked the right question in wanting to know the obstacles to doctors locating there. But do the many other communities looking for doctors know to ask this?

And having asked the question, there are no answers because, frankly, I question whether you’re a priority for Capital Health, which oversees delivery to Hantsport. Hantsport is merely one of the crowd chanting for a doctor. It seems to me that our system does the minimum to cover their ass. They place an ad and shrug that no one has responded.

Do we know how vigorously they look? Does your health authority have a dedicated person actually trying to recruit doctors and other medical professionals? I know they have an HR department, but beyond hiring cleaners how aggressive are they?

On his CBC radio show White Coat, Black Arts, which aired October 2, 2012, Dr. Brian Goldman shockingly let us know there is a glut of unemployed doctors in Canada. Doctors have bills to pay, new doctors have medical school to pay for, so they’re motivated to work. There are communities without doctors and doctors without jobs – why? This has to be yet another example of bureaucratic screw up.

It’s worth asking what it takes to make a place attractive to medical professionals.

As I wrote to Heather in August: “The other thing I have to ask is how hard Capital Health is looking for a new doctor for the community? Because of the way our system is set up, rather than have coordination and cooperation, there is competition for money and resources. So is Hantsport in competition with Metro? You’re on the geographic periphery and I would be concerned that some people in authority would hope you’d find relief by crossing into Annapolis Valley Health’s territory and go away.

“I would ask point blank what efforts both Capital Health and the Ministry have made to recruit a doctor for your community? Who have they spoken to and what did they tell them and what were the comments back? It’s not enough to merely place an ad. And if it’s a government or health authority ad, it’s pretty generic.”

Earlier in my career I was publisher of The Kings Country Record in Sussex, New Brunswick. While I was there, Denison Mines decided to develop a potash mine in the neighbouring community of Penobsquis. Denison’s vice president of human resources flew from Toronto to meet with me. He did that because of my age and marital status. I was a single executive in my 20s. He wanted to know about life outside the office. He said, “If I’m going to ask people to transfer from Toronto with all the nightlife and cultural options they have there, what can I promise these highly-motivated professionals?”

A company which is going to transfer an employee values them and doesn’t want to lose them. So it was important for this VP to see the place and understand it. He had spoken to the Mayors, councilors and various regional development officials, but their information and their pitch was the usual sunny litany of generic adjectives and adverbs. No community comes to you and says: ‘we’re dangerous, we’re not friendly, we have pollution, our schools are bad, it’s a boring place to live.’ Pitches lack an edge.

Chambers of Commerce, councilors, mayors and economic development folks often miss the market because they’re all saying the same things. Theirs is often a-one-message-fits-all situations.

In marketing you learn to find what your client’s hot-button needs and motivators are. That requires listening to them and asking who they are.

If you’re speaking with a new medical grad, telling him or her what a great place the community is to raise a family is premature. They may not be dating and still want to have an active social life as any young professional would. And if they are into things that your community doesn’t have, perhaps you’re close enough to commute. Don’t talk about what you don’t have, promote positives and don’t be apologetic. Apologies about a community merely promote negatives.

Show them cool properties to rent or buy or lease, let them know how inexpensive it is to live there.

Heather took what I suggested, contacted Doctors Nova Scotia and learned they had surveyed doctors to see what they wanted to move to a place.

Within a week Hantsport had a doctor.

That’s because the residents got pro-active and stopped relying on the bloated bureaucracy of a Capital Health and the department of health to solve their problem.

You want a doctor, don’t rely on the government or health authority to be of any help because what is their motivation? Their functions and obligations are totally budgetary.

So, look after yourselves. Because those in charge haven’t shown themselves adapt at doing anything. In Cape Breton one doctor told me she was one of 28 who left her hospital in two years. No one called to ask any of these departing doctors why they were leaving and what could be done to alter their decision. Yarmouth lost six doctors in 13 months. Why?

Doctors Nova Scotia provided me with some results of their survey.

So any community looking for a doctor should look at these answers and see if they provide insights in to how to frame your pitches. And don’t just rely on one-pitch-fits-all-physicians. If you’re still without a doctor what have you to lose by changing your approach?

From Doctors’ Nova Scotia:

Every three years we survey the membership on a variety of topics. As part of that survey we asked physicians how important are each of the following factors in being able to attract and retain physicians:

–       93% of members who answered the survey viewed compensation as either critically (57%) or somewhat (35%) important

–       92% of members who answered the survey viewed work-life balance as either critically (50%) or somewhat (41%) important

–       83% of members who answered the survey viewed matching location to a physician’s personal/family lifestyle was either critically (35%) or somewhat (48%) important

–       79% of members who answered the survey viewed access to patient services (specialists, tests, beds) as either critically (32%) or somewhat (46%) important

–       80% of members who answered the survey viewed volume of patients/cases as either critically (29%) or somewhat (51%) important

–       68% of members who answered the survey viewed professional peer groups as either critically (21%) or somewhat (47%) important

–       21% of members who answered the survey viewed research opportunities as either critically (5%) or somewhat (17%) important.

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