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To improve your physician recruitment outcomes… Pay much more attention to the spouse or significant other.

While spearheading Geisinger Health System’s first formal physician retention program back in the 90’s, I started with the autopsy approach and conducted exit interviews with every physician leaving the organization. Oh my. There were times after doing a couple of these in one day that I wanted to go home and drink.

For us, and as it turns out on a national basis, the second most stated reason for a physician leaving their practice was related to the spouse or significant other.

These included:

  • Unable to find a position in their chosen career
  • Needed to be closer to family
  • Never bought into the area
  • Did not feel welcomed
  • Left for further education to forward their careers

On multiple occasions, physicians would tell me the spouse came reluctantly and said, “I’ll give it a year.” Well, the year is up.

On the recruiting side of things, with few exceptions, no matter how much the physician was enthralled with the practice and our organization, if the spouse said “No way. Not now, not ever.” Then guess what their answer was to our offer? My experience has been, the spouse or significant other is OVER 50% of the deal.

The answer that improves both the recruitment success and lowers turnover is to get the spouse engaged at a much higher level, right from the get go. 

I’m not talking about just having a realtor take them on a tour and including them in a dinner in the evening.

Treat them like a CANDIDATE. So, add to your process…

3 phone interviews with the spouse or significant other prior to an on-site interview

  • One with the Recruiter/Consultant to find out exactly what they are interested in seeing and doing, the people they want to meet and the top 3 to 5 issues they are most interested in.
  • Spouses will often divulge information the candidate doesn’t.
  • You will also get a sense pretty quickly about how the spouse is feeling regarding the potential fit. Are they on board?
  • One with a spouse of one of your current physicians with similar backgrounds and areas of interest. (select carefully)
  • One with your preferred realtor to talk through specific home styles they are interested in so while there, they can actually see homes for sale that match their interests. I have both secured hires because they landed on a home they wanted and also lost hires from them walking away feeling that what they were interested in does not exist.

Create a second interview itinerary just for the spouse.

Include the spouse of the current physician that phone interviewed the candidate’s spouse in the tour and a luncheon.

Have the spouse of your current physician follow up with the candidate’s spouse post-interview to get a read on how it went and what they are thinking or feeling.

Then there’s on-boarding. Before they get there, in preparation for the move and after they get there. The spouse HAS to be on-boarded and made to feel welcomed in the community and with the organization.

To be effective in recruiting the spouse/significant other, it takes a lot of work. It must be a focused effort, consistent in approach but tailored to the individual, every single time.

So, what if their final answer is no? You do all this extra work and find out it’s not a fit for the spouse and they turn down your offer? 

Congratulations!! In the long run, you still win!!

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