Physician Recruiting Challenge Quantified--Physician Recruiters Say Orthopedists, Cardiologists Toughest to Recruit

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The Â?loomingÂ? U.S. physician shortage is here already, if a recent survey of in-house physician recruiters across the country is any indication.

The “looming” U.S. physician shortage is here already, if a recent survey of in-house physician recruiters across the country is any indication. More than three-fourths (77%) of the 106 members responding to a recent survey of the 700-plus-member Association of Staff Physician Recruiters (ASPR) reported having recruited five or more staff physicians in the last year. This included:

  • Close to half (48%) of respondents who said they'd recruited more than 10 staff physicians during the same period.

  • More than a quarter (27%) of respondents who reported having recruited 20 or more physicians in the last year.

Only 23% of respondents said they'd recruited four or fewer physicians for their employers' staffs in the last 12 months, including four who recruited no physicians in the last year. (For more information on physician recruiting, visit

“It was clear at ASPR's recent national conference that physician recruiters generally believe there's a shortage—and they're looking for new resources for recruiting and retaining physicians,” said Pamela McKemie, senior vice president of “This reinforces projections we've been hearing of a physician shortfall that could reach 50,000 by the year 2010.”

Hiring Window Widening

The survey also validates the average amount of time required to hire a staff physician: More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said the process takes more than seven months and 22% pegged it at 12 to 18 months. Still, 30% of ASPR-member respondents indicated they generally spend six months or less hiring a staff physician, and only three percent said it takes 18 months or more.

McKemie notes, “We didn't analyze our survey geographically, but physician recruiters in more rural areas generally face a more daunting task than their urban or suburban counterparts. That's why we do roughly sixty-five percent of our business in Rural America.”

Orthopedics and cardiology are the most difficult-to-recruit specialties, according to at least half (52% and 50%, respectively) of the 106 physician recruiters responding to the survey. Respondents ranked the specialties listed on the survey in order of recruiting difficulty as follows:

Orthopedics 52%

Cardiology 50%

Neurology 37%

Psychiatry 29%

Radiology 26%

Primary care 24%

Surgery 20%

Obstetrics 15%

Anesthesiology 10%

Pediatrics 4%

Physicians Filling In

More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents reported using locum tenens (“temporary”) physicians, and more than half (55%) said they'd hired at least one through an agency in the past year. Related to locum tenens physicians:

  • While close to a third said they don't use locum tenens physicians, more than a third of respondents (35%) reported using one to four per year.
  • Almost the same number (34%) said they use more than five locum tenens physicians per year, but only 19% use more than 10 per year, and only seven percent use more than 20.

Almost half (49%) of the survey respondents said they'd been in their physician recruiting roles for four or more years. Almost two-thirds (65%) said they spend 80% or more of their time recruiting physicians. (For the complete survey results, visit

Founded in 1995, is a full-service physician recruiting firm specializing in supplemental placement of anesthesiologists, radiologists, psychiatrists, surgeons and CRNAs (certified registered nurse anesthetists) with U.S. hospitals, medical groups and community health centers. is part of the Jackson Healthcare Solutions family of companies. To learn more, visit the company's web sites at and

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Billie Wickstrom
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