Radiologists tough to recruit, survey finds

2002 12 11 15 33 27 706

By Joseph Hawkins, CEO
Merritt, Hawkins and Associates

Radiologists are the most in-demand physicians in the U.S. today -- the one specialty hospitals are looking for more than any other. Right?

I would certainly have said so before reviewing the results of a nationwide survey our firm recently conducted. Toward the end of last year we mailed a survey to 3,000 hospital chief executive officers in an effort to determine how many hospitals are recruiting physicians, and what types of physicians they are seeking. The response rate was 9%, and our results are based on a total of 280 completed surveys returned from hospital CEOs.

Based on the recruiting assignments our firm has been receiving over the last two years, I would have guessed that more hospitals are recruiting radiologists than any other kind of physician.

This did not prove to be the case, however. We found that the great majority of hospitals of all sizes are recruiting non-radiologist physicians. When asked if they were actively recruiting physicians, the hospitals provided these responses, sorted by hospital size:

Hospitals actively recruiting physicians
Cc99 Ff Dot
  Yes No
Cc99 Ff Dot
100 beds or less 78% 22%
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101-200 beds 99% 1%
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201 beds or more 96% 4%
Cc99 Ff Dot


When we asked administrators what types of physicians they are recruiting, they offered the following responses:

Types of physicians administrators are recruiting.
Cc99 Ff Dot
  100 beds or less 101-200 201 or more All sizes
Cc99 Ff Dot
Family practitioner 43% 48% 47% 45%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Internal medicine 24% 44% 43% 32%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Orthopedic surgeons 19% 48% 47% 31%
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General surgeons 25% 26% 35% 27%
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Cardiologists 11% 39% 41% 23%
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Radiologists 8% 21% 22% 13%


Primary care physicians such as family practitioners and internists still lead the list of physicians that hospitals are recruiting. This is in direct contrast to our experience, and that of most recruiting firms. While five or six years ago some 80% of our search assignments were for primary care physicians, that number is inverted today. In 2002, over 80% of our assignments were for specialists and less than 20% were for primary care physicians. And we conducted more searches for radiologists in 2002 than for any other type of specialist.

There is an explanation for this seeming contradiction, however. When asked how difficult various types of physicians are to recruit today, this is the response we received.

Not Difficult
Difficulty of recruiting various types of physicians today
Cc99 Ff Dot
  Somewhat Difficult Very Difficult
Cc99 Ff Dot
Family practitioners 68% 19% 13%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Internal medicine 42% 45% 13%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Orthopedic surgeons 8% 34% 58%
Cc99 Ff Dot
General surgeons 20% 55% 25%
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Cardiologists 9% 44% 47%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Radiologists 8% 29% 63%


As shown in the table above, radiologists were deemed to be the most difficult type of physician to recruit today, a finding in perfect concert with our company's experience in the marketplace. The reason we and other search firms are receiving numerous radiology search assignments is precisely because radiologists are so hard to find. Many hospitals are not able to complete these searches on their own and require assistance. In contrast, family physicians are in relatively abundant supply today, and hospitals often do not need the assistance of search firms to find them.

In general, physician recruitment (and radiology recruitment in particular) is becoming more difficult, a view that is supported by the survey. When we asked administrators to assess the state of physician recruitment today compared to 12 months ago, we received the following response:

State of physician recruitment today compared to 12 months ago
Cc99 Ff Dot
Recruitment is more difficult and time-consuming 53%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Is less difficult and time-consuming 4%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Has remained the same 39%
Cc99 Ff Dot
N/A 4%


Physician recruitment also has made it to the top of the priority list for many hospital administrators. When administrators were asked to assess physician recruitment at their hospitals, they offered this response:

Physician recruitment as a priority
Cc99 Ff Dot
One of our top two priorities 60%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Important, but not a top priority 30%
Cc99 Ff Dot
Somewhat important 5%
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Relatively unimportant compared to other concerns 4%
Cc99 Ff Dot
N/A 1%


The net result for radiologists and other hard-to-find specialists will be an aggressive recruitment market with rising incentive levels and more creative and flexible practice options.

By Joseph Hawkins
AuntMinnie.com contributing writer
February 25, 2003

Related Reading

Radiology recruiting demands planning and preparation, December 23, 2002

Radiologists find new recruiting incentives in tight employment market, December 12, 2002

Salary survey: U.S. radiologists make hay in southern states, June 10, 2002

Radiology job market looks rosy in coming years, October 15, 2001

Is a career in radiology right for you?, June 22, 2001

Joseph Hawkins is chief executive officer of Merritt, Hawkins & Associates. He can be reached at [email protected]. For a complete copy of the survey, visit www.merritthawkins.com.

Copyright © 2003 AuntMinnie.com

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