Invite, Welcome, Integrate New Rural Physicians
Rural physician recruits need to feel welcome and integrated into networks of their colleagues and the community as a whole. Shawano’s current physicians excel at their recruiting and after-the-hire support role. Traci Berry, practice administrator at ThedaCare Physicians-Shawano says that welcoming feeling starts with the very first contact.
“The doctors we have here now are here because they love this kind of (rural) medicine. They make themselves available to go to conferences and answer questions directly from residents. It’s not rare for Dr. (Mindy) Frimodig to talk through a ‘day-in-the-life’ of a Shawano family physician at our booth. Young doctors would rather hear it from another doctor in the trenches.”
Berry continued, “Our new hires are accomplished doctors when they join ThedaCare, and then they enter this great collaborative learning environment. Doctors who want to learn more about a procedure or specialty care will hear, ‘Great, we’ll show you.’ Rural practice docs by their very nature have a thirst for lifelong learning and mentoring.”
In 2015 the broader community of Shawano and ThedaCare invested in a new $50 million 23-bed critical access hospital. Berry acknowledges that a complete modern medical campus consisting of an adjacent primary care clinic, hospital, therapy services, and visiting specialist clinics is a sparkling gem that attracts interest. A newly updated call model also improves physician work-life balance, a priority for all providers.
“On the week when a doctor is covering hospital patients, her partners take her clinic appointments. Gone are the days when a doctor would have to cover both hospital and clinic patients at the same time. Rotating weekends are also gone because ThedaCare started contracting for weekend hospitalists in Shawano (inpatient-only coverage by a separate team of physicians). It also lends itself to that full-scope model, where our doctors can get dedicated time in both hospital and clinic settings, but without all the back-and-forth.”
ThedaCare sees less than 5 percent physician turnover, whereas the national average is more than 10 percent. Candidates partake in a rigorous interview process during the recruitment phase, said Jenny Redman-Schell, senior vice president for ThedaCare Physicians.
“Our interview process is thorough and very much a two-way process between the candidate and the organization. We don’t hire to fill a stand-alone position. We are hiring someone to complete an entire care team.” she said.
After a physician is hired for a rural post, he or she is matched with a clinical mentor, an administrative advisor, and meets with ThedaCare executives at three and six months. “We make every effort to address concerns early-on. The cost of turnover to patients and the organization is too high to do otherwise,” she said.
According to Redman-Schell, the base salary offered to new ThedaCare doctors is very competitive, yet the organization responds to other shifting expectations, too. ThedaCare has prioritized hiring advance practice clinicians, like nurse practitioners, to help with providers’ work-life balance. The health network has dramatically increased physician sign-on bonuses and loan repayment offers over the past two years in response to market pressures. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit organization, therefore some residents may also be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Other doctors are eligible for complete loan forgiveness after 10 years of service in specially designated service areas.
In the meantime, Stacie Masanz, lead physician recruiter for ThedaCare, works with local chambers of commerce, school districts, and employers to communicate their image and opportunities to physician candidates and their families. “The ability for a spouse to find a job in a smaller community is very important. We depend on a lot of local people to help us introduce their community to our candidates,” Masanz said. Current physicians will invite candidates and their families to dinner at their homes, or the entire group goes on a local outing to experience the character of the small town or city.
For more than 100 years, ThedaCare™ has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast Wisconsin. The organization serves over 200,000 patients annually and employs more than 6,800 healthcare professionals throughout the region. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 34 clinics in 14 counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service. The ThedaCare Regional Cancer Center in Appleton opened in February.