Written by Dave Schaffer

Recruiting physicians to hospitals and clinics in small rural Texas communities can be challenging. The limitations created by living away from a big city can be too constricting for many physicians or their spouses.

That was the problem Electra Hospital District, located 30 miles west of Wichita Falls in North Texas, encountered after a husband-and-wife physician couple left in 2011. The district includes a critical access hospital, two clinics, an ambulance service, a home health service, a medical supply company, two retail pharmacies and a daycare.

Rebecca McCain, the district’s CEO, didn’t have the in-house resources to recruit a physician to replace the departing couple so she used several different recruiting services. “We really wanted someone right out of residency or who had gone somewhere for three or four years and not been happy and was looking to come to a rural community,” she said.

But she was unable to find the right match. Two physicians werehired but quickly left.

“Many times, candidates decide they want a different environment, want a certain kind of school, or a certain kind of entertainment, something they can’t find in a small town,” McCain said. “When they’re from a larger city, it’s very hard to make that adjustment.”

As a result, the hospital’s lone on-staff physician, Chief of Staff Thomas DeLizio, M.D., was stuck supervising nurse practitioners and contract doctors who covered the ER in addition to his regular clinic and ER hours. Patients in the ER noticed they were seeing different faces when they came in for treatment, McCain said. While that didn’t affect care, it did affect consistency as well as pull DeLizio away from his focus on the district’s clinics.

After three years with no qualified candidates, McCain was frustrated with the lack of results in finding a full-time replacement physician. “I was very discouraged and began to wonder if we were ever going to be able to get a physician who was a quality candidate,” she said.

In late 2017, McCain turned to Jackson Physician Search. Within six months, she had not one, but three new physicians who fit the rural hospital and clinics perfectly.

Enter Jackson Physician Search

Jackson Physician Search has been recruiting physicians and advanced practice providers for 40 years, first as Jackson & Coker and then, since October 2016, under its current moniker.

What sets Jackson Physician Search apart from other recruiting services, said Dane Altman, senior vice president, is that it uses a more technology-based sourcing model than many other services. Instead of requiring clients to pay upfront for a direct mail campaign in hopes of a 1 percent return, it posts the opportunities on online job boards where physicians are looking and leaves them there until the position is filled. That ensures the opening gets seen and allows for changes to the posting if the opportunity parameters change.

Additionally, Jackson Physician Search prescreens the candidates and only presents the best options.

“A lot of companies load up a hospital administrator’s email inbox with CVs, but then the client has to go through the CVs and find out if that physician is even interested in a small, rural community. That can take a lot of time and effort,” Altman said. “Our job is to present the client with prescreened, qualified, credentialed, licensable candidates, so the process is more about quality than it is quantity. Our recruiter screens candidates and then submits the best options to the client, who then decides if they want to interview the candidate. That saves the client a lot of time.”

The right candidate. And then another. And another.

Due to the lack of success with other recruiting services, McCain admitted she was skeptical about finding the right candidate when she contacted Jackson Physician Search. But Jackson Physician Search quickly sent her a handful of attractive candidates.

She hired Pablo Teveni, M.D., who wanted to leave his practice in West Texas. Teveni’s daughter, Laura, was just finishing her residency in Odessa, and, while not a requirement, the two were looking for somewhere they could work together.

“When he started talking about his daughter, that really got us excited because she’s right out of residency,” McCain said. “We were lucky they wanted to practice near one another and that we had two openings.”

The Tevenis had been in a town of 5,000 or 6,000 people, so they knew what they were getting themselves into in Electra, McCain said. Electra Hospital District has 5,000 to 7,000 people in its service area.

After those two signed, Stephen George, M.D., who was retiring from Sheppard Air Force Base in nearby Wichita Falls, contacted Jackson Physician Search about the opportunity. He is a pediatrician and family practice physician, but when Jackson Physician Search referred him to McCain, the clinics no longer needed someone for those positions. Their real need was someone to help with weekend ER coverage. George gladly accepted that role.

Skepticism Turns to Relief

In the end, Electra Hospital District got the best of all possible worlds. Pablo Teveni had been in private practice for 25 years, and well acquainted with a big work load. His daughter, “Dr. Laura,” is the young, dynamic personality they sought, who grew up watching her father work and was well aware of what goes into the job as a physician in a rural community. George is between the two experience-wise with years of practice ahead of him.

For DeLizio, the hirings have been a big relief because the added physicians take much of the burden off his shoulders.

The speed with which they found the physicians after contracting with Jackson Physician Search was a boon, McCain said. “Time is money. Because we got three physicians very quickly, we’ve solved a lot of our staffing issues, and I was skeptical that we’d ever be able to do that. Having these three new physicians on staff is going to be a big advantage for us.”