If you’re currently in your internal medicine or family medicine residency, now is the time to be thinking about your next career move. For physicians hoping to work in a hospital setting, COVID-19 has altered the employment landscape and made the hospitalist job market much more competitive. Here are four tips that can give you the edge you need to beat the competition and find a hospitalist job after residency.
1. Be open to a variety of schedules
Some hospitalist schedules are in higher demand than others, so the more open you are to the type of shift you are willing to take, the more likely you’ll be to find a job as a newly practicing physician. For example, nocturnist jobs — from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., seven days on, seven days off — attract fewer candidates than day jobs. 65% to 75% of hospitalist candidates prefer day shifts, so those jobs are harder to come by and the competition is fiercer.
Another schedule that’s in demand is a true mix of days and nights, according to Lisa Goldstein, senior recruiter on CompHealth’s hospitalist permanent placement team. “Smaller programs are typically in need of hospitalists to fill this schedule,” she says.
2. Leverage your connection to the area
Since the hospitalist job market is so competitive right now, hospitals are interested in residents who have more than just good clinical skills.
“Hospitals are looking at things like ties to the community,” Goldstein says, “or a reason the resident is applying for a job in that area. They don’t want a candidate who’s applying just because they want to make $300,000 a year or because they can’t find anywhere else.”
Goldstein explains that hospitals take this into account because they’re looking to retain candidates long-term, not hire physicians who’ll leave as soon as another opportunity comes along.
While it’s true that hospitals favor candidates with ties to their immediate area, it’s important to open up your funnel to the broader region as well.
“I may have a job opening in rural Vermont, but I don’t have a lot of residents asking to work in rural Vermont,” Goldstein says. “But if I send the hospital a candidate with ties to the region, say, New England, the hospital is more likely to feel they’ll be able to retain that candidate.”
3. Cast a wide net from the start
While you most likely will want to find a position close to friends and family, only applying to jobs within a narrow geographical area can severely limit your employment options. Goldstein says she speaks with many residents who’ve been told they can “write their own ticket,” and the job market is essentially theirs. The biggest mistake residents make is to go narrow first, then widen the search later.
“What’s really common is I’ll get a call from a doctor who wants to work in Dallas where their family is. I’ll tell them about a job in Oklahoma City, but they tell me if I can’t find them anything in Dallas then they’ll consider the position in Oklahoma.”
In a similar vein, Goldstein will tell them about a job with two nights a month. “They’ll tell me that if I can’t find them anything that’s purely days, then they’ll expand their search.”
The problem with this mindset, Goldstein says, is that if you’re too focused on your first choice and you don’t get it, by the time you look at the position in Oklahoma City, for example, it’s been filled. “So now you’re not going to end up with choice B. You’ll end up with choice C. You’ll end up in Kansas.”
Start your job search pretending you only have two months left and you haven’t found a job, says Goldstein. “Start like that. Of course, you’re always going to go for choice A, but if you don’t find that at least you have your ball in the court for some of these others.”
4. Get expert help
You’ve trained to be an expert in your field. When you’re ready to look for your first hospitalist job, getting help from an expert can give you a strategic advantage.
“You want to partner with a company that has long-standing, solid relationships with the recruiters in the hospitals so we can advocate for you, not just send out your CV and hope a placement falls out of the sky,” Goldstein says.
Before you even speak to a recruiter, it’s a good idea to create a list of your strengths and what you have to offer a potential employer — everything from specialized clinical experience to interpersonal skills. “When you’re talking to a recruiter for the first time, you want to already know what your strengths are. This really helps when your recruiter is prepping you for an interview.”
Preparation is key
Although the hospitalist job market is challenging at the moment, flexibility, knowledge, and planning can be key to landing your first job right out of residency.