August 12th, 2012

Is there really a shortage of psychiatrists?

AUTHORS NOTE: This was written several years ago prior to us focusing solely on psychiatry recruitment, so it addresses a physician shortage in general, rather than specifically the situation in psychiatry. While we are finding that perhaps the scarcity present in psychiatry is definitely a bit worse than other specialties, the concepts presented below are still very applicable to the specialty of psychiatry specifically

I tend to take a stance on the so-called physician shortage that is quite unpopular within the world of agency physician recruiters. While there is obviously some degree of scarcity present, which I go into below, I really think it is to an extent exaggerated and a concept propagated by agency physician recruiters to engender fear in recruiting entities so as to create the notion that anyone who chooses not to use an agency is doomed to failure.

I’ve been very frank with prospective clients who I don’t think they necessarily need the expertise of agency physician recruiters to fill their position in telling them just that, though that’s not to say that these people won’t still benefit immensely from the use of qualified recruiters. I will get into in this further in another article, but long story short, since qualified physician recruitment agencies lead to greater candidate acquisition due to superior resources and because the true goal of exceptional and effective physician recruitment is not just to get a warm body in the door, but rather to find a long term and perfect match for your opening, the use of an agency firm makes rather practical sense even for those who don’t necessarily need to in order to merely fill their position.

But I digress… the point is that not everyone needs us and that is fine and not a reason to scare people into use of your services. I take umbrage with use of scare tactics and I don’t think the situation is a bleak as the salesman for some physician recruitment firms would have you believe.

No, I think if you want to see a true shortage in healthcare look to nursing. But again, that’s not germane to the discussion at hand. I do, however, think it is appropriate to say there is not a wealth of physicians like there used to be. Let me show you an example of what I am saying… quickly just glance at the picture below and without closely scrutinizing the intricacies determine what you think I have provided a picture of…

chest-excerpt If you’re like me, upon first glance, you probably assumed this is one of the physician recruitment pages that list job openings in one of the many publications geared toward physicians… and you’d be wrong. While this is in fact taken from the publication for the American College of Chest Physicians, it is taken from the January of 1987 issue and it is not for “positions available,” but rather for “positions sought.”

If you look closer, you will see that most of these are ads placed by fellows in their final year of training looking to find a position; very much like anonymous singles ads, where anyone interested in the candidate replies to an anonymous PO Box, as though these physicians are almost ashamed that they have to resort to this. Do we ever see this anymore? Never. In fact, these days a Pulmonary Critical Care fellow like the ones describing themselves above are literally inundated on a daily basis by recruiters looking to place them. I think this speaks volumes as to the change in supply versus demand of physician candidates in just 22 years and furthermore is certainly evidence in favor of the argument that there is a degree of physician scarcity present.

That said, just because there isn’t an overabundance of candidates to the point where candidates have to put out “want ads” for jobs, it does not necessarily follow that we are therefore in a state of horrendous shortage either.

Let me propose an alternative… let’s say from an epidemiological standpoint there is at least a sufficient number of physicians to cater to the incidence of disease in our society. However, let’s also suppose that physicians, like other educated professionals with the financial means to do so, by and large prefer to live in major metropolitan areas. Therefore couldn’t it be the case that this imbalanced distribution of physicians leads to a dearth of qualified physicians in more rural areas, but to actually a saturation in major cities?

Sure it’s possible, and I also recognize that I could be flat out wrong. The validity of this theory also will vary by specialty. But still, I just don’t think things are as bad as some would have you believe. Maybe it’s just because we have had such success redistributing the talent to where it’s really needed that I feel this way.

Regardless of your organization’s setting, please feel free to call and discuss with us how the physician shortage has or has not affected your recruitment goals. We can be reached anytime at 512-280-2885 or by filling out the on the contact-us page.

how can we help?

Whether you are looking to recruit a psychiatrist, or you are a psychiatrist looking to be recruited, Monroe & Weisbord is your strategic partner of choice.

See what makes us different →