Entering a new job market is like buying your first home. You’re interested in a lot more than just its cost. You want to know information about the neighborhood, crime rates, need for repairs or local schools before you make a purchase.
This involves a significant amount of research—but when you do the homework, you can buy the home with greater peace of mind.
Feeling out a new job market before taking your first job works the same way.
You are likely to get your first “real job” in the region you trained. Because you’ve spent several years in an area, you will have learned (by word of mouth or direct experience) about facilities in that region, their reputation and their pay.
Working as an attending means a greater degree of responsibility than working as a resident. You are more likely to have hospital or system-level roles, be involved with committees or champion hospital initiatives. Having a sense of the job market gives insight into the context of your job interest and enables you make the best possible decision when pursuing a job.
For the purposes of this post, I’ll presume you know nothing about an area—you’re moving to a new location and would like to size up a job market that is completely foreign to you. Any information you have by word-of-mouth will only help solidify what you gather by using the approach below.
Simple Google searches
This seems so obvious that it’s almost not worth mentioning. But remember, you need more than a list of hospitals in an area—you need a list of hospitals in which you would actually want to work.
You also have to know how those hospitals are structured and relate to each other. When you train in emergency medicine, you learn that every emergency department (ED) has a relationship with every other ED in that area. If you’re new to an area, you want to try to understand those relationships before you start working – you need to know where your ED fits in context.
Start by learning whether the hospitals are part of a system or are independent. This is important because you will eventually need to know how physicians are employed. Private groups, independent contractors, hospital employees or system employees—each of these may be more or less attractive to you.
For instance, I interviewed at an independent facility where the physicians were independent contractors working for a staffing company. Most of the other hospitals in the region were either owned by a growing private system or were actively being purchased by a local medical school.
From my perspective, this means that there is a very good chance that the structure of my employment would eventually change. Within a few years, that independent hospital will probably be purchased by one of two systems, both of which used employee models. If being an independent contractor is important to me, this would be critical information.
All of this information was available through simple Google searches.
You’ll need to start trimming your list down once you know all of the facilities in an area.
The first places to start are the websites of the hospitals. You can see whether the hospital is accredited by various bodies (such as the Joint Commission), has any verifications (like being a stroke center) and what services it provides. You can also get a sense of the community it serves and decide whether this suits you.
Maybe it is a critical access hospital in a rural area that offers very little services itself. Maybe it’s a community hospital that serves a suburban area. By the time you finish residency, you’ll have a sense of what you’re looking for and hospital websites can give you a sense of the type of facility it is.
Like any website, hospital websites can be outdated or inaccurate. It’s important to cross-reference the information you’ve obtained through various sources.
Hospital Compare is Medicare’s site and a good place to start cross-referencing information. I recommend using a facility you’ve know well when using their comparison tool. You already have a sense of how your home facility operates, and this website lets you compare a new facility to one you’re familiar with. Categories such as patient experiences, timeliness, safety or quality are available for comparison.
Government data is only one data set. It’s easy to cross-reference that data on websites such as American Hospital Directory, US News and World Report Hospital Search or The LeapFrog Group. These websites have basic information about the hospitals (like how many patients visit them or the services available there) and also have information about the quality of the care delivered.
These sites will help you get a sense of the facility as a whole—what it offers and where its shortcomings may be. This is information you can use to further pare down your list while understanding the healthcare landscape.
Emergency department specific information
The next step is finding emergency department specific information. You’re looking for information such as how the ED is staffed, whether they’re hiring, how much they pay and what it’s like to work there.
From these sites, you can glean the information you need to move forward. Job boards are able to give you a general sense of whether you’d like to work in a facility. ED volume, pay, hours of shifts and amount of hours needed per month are examples of basic information needed to know whether that facility is worth pursuing.
Remember as you look through the specific EDs that pay is always negotiable. Make note of what the EDs in the area are paying?—?even ones where you don’t want to work. This is information you will need when you’re negotiating your own pay. Unless you know what “normal” is in the region at specific facilities, you can’t make a compelling argument for what your pay should be.
At this point, you’ve only been doing online searches to narrow down your list of potential jobs. If you don’t have word-of-mouth information, this is a good time to get it. Medicine is a small community and people talk. It’s not difficult to connect with someone via online boards or friend-of-a-friend communication in an area to find out what a competitive rate would be.
Last steps: Recruiters, interviews and site-visits
Once you’ve pared your list down, it’s time to contact recruiters. If you’re interested in multiple facilities, you’ll likely need to speak with more than one recruiter to gather the information you need.
From your research, you’ll know what information is missing and what the discrepancies are between sources.
This is where a recruiter comes in. Have your questions ready when you speak with them. It may take several phone calls to get all of the answers you need, but doing your homework will save you and them a significant amount of time.
Your recruiter will help by being your liaison to the facility. If you’re not certain what information you may need from a recruiter, this post answers that question in detail.
The recruiter can set up interviews with the appropriate people at the facility, such as the medical director or other members of administration.
During your interviews, you’ll have a chance to tour the facility and obtain the specific information you need to make a decision. Once you have all of this information – from the general Google search to the nuances of a particular ED – you’ll have a clearer sense of the job market and be able to select a job with greater confidence.