Attracting New Talent in Small Markets: Q&A With Saint Luke's Surgicenter Administrator Janet Gordon

Attracting New Talent in Small Markets: Q&A With Saint Luke's Surgicenter Administrator Janet Gordon  Janet Gordon, administrator at Saint Luke's Surgicenter in Lee's Summit, Mo., a town 20 miles southeast of Kansas City, discusses the challenges of attracting and recruiting new physician investors to the multi-specialty surgery center and the region.  

Q: Can you describe the current recruitment climate for your surgery center?

Janet Gordon: We are affiliated with a pretty significant health system in the Kansas City metro area, and the hospital does have significant ownership in our facility in addition to physicians and surgeons. That, first and foremost, has helped — a reputable health system lends a lot of credibility to the surgery center when it comes to recruiting physicians.  We also work with a physician liaison quite a bit in the hospital's recruiting efforts so that we're not competing against one another, and that's proven to be very beneficial.

Nueterra, our surgery center management company, also has a separate division that works with physician groups. They have a physician recruiter who can work with investor groups in a much more cost effective way than an outside recruiting firm. That's one advantage of having a management company involved — we're able to leverage that presence and provide a real value for our investors.

Q: What challenges do you face when recruiting new specialists?

JG: More recently, we've been working to get physicians who aren't necessarily invested in the facility to use our facility. However, it's difficult to recruit a physician who is very busy and would be using the facility frequently, because he would be using block time, and we don't have available block time right now because we're so busy.  

That's been a major project for us — trying to increase our capacity so that we can accommodate those physicians. We're in the middle of an expansion and renovation project that will almost double the size of the facility, and with that, we're hoping to tap into the physicians that are employed by the health system that would be using our facility.  

Q: How are you currently coping with potential physicians seeking block time?

JG: We try to really establish and communicate clear expectations. We do have limitations on block time, and we try to let the physicians know that ahead of time. The last thing we want to do when we recruit somebody is promise them the moon and then not be able to deliver. Any physician we're recruiting will be able to see the expansion plans — they'll be able to see what we have now and what the facility will look like when the expansion is done.  

Q: Do you encounter any Midwestern-specific recruitment challenges?

JG: Recruiting into the Midwest isn't always the easiest. We don't have wonderful weather all the time, and there are no mountains or oceans to pull people in. Sometimes the doctors grew up around here or went to school here, or their spouses have family here. We try to find all of that out in advance and use it to our advantage while recruiting. 

Ultimately, it's the Midwest. If you want to come to the Midwest, it's going to be different than going to Los Angeles or the East Coast or the rural areas. We're in a fairly large metro area, a suburb of Kansas City. But these physician practices that are recruiting are struggling. These doctors can go to more rural areas, like southern Missouri or central Kansas, and make more money — it's a function of demographics.  

Q: What recruitment trends are you seeing across the specialties?

JG: Recruitment is pretty much happening across the board. I can't think of any of our investors that haven't looked at recruitment or haven't recently signed somebody on. We just recruited one general surgeon investor and we're hiring another surgeon who we're hoping to bring on board as an investor. Our orthopedics group is always looking to grow and is bringing someone on later this fall. Our ENT group brought someone on two years ago and just recruited another physician. The urologists are in the process of recruiting, and our GIs are also recruiting but are having some difficulty with finding another physician.  

A lot of these groups have doctors in their mid-to-late fifties. It's a phenomenon that we've noticed in the Kansas City metro area as a whole — these doctors are getting closer to retirement, so they're kicking into gear and really trying to recruit some of the younger generation in. That's a real challenge right now with the trend toward working for a health system. 

Q: What do you emphasize when recruiting new specialists?

JG: We're affiliated with a very big health system that is known for quality, and this campus just continues to grow, which is a direct reflection of the willingness to expand in this area. This facility is known for being very high quality with good patient satisfaction scores, and the doctors in the community are very aware of that reputation. I don't find myself having to sell that a lot.

We have a reputation for trying to look out for the interests of all of our surgeon investors. We have a huge orthopedic practice, along with ENT, urology, GI and podiatry. Just about the only thing we don't do here is pain management, and we may look into that when we have more capacity. Even though some of those specialties may add to the bottom line more significantly than others, we try to stress the importance and the value of having all specialties involved in the mix.

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