Inside Physician Recruiting: An Interview with Recruiter Brenda Lewis
Brenda Lewis knows her way around a radiology department. The owner of the physician recruiting firm B.E.L. and Associatesl Inc., Lewis has logged decades of firsthand experience in X-ray technology, nuclear medicine, and radiology department management.
“I’ve been in the trenches,” says Lewis, who recruits in all specialties for healthcare clients across the US. “I’ve worked in hospitals with physicians for 20 years. I’ve worked in a cath lab. I did nuclear studies and X-rays. I was an in-house recruiter before I started my own business. So I understand in-house recruiting, and I understand physicians’ needs.”
You might say that Lewis got her introduction to physician recruiting in the trenches.
Over 20 years ago, she had been pursuing a degree in healthcare management while managing a radiology department in a rural Pennsylvania hospital, one of only two in the area. When the two hospitals decided to merge, Lewis took a position as Assistant Director of Marketing.
Unfortunately, as she discovered, not everyone was happy about the hospital merger.
“All of the in-house-based hospital physicians except one resigned,” Lewis recalls. “ All the ER doctors, anesthesiologists, pathologists, and all but one radiologist gave their notice the same day.”
Welcome to the world of physician recruiting.
The Diagnosis: Physicians Needed STAT
Undeterred, Lewis spent long hours on the phone, networking, building relationships, hoping those conversations would lead her to find the right candidates—physicians who would be excellent long-term fits for the community.
“People were not using email back then,” she recalls. “There were no job boards. We were running ads, using recruiting firms, sending out letters, doing anything we could think to do. It was panic mode, complete chaos.”
But Lewis succeeded in finding physicians thanks to a combination of persistence, innovation, and a genuine desire to serve her hospital, community, and the physicians who would come to work there.
During her six years as an in-house recruiter, Lewis ushered in more than 40 physicians to the hospital, taking pains to ensure that the doctors had everything they needed to get started and settle into the community.
“In addition to recruiting, I was setting up all the new physicians in their practice, doing everything from buying their first pencil and finding their office to setting them up with scheduling and computerized billing, sorting out interviews for their staffing, the whole gambit.”
Using Experience, Expertise, and Empathy in Recruiting
It is precisely this level of experience, expertise, and empathy that Lewis draws upon today in her own physician recruiting firm.
“We’re trying to get the right candidate for the right spot, and if we find the right spot for a physician, we don’t send them to six spots next door. Consequently, we don’t make a lot of money like the big search firms. That’s not what we are out to do. We’re out to get it right the first time.”
All of the recruiters at B.E.L. have a background of 25 years or more of work in a hospital environment, says Lewis, except for one.
“We specialize according to what our clients need us to do,” she says. “If it means getting a physician an airline ticket, we can help with that, or if it means putting them together with one of the chief medical officers in an institution to talk about one of the new pieces of equipment being installed, we can do that, too.”
Satisfied Physicians, Healthy Communities
What makes all the hard work worth it for Lewis?
“Over the years, when you see the people you’ve recruited and how their practices grew, what they did to take care of the people in their communities, and how they complemented the different physicians in their practice, it’s that feedback that makes it worth it.”
These days, Lewis is doing a lot of work with federally qualified health centers that are struggling to find quality doctors.
“At this point in my career, I really feel I need to help in those areas that are in dire need and try to assist them. Salary is an important consideration for physicians, of course, but there’s a lot more to the job than making another few thousand dollars a year. There are other rewards to consider.”
The Search Starts with PhysEmp
To start her search Lewis often posts her new opportunities on PhysEmp’s physician job board.
“I post a job on PhysEmp.com and usually I get a list of several candidates very quickly—within 24 hours there are possibilities. We start working those right away to see if any of them are good candidates and interested in what we have for them. It comes within 24 hours, in less than a day. And then as other doctors sign on, we get new candidates almost daily.”
Lewis says she finds the site useful because it connects her with only the candidates who are actively looking.
“If I get a candidate from PhysEmp’s database,” says Lewis, “ they’re looking right now. I know they’re a sincere candidate.”
Advice for Young Job-Seeking Physicians
If she could give a word of advice to young job-seeking physicians, Lewis would advise them to ensure that their people skills are up to snuff.
“My biggest recruiting challenge is when I have a candidate who really wants the job and the client doesn’t feel that it’s a good fit for them,” she says. “On paper, their background and everything may look fabulous, and then they get to the interview and their personality clashes or they have a lack of people skills. It’s a people business. You have to click with the people you’re going to work with.”
Ultimately, says Lewis, she wants the physicians she works with to benefit down the road with a successful practice.
“I want the physicians I place to tell me at the end of the year that they’re really happy there, and they’re so glad that we helped them find the right practice,” says Lewis.
Based on her 25-year track record of success, we’d say she’s meeting that goal.
More Career Beat blog articles
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!