Heroes of Healthcare
Heroes of Healthcare

Episode · 1 week ago

The Recruitment Side of Healthcare

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

SSM Health is one of the largest health systems in the midwest. As a faith-based, not-for-profit hospital network, their mission is to treat and heal their friends and family in the communities they serve. 

In the episode, Physician and Provider Recruiter for SSM Health, Jason Nelson shares an inside glimpse into the experiences of physicians and advanced practitioners working for SSM. Listen as we discuss:  

- Rumors of physician shortages 

- Maintaining work-life balance for their staff

- Effective methods for collecting and processing patient feedback

Hi, thank you for listening to the Heroes of Healthcare podcast. I'm Olivia Read and on this week's episode, I had the privilege of speaking with physician and provider recruitment expert Jason Nelson. Jason works for one of the largest health systems in the Midwest, ss M Health. What you'll hear from Jason is an inside glimpse and to what it's like to be a physician or advanced practitioner working for s s M. They're a faith based, not for profit hospital network with a mission to treat and heal their friends and family in the communities they serve. Jason also dives into rumors of physician shortages and how they are combating that while ensuring work life balance can be maintained for their existing staff. We hope you enjoy onto the show. You're listening to Heroes of Healthcare, the podcast that highlights bold, selfless professionals in the healthcare industry focused on transforming lives in their communities. Let's get into the show and welcome to the show. Jason, Hello, good afternoon. In our initial call whenever we were getting acquainted, I loved how you described who you support as ministries can you give us a little bit of a background of of why s s M helped refers to them as ministries and what exactly that that is ss M Health. We are a one d and fifty year old system started by the five Sisters of St. Francis that came over from Germany after the Franco Prussian War, received orders from the Vaticant set up mission here in St. Louis during a smallpox issue. Simple the sisters got off the train with nothing but bread to sell. They we we have our origin story. They have the basket of bread that the sisters sold bread out of and that was a way for them to brace funds to care for the needy in our community here in St. Louis. So fast forward three we opened our first hospital, St. Mary's Infirmary in what we referred to in the St. Louis region as Midtown St. Mary's. That was the beginning of big things. The system has now grown to twenty five ministries in total in Oklahoma City Medicine, Wisconsin, Mount Vernon, Illinois, outpatient clinics, urgent cares, surgery centers. It's a multi specialty health system here in the Midwest. Remarkable and how long have you been with SSM going on four years? So I sort of fell into physician recruitment. I was in fine ants, I was a certified financial advisor, and I was sitting in a cubicle. It seemed like a cube farm in a very large financial services organization here in St. Louis, And I was looking at three computer monitors all day, moving around four oh one K plans. And I did that for it seemed like forever, and and I was not happy. So I redid my resume because when I was interviewing the recruiters that I was speaking with for better or for worse, the conversations were kind of drab, and they were just doing the doe and asking me the boilerplate questions and then they were moving on. It was robotic and recruiter actually she...

...started the computer system to record my responses and then she clicked out of it and lost the entire hour interview. And it was then a nightmare, you know, And I got on I got off that call. I'm like, bless her heart, but I could have done that way better than she did. So I redid my resume to focus on recruitment. I was like, I could I could be a recruiter, right, So I put my resume back out and a week later, a wonderful lady by the name of Hope Valvero at SSM Health called me and the rest was history amazing. And now you've been there four years. Do you know in that time frame how many physicians you have been directly involved with A responsible for hiring for s s M. I average in my world, our world, thirty eight forty requisitions a year, and that is net. So if we're looking at the fundamentals, when you drill down in a non violent way, I am always involved in forty requisitions at any given moment. And to say that I am responsible for the hiring of seven physicians per year, my wheelhouse, my Bailey wick is specialty recruitment. So I like to say all the ologies, neurology, rheumatology, pulmonology, ENDO, chronology, surgical arts, CT surgery, neuro surgery, very busy with those two, neuro surgery and CT surgery lately, all seven of those the physicians, and then outside of that advanced practice providers, so nurse practitioners, physician assistants c r n A, s c A, as psychologists, perfusionists. The list goes on and on. Was it making a career shift like that, going from the financial world to all of a sudden recruiting physicians and all of these different specialties that you know they are the experts in, but you of course need to know enough to be dangerous to make sure that they are, you know, a fit for the role. Was that a tough shift? I had my lunch fed to me the first year I was a recruiter often and I realized, I'm not a clinician, and I tell my candidates I'm not clinical. I have a intake that has the details that the group has provided to me on how your work life balance and your professional EBB and flow will look. But I do not know the intricacies of your world for a profusionist working on a neck mode machine, I'm I don't. I don't get off into those details. But I can tell you about the benefits and the PTO and the compensation, and your schedule and the community that you're going to be practicing within, and the longevity of the program and your colleagues how long they've been with the group. So I pack a lot of detail into a thirty minute conversation to where At the end of...

...the call, I asked the candidates, does the compensation agree with you? Does this opportunity sound interesting to you? Do you want to proceed with the process. If so, let's set up another call and get the recruitment going with the hiring manager and the hiring manager in your case, who are is it usually the chief of the departments or who who does that go to? From you? In the ministries I support here in St. Louis, it is wholly dependent upon the department within the ministry. So July one of this year, SS and Health acquired SLEW Care Physician Group. Now, with regard to academic medicine St. Louis University Hospital, Cardinal Glenn and Children's Hospital and St. Mary's Hospital, those are our three academic meds sites. Those chiefs of those programs do want to be involved in the vetting and the hiring, the interviewing. But in the community side, say, at our busiest ministry here in St. Louis, it's De Paul Hospital, the hiring managers or the team leads in these clinics, say heart and vascular or pulmonology or rheumatology, the team leads are the managers that are interviewing these candidates, and then they'll pull in the physicians in the group or the advanced practice provider colleagues for the candidates and have them talk. But yeah, a lot of decision is made at that hiring manager level and conversations that. As a recruiter supporting that program, I talk with that hiring manager often, so it's not heard of for me to start my day at seven am logging in from my home office here and during that day I'll have twenty conversations with the one hiring manager about a multifaceted compensation, or this candidate is coming from this program and can we hire them or can we interview at this time it's ongoing, So no day it's like the next. I'm sure. And over the past four years of being at s s M, you have dealt with a pandemic has happened since you joined the health care community? How has that really shaped the physician market? Well, for example, palliative care in the impatient side in ministries such as Saint Louis University Hospital. The pandemic, it evolved that pro ram, it expanded that program because it's a multidisciplinary care team within you're pulling in a CT surgeon and a perfusionist and a rheumatologist and all of these different physicians that this nurse practitioner or this physician assistant responsible for coordinating the palliative care team care plan. Everybody meets with that person every day. So that program during the pandemic, for example, like I said, at St. Louis University Hospital, when patients present through our e D at SLU Hospital, they don't just have one issue, but five or six, and we treat and heal our friends and family regardless of your ability to pay. So when they come through the doors and they have some very significant health care concerns, we're going to...

...stabilize, treat, send them back home with the supplies they need. We're going to schedule their follow up. Like that's unheard of in other health systems. That's remarkable. Yeah, So there's that example. And then you've got pulmonary critical care physicians who in my DePaul group, for example, they we're doing so much overtime and covering for each other because it was not unheard of for them to do ten twelve hour, fourteen hour days during the pandemic just to make sure that the community that we're seeing come through the doors is being taken care of. So I would pull in support from locum tennant physicians from all across the country to help offload some of that patient panel on the impatient side. As recruiters, we all know that health care starts and primary care, but during the pandemic, it was coming from the inpatient. Two. We have to make sure that this patient has follow up primary care because they didn't have a family, mad doctor or what have you. So the first line of healthcare s SM health in the community amazing and I can I can really see your passion around S s M and around the communities you serve. But did you have any sort of passion or interest in health care prior to becoming a recruiter? Oh? Yeah, A little backstory on me. I started my journey in healthcare back in two thousands seven. I had every intention of going back to college as a thirty five year old with father of four, head of household, main breadwinner. I was going to be a dentist. Oh and you were going at thirty five is when you were going to go back to school and make that happen? And so I I enrolled in a program at Lyndenwood University to start my undergrad so I can I can check that off the box, you know. They okay, there's the undergrad. Now we can move on and actually get into a program to do what I want to do. And that journey, the undergrad years took me from Lindenwood to my dad's alma mater, St. Louis University because they had a great pre med program and my dad went there, so I was legacy. It's like, okay, all right, I'll I'll work on campus and then I'll hold down a job at night. I was pie in the sky right way, overly worked and having four and having four children at home, you know. So I started down that path and I found a job working on campus as a student worker in SLEW Care Physician group. Oh what a small world. I was a patient advocate, data coordinator, taking patient comments, patient satisfaction scores, press, gaining all that data and coordinating it and reporting it up to executive leadership at St. Lois University through the med school, and at the time, I was like a right hand person for these leaders years...

...and they paid me well to do that, and also eventually started paying for my my school. So I was like, okay, yeah, I'll stick around here. So here it is. Seven years later, I finally got my undergrad degree and do you know who who? And then uh, there was a position that opened up in St. Louis University Met School in the Office of Graduate Medical Education. So I worked with the residents and fellows for two years in that program. It was like very close to the work I was doing at SLEW Care. But then I pivoted and went back into financial services and disembarked from my health care entirely, went in back into finance, and I told you about my experience and finance. It was dissatisfied to say the least. And got back into healthcare through ss M Health, but on a different side in the human resource part of of healthcare. And it's been a great fit. Such a journey, and it really does come full circle after you know now that s s M has acquired SLEW Care to where you really kind of got in over three thousand employees becoming SSM Health employees overnight, and it was a huge undertaking. Is so proud the recruiting colleagues that support SLEW Care Physician group because there are two medical groups now in St. Louis. There's Ronda, There's Kathy and Holly under the direction of their manager Jessica, Like, they have a hundred and forties something requisitions alone at SLEW Care. And then I'm over here on the S s M health side in the community world and I have a loan forty something requisitions. We're working and collaborating together to drive the mission of both medical groups. But there's some major challenges. Hey, I'm not gonna say that there aren't, you know, some some issues to still resolve, But for the most part, the acquisition and the integration has gone way better than I anticipated, and that is something to be said to to make that big of a merger, Like you said, this was not a small one to happen. This is a huge deal. Well do you think that going back to when you were in that patient advocacy role, do you think that hearing like the patient's concern or their praise that kind of helped you determine what sort of physician would be a fit for certain certain ministries or do you think that that goes into I don't know, their feedback somehow helps you recruit at the physician level. It's great that you mentioned feedback. So in my role, yeah, I found that my patient advocacy work was very valuable. Two giving me perspective, knowing where people are coming from, and just building on on my my sense of empathy for our community, our friends and family who we treat. But feedback that is crucial, not only from the candidate themselves, but for the group and our physicians and our advanced practice providers, our operations teams. Everybody is very busy. So...

...the component of receiving the feedback after the interview that was a challenge. And what we did was went to a phone based feedback electronic system and I asked five questions and there were five dropped down choices and then there was a field and open field at the bottom that they could put specifics in. And my response rate went from thirty to and I was thrilled. I'm like, oh, this is how I'm gonna do it from now on. So knowing the best way, the best practice to get that candidate feedback was imperative not only to my leader who I work under, but the group. It didn't need to be something that was verbose and two documents and paper. You had to write everything out. It was just the click of an app in your phone, and it seems to work really well. What stands out to you is some of the most valuable feedback you've received from some of these physician candidates. By the time that a candidate has been spoken to over a virtual platform like we're on now, or we bring them into St. Louis for an in person site visit, they check all the boxes. They have, the experience, they have, the education, they have spoken to the right people over the phone or zoom or teams, and when they come in for that in person interview, it's all about connection. What type of culture that the candidates looking for that connection on a in a personal level with their fellow physicians in the group, how they will work with the evanced practice providers, it's personality, it's comfort, how they communicate with their potential leader. And our site visits. I'm very proud to say that when they come into St. Louis and visit our ministries and have dinner with us and tour the community, and like we're very thorough in our site visit itineraries and the meetings and the opportunities afforded to the candidates we pair them with a alter a community tour, spare no expense on making sure that the spouse is happy or or a partner whatever they desire. We feel that it's best practice if a physician is wanting to bring their significant other with them, that we make that happen because that only bodes well for our recruitment results. A lot of systems they've gotten away, and once upon a time, during the pandemic, no site business we're happening. It was all virtual offers were being made over zoom or teams, and the physician would have to say, Okay, sure, I guess I've not been to your hospital, but I guess I'll come work for you. During that did it hinder some did? Did people come on site and then it just wound up not being as much of a match for whatever reason is they...

...thought it would be or were the results the same as they are now that you're in person again. Like all systems in North America, we decided to close our hospitals during that pandemic, stop the site visits, and do everything virtually. I did see a minor degree of success in making an offer hiring a physician like a neural hospitalist, for example, and then when they accepted three months later before they started, the policy was changed and we lifted the restriction in the physician could be brought into St. Louis and we made it a point to bring them in. Yeah, we found it very valuable two cease all direct in person for the benefit of our community and being careful. But when that that dynamic changed, then we were one of the first systems to pivot and be like, yep, bring them all back in. And that in person experience is very valuable. It's telling on how their practice EBB and flow is going to be when they meet with their partners. Say they're a rheumatologists and they have another rheumatologist in the practice with them, you've got to meet that person, right, Yeah, Well, and what do you think sets S S m apart? Whenever you're trying to find a physician and you're you're giving them that pitch. And I know you said you've been doing this all day today as well, You've talked to a lot of great possible candidates. But what sets S. S m apart and what sort of physician do you need to be? Just from I guess a value standpoint in order to really blend well with S s M. We are mission driven people. I love of what I do and the people that I connect with and speak with they get that impression and when I see that mirrored there's there's a real meaningful connection there. So what what do I mean by mission driven? So we treat and heal our friends and family in the communities that we live in. And if SM Health was not there providing that doing that work, then who would be there? And the answer is slim SLIM to know options and communities that we serve. We are again the larger, one of the larger employers, but we touch a lot of lives in the communities that we serve, and that's for good reason. Because in the med group, for example, we have spoken to twenty plus cardiothoracic surgeons in the past nine months and we are looking to fill five positions in the next year between two ministries. Those are a lot of physicians to talk with. We have offered interviews to six of the twenty and we have issued letters of intent to three. So you see, there has to be the right fit. And when you practice healthcare, you're the type of person you're going to get up and do that work anyway, regardless of what the work r VU is. Yeah, And...

...as a recruiter talking with interventional cardiologists or any physician, they want to talk to you in a meaningful way about compensation. And I have those conversations with them and very prepared and comfortable to do that. But a lot of the motivating factor for the hiring comes outside of that. Where do they come from personally, what's their story, why are they in medicine, and how can we better support you. I go into extolling the virtues of S s M health by each ministry. I can tell you all the tech and the renovations and the upgrades, and how we serve the community and all these multifaceted operations and programs for feeding the poor or the needy in our community, east volunteering. If I'm not seeing that mirrored back to me by a candidate in some capacity, if I don't see that spark, there may be question to say, well, maybe that candidate is not the right fit. And even the example of the CT surgery going from you know, twenty possible candidate candidates to then six that you and then down to three, I mean that funnel gets small very quickly. Are you feeling the effects right now? I see it in the news every single day, physician shortages, physician shortages. It is bolded and highlighted in all the news outlets. Are you feeling the effects of that? And has it gotten worse over the past few years our leadership at ss M Health. Since I've been here four years, this conversation has been ongoing. I firmly believe that all health care starts in primary care, so family med, internal med physicians, that conversation, that scope has widened now to be more accommodating to the advanced practice provider in addition to a physician, So it would not be unheard of for a physician assistant or a nurse practitioner to help offload a portion of a patient panel with their collaborating physician. Two make that very appealing to maintain work life balance for not only the physician, but also the app to provide the care to the community that we need. So we're not naive to the fact that there may be a forthcoming significant event with a shortage, but we are doing everything in our power to ebb that risk by pulling in very talented advanced practice providers to collaborate with our physicians. That's smart. And you mentioned a couple of times now work life balance. I know you said that you will even talk with candidates about it. How do you describe work life balance and what type of work life balance can s SM offer to their physicians and advanced practitioners. It's a great question. I tell this directly to not only my app but my physician candidates. I say, in a role that has a component of call responsibility, I'll say, okay, here's the call. It's, for example, it's one in three. What does that mean exactly for people who may not know. So you're going to have to cover one weekend every three weeks. And we in our region here in St. Louis have a seven three dedicated hospitalist team and intensivest teams in our ministries. They take care of all the admitting and the discharging.

But our physicians and our advanced practice providers, they will receive a phone call from these hospitalists or these intensivists too. You know, for example, a critical care physician will receive a call from a hospitalist and it will just be a phone call on that weekend that they're covering. And it is at the physician or the APPS discretion. Two go into the ministry if needed and see a patient. That's one example. Or I can tell on the other side of that coin, the physician or the advanced practice provider. This position has no call, no weekends. It is thirty six hours per week, twelve hour days when you're on your on, but when you're off, that is your time. We will not bother you. And there in lies the work life balance question. When you talk to a nurse practitioner that is in a rural community currently in the middle of Missouri, and she or he is the one stop shop for everything for that town. There's no off button for them, so they're always on call and they're always accountable to their community. When they seek an opportunity here at SSM Health in the St. Louis region, they are looking for some type of realignment professionally or normalization of their professional life. And that's a huge satisfier to them to hear, Okay, you're gonna have your schedule six weeks in advance, you're gonna know your work life balance, you can play your vacation. You'll get this much PTO. You're gonna get paid this much every two weeks. All that's work life balance. Yeah, and the support that it sounds like SSM is able to provide, that's remarkable. The work life balance piece. I think that that is also something that is heavily just in everyone's mind right now. You and I were talking a little bit about work life balance and our initial introduction, and and you talked about some of the things that that you love to do in your spare time. Can you share a little bit about your your creative side and what that entails. My leader, Karen's her name. She she will say, you tell us about your other job, and I'm like, no, it's not a job. I have a hobby on the weekends and I sing in a band and that's very very rewarding, fulfilling for me. It's been a main stay, common thread throughout my life the past thirty years. The people I do that work with my hobby on the weekends, they're wonderful, very organized, professional. So it is kind of a reflection of my life at my career. Here at s SAM. You know, they have their act together, Yeah, so much more enjoyable. So when they're organized and that, um, the music nerds, oh, that's so great. I know you need to give a call of that's amazing. And that's the name of your band is retro Nerds. Yes, very cool, very cool to everyone listening. Retro Nerds. You have to go look look them up. When we were having our initial call, you had talked about how you had just sold out an entire venue for a weekend show. Was it a Queen...

...up? I have a Queen tribute band as well, called Somebody to Love, and it is a big band. It's drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, piano, and then I have five backing singers, so I call them the chorus, and there's there's ten of us on stage and it's a whole experience. Well, if I come to St. Louis, I'm gonna look you up and make sure that I can. I can come to one of those shows. But I've I've also heard that many physicians, a lot of them, have a musical side of themselves or an artistic side to themselves. Is that something that you found to be true as well and your years of physician recruitment, let's see that. Yeah, Orthopedic surgeons, for example, they're they're very uh, they have an engineering kind of pension in their background. So when you hear about them either playing drums or guitar, or they do a distillery and and make vodka on the weekends, you know that brewing St. Louis, Missouri loves nothing more than a musical experience outdoors with barbecue and beer. You know, I think that that's a you are a great way to sell that to to anyone who's come into the area. Just take them to get some good food and some live music, and they're sold on on St. Louis. Well, I now, I've definitely enjoyed just learning more about S s M as a whole. And I know that this is what you live and breathe is your day job, so you know you, I'm sure that in terms of just celebrating the successes of S s M, is is something that you're very proud of and you should be. There's there's so many wonderful things that are happening. We love to always in this show give you the opportunity to highlight some of your healthcare heroes. Do you have anyone specifically or a group of people that you would want to call out? First comes to mind Dr and K. Hill. She is the CT surgeon at St. Louis University Hospital, one woman show for years, and she collaborates with a locum provider as well, Dr Well, I don't need to name him, but long term locum relationship, and we just hired another CT surgeon full time to help her, but she was the maintaining factor in that program and it is and will be a center of excellence for cardio brassic surgery. Dr Norman Simon a rheumatologist that we hired going on eight months ago, now rheumatologist at St. Mary's. He came from the Northeast out in Washington and has been a amazing asset to the community. I just hired a partner for him, so he's elated. He's so happy. And rheumatology is a it is a huge satisfier for all primary care. When you can have in one outpatient tower your family med, internal med, and then rheumatology, pulmonology, indo neurology, all in the same building with a pharmacy in the...

...lobby. That's the best and that's what they have created and maintained at St. Mary's for years, serving the community there. So now Dr Norman Simon, he's picked that ball up and he's he's running with it and expanding the rheumatology program well, and aside from dentistry. Now, knowing as much as you do about all of these different physicians specialties, if you were to go back to school again and decide to pursue a career as a physician, what specialty do you think you would choose and why. I realized when I had a clinical experience, I was shadowing with a physician and realized I did not enjoy being around sick people. So I got out of the clinical side of healthcare and I went into health management and operations, and then I found my way into human resources. So, hindsight being, I would certainly be more focused in probably the business school, the B school and going into human resources earlier in my life. But you can't be hasty and disregard your life experiences that led you to where you are now. Right exactly, I think I'm a better professional for everything that I've encountered over the years now. Well, and Jason, you are doing such important work as well. Even if if being around patients wasn't something you were comfortable with, you are helping put people to work every single day who were taking care of those patients, and that is remarkable and you are, you know, indirectly so impactful in that mission for S s M. So thank you always my pleasure. Yeah, yeah, of course. When is there anything else that we didn't touch on today or any other highlights that you'd like to provide or our shout outs for your colleagues, Well, I'd be remiss if I did not by name mentioned my colleagues here in St. Louis. So there's my leader Karen Mundy and Kristin Gunther and Tai Lipe, who are amazing recruiters with years of vast experience. And then my colleague in mid Missouri in Jefferson City, Missouri, Randy Bullington. So, hi, guys, well, I know you may them proud today and again it was such a pleasure learning more about you, Jason and just s s M S mission. And I love how you said that you know, they're really looking to you treat and heal your friends and family in the communities that you're living in. So S s M we certainly are happy to highlight them here and just really appreciate the important work that that all of you are doing. Thank you Jason. You've been listening to Heroes of Healthcare for more, Subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player, or visit us at Heroes of Healthcare podcast dot com.

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