Behind the Scenes: Provider Recruitment


We sat down with KVH Provider Recruiter Mitch Engel to learn more about the process of bringing new providers to the community. 

Okay. So what in the world is provider recruitment?

It’s helping us, as a critical access hospital and rural health clinics, keep up with the demand that the community needs and wants for providers.

There’s a national shortage, specifically of family practice and primary care general providers. So being able to recruit those doctors to the area to supply the demand that this community needs and deserves is what I do. Not just physicians, but also PAs and nurse practitioners. In the last few years we’ve hired over 30 providers across all specialties that we have. The big majority of those are family medicine providers.

Provider recruitment is fun. It’s challenging, especially for specialty positions that just don’t have a lot of docs out there currently looking for jobs. This October will be three years that we started our new applicant tracking tool. Whenever anybody applies to a position, they apply through our applicant tracking system. Whenever I post a position, it posts to a number of job aggregators of which there’s 30 or 40 depending on the specialty.

Our applicants come from a number of different online resources. Word of mouth is incredible. We’ve had a number of people self-refer. We’ve had a number of people email or call and say, “Hey, my friend or my wife or my husband is a provider, I think you should talk to them.” Doors open that way as well. We occasionally will use big national recruitment firms, but not very often.

You’re part of Medical Staff Services.

Dr. Martin, Kyle West, Lisa Potter and myself. When I bring in new providers, Kyle is the one who gets them privileged or credentialed. He and I talk daily. Lisa does pro forma for new service lines and takes new providers out to meet community members, so she needs to be aware of what’s going on with us. Dr. Martin is CMO and my boss; I work with him closely.

I typically make first contact with providers, and then work with them throughout the process. So I stay inside that loop. And I don’t ever exit it entirely. In the other part of my job as provider liaison, I remain a good point of contact for questions, or as a resource, or whatever it may be.

In what ways does your role support KVH’s stated mission?

We had an access problem, but things have gotten much better over the last three years simply because we’ve been successful in provider recruitment. There was a time when none of our clinics were accepting new patients, so community members were going to the ED, or traveling to Yakima, Wenatchee, wherever.

By bringing in more providers, we’ve been able to provide more access to the community and open up a lot of our practices, including starting up new specialties like Dermatology and Workplace Health.

What are the challenges of being a provider recruiter?

Certain positions are increasingly rare in terms of candidates searching for new jobs. Like internal medicine docs, who do a three-year residency and then have the choice to be a general internist and begin practice, or get a subspecialty and double their income.

A lot of internists are subspecializing in cardiology, or endocrinology, or nephrology, or a number of things, and it allows them to make much, much more money. People who exit med school with $300-400,000 in student loans, they want to make more money so they go into something else, right? They go into surgical specialties. So the general internist doc is increasingly rare. Same thing for orthopedics and general surgery. And while the primary care realm is challenging, there seem to be more family medicine docs seeking employment.

We struggle to get people who are interested in living in Ellensburg, because they’d like to live in the greater Seattle area or even Wenatchee or Yakima. But we’re close enough that people can hop on the road and get there pretty quickly. It seems the vast majority of people want to be in downtown Seattle.

When you get interested candidates, Medical Staff Services has a thorough process for vetting providers above and beyond what Human Resources does.

Yeah. Because we need to be certain that the people we’re bringing here are who they say they are, and are going to improve and increase access to patient care.

What are the rewards of your position?

It’s very rewarding work. It’s difficult work. It’s challenging work. When things come together, and you successfully hire somebody who is well liked by their colleagues and coworkers and patients, and we see access open up, it’s super rewarding. Years ago, when I worked at Boys Smith Vision Center, we’d get patients in for surgery pre-ops, and if they couldn’t get in to see their primary care providers quickly enough, we’d have to delay their surgeries. So I’ve seen the other side of things as well.

It’s rewarding to bring new providers in to provide that care that the community needs. (Laughs) I’m a horrible patient. I don’t get seen nearly as often as I should. But I’m very prompt to take my kids to the doctor when they need it. Being able to get them in quickly is nice. And just being able to hear my grandparents and their friends, my parents and their friends, say to me, “Hey, I saw so-and-so, and they were great…,” that’s incredibly rewarding.

What does it take to do this job?

It takes patience. Persistence. Promptness.

Doctors are very well educated, and they know that what they do is in high demand. And so it’s just an interesting group to talk with because they’re very intelligent. They’re very particular.

When someone applies, I need to get back to them within 24-48 hours. Because if people don’t hear back quickly enough, they’ll move on. They’re not normally applying to just one position. And so the people who respond to them first typically go to the top of their list.

The uniqueness of my position is as challenging as it can be overwhelming at times, because I never step away from the process, as that consistent point of contact for our providers. It’s actually nice. I’m not handing them off to somebody else.

While my job isn’t rocket science, and it’s certainly not particularly challenging from a technical standpoint, it is about being willing and available to do the work.

Thank you for what you and your team do to bring quality care to our community.