April 29, 2024

As hospital workforce challenges persist, Sound Physicians doubles down on what is working

By Mihir Patel, MD, MBA, CPE | CEO, Hospital Medicine hospital workforce challenges

Dr. Mihir Patel, Chief Executive Officer, Hospital Medicine

The same set of challenges is playing out in hospitals across the country: Turnover, compensation changes, post-Covid burnout, and workforce departures all are contributing to a labor shortage that hospitals continue to grapple with and that requires out-of-the-box thinking and innovative solutions to address. hospital workforce challenges

Being in an inpatient setting, we see firsthand the significant turnover with hospital support staff. We are also seeing how compensation is a challenge to keep pace with inflation — and driving clinicians to seek higher wages or explore alternatives. At Sound, we have seen a year-over-year increase in inpatient volume of 5 to 10 percent, along with volume volatility greater than 10 percent on a daily or weekly basis. This requires attention to an expansion in staffing and managing staffing to volume — and if not addressed in a timely manner, these can quickly lead to burnout. That combination of compensation frustration and burnout is seeing a group of clinicians leave the field of hospital-based medicine in pursuit of a different path altogether. hospital workforce challenges

Hospitals are struggling to recruit and retain good clinicians. Still, there are sustainable ways to attract and keep clinicians, even in these challenging conditions. hospital workforce challenges

What brings, and keeps, clinicians? 

Working in healthcare means you will always have challenges — and Sound is no different. Still, when it comes to staffing, we hold our own. In large part, why we are successful in both recruiting and retaining our clinicians is because of our culture of bringing better to bedside for our clinicians and patients.

As part of our compensation conversation with clinicians, we must be market competitive and transparent around various aspects of compensation and benefits. We must help the local team create accountable culture at the practice level. The purpose, support, well-being, and our path to growth all are part of the Sound experience. One of the main reasons clinicians join and stay with Sound is our commitment to working with purpose. You will never feel like a number here, because we invest in our clinicians over and over — with education, recognition, training, and support at the national, regional, and divisional levels.  hospital workforce challenges

Our colleagues see themselves as change agents in their communities, with practices that offer autonomy at the local level, and our teams align with values and data to ensure there’s accountability in what we are doing and that we continue to improve for our patients’ sake. 

We give our clinicians credit where credit is due, and they also receive one-on-one feedback and coaching from their medical director, which is essential to their satisfaction and has proven for many their incentive to stay. Clinicians here also can take advantage of Sound’s growth and development path, with an array of programs to suit their level of interest and desire to lead.

Recruiting to retain 

Nationwide our programs are 90 percent recruited, and that is the brand promise delivered by our team. We have a fantastic recruiting team that works together with our medical directors and clinicians. Most of our clinicians join our practice because their friends are working with us. Clinicians recruiting clinicians to join our practice — that is our culture. We also excel at talent sourcing; our talent scouts are always communicating with our clinicians. From on-the-ground clinicians to our recruitment teams, everyone is intimately involved in the process. And we are aligned to the kind of candidate we are looking for: on average, we interview three clinicians for each one we hire.

So, who do we hire? In the current environment, clinical excellence is a given virtue. In addition, we look for individuals who align with our values — who we think will jell with their teams and programs based on intention and motivation. And we retain our clinicians because they want to work with purpose and thrive in our model of support at their site, and within their division and region. Nationwide, our turnover rate remains 25 percent lower than national benchmarks.  

Meeting an immediate need in innovative ways 

While we are 90 percent recruited across our programs, we do face shortages and gaps that demand smart solutions outside the traditional temporary labor support model. The innovative programs we have developed within Sound help fill those gaps and bring on seasoned clinicians who understand our programs. 

Our envoy physician pool is for areas where we have geographic density — more than two or three programs. An envoy physician floats between those sites and can fill in for someone who is out sick, goes on leave, etc. And we also have a well-established national physician and advanced practice provider resource that includes in-person and telemedicine support that helps manage longer-term, non-permanent needs. Let’s say we have a program up and running, but we are down to a hospitalist. Our ambassador program will deploy one of its own to work for three to six months until we can recruit for a permanent role.  hospital workforce challenges

Solving staffing challenges together 

If you are a hospital executive or leader, know that we get your challenges — and I would be happy to partner with you on how to help solve them. And if you are a clinician, I welcome your interest and would be happy to connect with you on our open roles, culture, and why Sound is a terrific place to grow your career.

Feel free to reach out — I am always happy to jump on a call. 


Find me on LinkedIn 

Check out our open clinical roles. 


Subscribe to the Sound Physicians Blog

A trusted source for today's healthcare needs.