HealthFebruary 06, 2020

How to recruit neurologists: understanding their work preferences

Learning about neurologists' preferred information sources and work settings can help you effectively market your job opportunities to them.

Neurologists are in great demand, and recruiting them is harder than ever. The shortage will become even more acute as the average age of neurologists, along with the average age of the general population, increases. Because people are suffering more strokes, dementia, and other neurodegenerative disorders as they age, the escalating lack of access to neurologist expertise is creating a growing crisis.

The national supply of neurologists in the United States will climb at a rate of 11% from 2014 to 2025, according to the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. However, demand will increase by 16%. For recruiters and health institutions, finding and retaining neurologists will become more challenging. This article examines the workstyles and professional activities of neurologists — what they do, where they do it, and how they do it — to help recruiters and other entities attract, motivate, and retain these valuable physicians.

Places of work and professional activities

According to data recently collated by the consulting firm KANTAR®, 8% of neurologists work in hospitals, a level similar to obstetrician-gynecologists, pediatricians, psychologists, and pulmonologists. However, neurologists differ from other health specialists in that they tend to be more active in other professional activities, such as teaching at medical schools, writing articles for publications, and speaking at public conferences. The graph below shows the mean number of activities that neurologists are engaged in, compared to a sample that included other health specialists.

neurologists professional activity compared to other physician specialists

Neurologists use various channels, especially educating medical students and speaking at seminars, to share their knowledge and experience. According to the data from KANTAR, 25% of neurologists are opinion leaders. This percentage is only greater for infectious disease specialists, oncologist-hematologists, and surgeons.

Digital use among neurologists

Neurologists tend to use digital devices and systems less than other medical experts. According to KANTAR, 86% of neurologists reported that they use smartphones for both work and personal tasks. For specialists such as family medicine practitioners, emergency physicians, nephrologists, and oncologists-hematologists, the percentage reached as high as 90%.

Neurologists use patient portals to interact with patients more than other specialists. KANTAR reports that 62% of them use patient portals as opposed to 50% of other medical specialists in other fields. However, other than communicating with patients through a patient portal and with other external physicians, neurologists are less likely to share patient data with other health-care providers through digital channels, compared to other specialists.

digital sharing of patient data neurologists vs other specialists

It is essential that recruiters and those seeking to attract neurologists to understand the channels that neurologists use to get their information. The recent data from KANTAR shows that when it comes to information, neurologists prefer more traditional sources, including professional portals like UpToDate and Medscape, physical attendance at meetings, colleagues, current printed medical journals, and medical websites.

important sources of information for neurologists

Neurologist recruitment

Neurologists are the fifth most in-demand specialists, according to a ranking by Merritt Hawkins, a leading physician search and consulting firm. Specialists who are more in demand are those practicing pulmonology, psychiatry, dermatology, and family medicine.

The Merritt Hawkins’ 2017 Survey of Final-Year Medical Residents finds that younger physicians today seek a balance between their practice and personal life. Seventy-four percent of residents surveyed cited work-life balance as a strong influencing factor when it comes to job selection. A more manageable lifestyle was also cited as a reason why many neurologists seek part-time employment by the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider recruitment.

Recruiters should also be aware that young neurologists seek certain benefits and environmental settings when deciding whether to accept a position. According to the Merritt Hawkins survey, a “positive neurology practice environment is one that offers competitive compensation, an outpatient-only setting, and the opportunity to specialize in areas such as epilepsy, headaches, sleep, or other specialty areas of interest to particular candidates.” Young neurologists also value academic affiliation or the opportunity to pursue research. Also, access to telemedicine is important to practitioners because it allows them to treat more patients, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

With respect to compensation, recruiters, hospitals, and health system administrators must offer competitive salaries in addition to the factors already described. The table below shows that average salaries for neurologists have increased by 16.4% since 2013, with the current average salary reported as $305,000 by Merritt Hawkins. Neurologists typically also receive a sign-on bonus ($30,000), continuing medical education allowance ($3,500), relocation allowance ($11,070), paid malpractice insurance, health insurance, and a 401k or other retirement option.

 Neurologist Starting Salaries
 Year Low Average High
 2016/17  $220,000  $305,000  $400,000
 2015/16  $220,000  $285,000  $500,000
 2014/15  $180,000  $277,000  $350,000
 2013/14  $180,000  $262,000  $400,000

Source: Merritt Hawkins 2017 Review of Physician and Advanced Practitioner Recruiting Incentives

While it is becoming more difficult to hire and retain neurologists, understanding the roles of these expert physicians, how they prefer to work, and what attracts them to certain positions will help recruiters and health system administrator to better design their recruitment and HR policies.

* Source: KANTAR Sources & Interactions 2019

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