Recruiting potential employees is a time-consuming, complex and often challenging process for most organizations. For the health care industry, the recruitment process usually is even more difficult as health care organizations are faced with an increasing shortage of qualified candidates. This is especially true for the O&P profession, where a position for a certified orthotist or prosthetist can remain unfilled for a year or even longer. Why is it difficult to find qualified candidates, and what are some recruiting strategies?
Several factors contribute to the difficulties associated with recruiting qualified O&P professionals. As with many health care disciplines, the need for O&P services is growing faster than the number of graduates from O&P schools.
A study commissioned in 2002 by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education to examine the future need for orthotists and prosthetists predicted the future demand for O&P care can be expected to increase as the U.S. population ages and as the prevalence of diabetes and obesity with their associated complications continues to increase. The study estimated that by the year 2020, the need for orthotic services would increase by 25%, while the need for prosthetic services would increase by 47%. The study also estimated that if the number of students graduating from O&P programs fails to increase correspondingly, by 2020, O&P practitioners would be able to serve only 61% of orthotic users and 66% of prosthetic users.
Compounding the predicted shortage is the number of O&P practitioners who can be expected to retire within the next 10 years. Approximately 17% of certified O&P practitioners who are age 55 or older fall into this group.
Increased educational requirements
Changes in educational as well as certification requirements for O&P practitioners in recent years also has contributed to the shrinking pool of qualified candidates.
“The industry has evolved so much within the last 10 years. It has increased its educational opportunities greatly,” said Brad Mattear, business development manager for Clark & Associates. “Now, as an allied health care provider, the profession is trying to achieve recognition by increasing its education.”
Students currently are able to matriculate in O&P programs that offer bachelor’s, master’s and even doctorate degrees. However, Mattear noted only a few colleges in the United States offer O&P programs.
Increased competition in recruiting
With the demand for certified practitioners expected to soar in the future, O&P practices will be faced with increased competition in recruiting professionals to their organization. For some companies, location can become either a plus or a detriment in attracting new employees.
“As far as recruiting a practitioner, this is I think a truer statement that you will see across the country, it all depends on your region or your environment,” Mattear said. “It is a lot more difficult to recruit a practitioner to Waterloo, Iowa, than it is to recruit somebody to say Phoenix or San Diego.”
Attracting potential practitioners
Mattear noted that not many people consider Waterloo, Iowa – where O&P1 is located – a hot spot, so “selling” the practice to a candidate can become important.
“It is a great place to raise a family; we sell them on that. We invite them to come out. We put them up. We let them stay here for a couple of days to get a feel for the place,” Mattear said. “It is just like any other recruiting. You have got to sell the position to that practitioner.”
Mattear often looks to neighboring states to help lure potential candidates. Nearby metropolitan areas not only can be a selling point that can help attract individuals to a practice, such areas also can provide a pool of potential recruits who are already in practice.
“Bordering states are always a plus too because obviously it is not that great of a move from a bordering state,” Mattear said. “We have some good cities around us that have good practitioners in them.”
Another enticement that can attract practitioners is offering a generous bonus package or even the opportunity for ownership. A compensation package can be tied into a bonus depending on the number of patients, revenue or cost of goods sold.
“Then maybe 5 years down the road, there is an opportunity for ownership possibilities, and that is always good for practitioners,” Mattear said. “For any type of employee who can become an owner, they have a sense of well-being, a sense of self-worth and more dedication to the position.”
Being on the lookout for potential future employees before the need arises also can aid in identifying candidates when a position does become open. Mattear noted he is always thinking ahead and trying to find that “next great practitioner who can bring a quality of service to you and your patients” by keeping his eyes open and listening when attending trade shows and interacting with other O&P professionals.
“We may lose a practitioner to a nicer or a more tropical climate, but if they are looking to settle down, be a part of the team, be part of the family, to raise kids in a great community and a safe environment, then that is what we are all about,” Mattear said.
Print advertising remains an important and significant tool for recruiting employees. Classified advertising in professional O&P trade publications remains a primary recruiting strategy for Amanda Ryan, a recruiter for Benchmark Medical Inc., who believes most of Benchmark’s O&P candidates are found as the result of such advertising.
“I would probably say at this point in time, it [the best source for recruiting] is the professional journals,” Ryan said.
Most practitioners see the ads as they read or look through the publications – even if they are not actively job searching, Ryan said.
“They might come across something they see interesting,” she said. “When they are interested, they are not completely unhappy where they are. Viewing a job advertisement may pique the interest of a practitioner who was not actively seeking a new job, but who has been debating it in his or her mind for a while. It may motivate him or her to become an active job seeker if he or she is not satisfied with their current situation. They have a position, but why not make more money, or why not see what someone else can offer you? And then there are the people who are out of work, or maybe they sold their business and they are looking for something else. There are also practitioners who are out of work or who are looking to join a new organization who are actively reading the job advertisements, hoping that something will come along that meets their requirements.”
Online job board
Another recruiting tool that recently became available for O&P professionals is the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association’s (AOPA) online job board. Introduced in February 2006, AOPA’s online job board is the only one of its type targeted to the O&P profession, said Megan Obrist, marketing manager for AOPA.
The online job board is designed for both job seekers and employers. Job seekers can access the job board for free, while employers must pay a fee to post jobs and view resumes. Job seekers set up an account that allows them to post their resumes anonymously, look at the latest jobs posted and sign up for a job alert that automatically sends e-mails when new jobs are posted matching preset criteria. Employers or recruiters can view resumes posted on the job board and also post jobs for openings. There is a fee to post jobs, and for employers who would like to view a posted resume, there is a fee to purchase the resume, said Obrist. She said the job board averages more than 1,100 hits per month.
“Currently, for employers that have signed up with their own account, we have more than 200 companies that are signed up on the job board that are posting jobs and looking at resumes,” Obrist said. “We are averaging about 20 or so position postings a month as well. That means there are 20 employers looking to hire someone or about 20 postings a month that are up and active.”