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Three Strategies for Creating a Sustainable Recruiting Model

by | Jun 1, 2023 | Essential, Inside the Lab Industry-lir, Laboratory Industry Report

What should pathology groups and labs do in order to attract and maintain clinical talent in today’s economy?

The pathology industry continues to be affected by labor shortages, including broader physician shortages. What should pathology groups and laboratories do in order to attract and maintain clinical talent in today’s economy?

The Physician Shortage

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently conducted a study to examine the supply and demand of physicians in the workforce. The results project the following physician shortages in the US through the year 2034:

  • Between 17,800 and 48,000 primary care physicians
  • Between 21,000 and 77,100 non-primary care physicians, which includes

    • 3,800-13,400 for medical specialties
    • 10,300-35,600 for other specialties.1

Knowing that physician shortages are here to stay for at least the next decade, the healthcare industry faces a major challenge. Here are three strategies to consider to help meet this challenge:

Three Strategies for Sustainable Recruitment

1. Adjust Outdated Hiring Models

To measure stress levels and the underlying issues within the healthcare industry, the American Journal of Clinical Pathology (AJCP) conducted a job satisfaction, well-being, and burnout survey of medical lab professionals that was released in February 2020.2 Eighty-five percent of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed by their workload as follows:

  • Slightly overwhelmed: 37.6 percent
  • Moderately overwhelmed: 29.5 percent
  • Very overwhelmed: 17.9 percent

The top reasons respondents felt overwhelmed included:

  • Understaffing: 74.9 percent
  • Quantity of workload: 73.4 percent
  • Additional responsibilities: 59.0 percent
  • Uneven distribution of workload: 47.6 percent
  • Documentation: 29.1 percent

These statistics speak to high stress levels in the current environment, with understaffing as the main culprit, creating a vicious turnover cycle.

One approach to address turnover that has been successfully adopted by some groups today is an over-hiring model. Over-hiring for both current and future needs can allow labs to stay competitive and avoid playing catch-up due to attrition. This model also works to address the top three reasons that pathologists are feeling overwhelmed—understaffing, workload, and additional responsibilities (as mentioned above). By continuing to recruit even when the organization has filled its positions, labs can shift their approach from a reactive to a proactive recruitment philosophy.

2. Dust Off Old Compensation Packages

According to a 2023 report by Doximity,3 pathology is one of the top 10 medical specialties with the largest increases in average annual compensation. While compensation in 2022 was down by 2.4 percent overall for physicians as well as for many other specialties, pathology compensation increased by 2.7 percent, with an average annual pathologist income of $357,384.

A compensation model that adjusts according to the current economy is a wise investment. In 2023, first-year fellows are receiving offers at $300K+ regardless of sub-specialty training. In competition with this, compensation packages from even one year ago will not be successful. Practices must determine the best way to offer compensation considering these shifts. This might mean choosing between taking a hit financially due to higher incomes or missing out on good talent. 

It’s also important to observe that younger physicians entering the workforce are more willing to give up higher earning potential, equity, and partnership in exchange for benefits that provide a greater work-life balance like more paid time off (PTO) and flex scheduling. Therefore, it is important for the hiring entity to understand what is most valuable to the candidate—compensation or work-life balance—and provide a compensation package that reflects it. The inclusion of student loan repayment incentives or a higher signing bonus might also tip the scales of an offer in your favor.

3. Know the Best Ways to Retain Your Employees

Understanding the mindset of employees is an important step in creating a workplace culture that helps prevent physician burnout. 

According to the Doximity survey of more than 2,000 US physicians:

  • More than 86 percent reported being overworked
  • More than one-third are considering early retirement
  • Two-thirds are considering an employment change

Another Doximity poll of 3,000 US physicians reveals that 71 percent of respondents reported they would be willing to accept, or have already accepted, lower compensation for more autonomy or work-life balance.3 

In May 2023, the US Surgeon General issued an advisory4 addressing health worker burnout along with the recommendation for employers to listen to health workers and seek their involvement to improve processes, workflows, and organizational culture. Here is what your organization can offer employees to meet this recommendation:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Increased PTO (consider eight weeks)
  • Group childcare options
  • Providing meals (especially during busier seasons)
  • Adopting ergonomic work equipment
  • Fitness/gym access
  • Establishing (and acting upon) a reasonable sick day or “mental health day” policy
  • Compensation parity adjustments when necessary

The overall pathologist and laboratory job market demand is not going to be slowing down anytime soon. Alongside adopting technology, including digital pathology and artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce workload, groups that observe and adapt their hiring strategies with a proactive approach will be the real winners in the future.  


  1. AAMC Report: The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2019 to 2034
  2. AJCP Survey: The American Society for Clinical Pathology’s Job Satisfaction, Well-Being, and Burnout Survey of Laboratory Professionals – April 2020 (including pathologists, residents with various subspecialties and more than 15 types of lab professionals who affect patient care)
  3. Doximity Report: 2023 Physician Compensation Report
  4. The 2022 “U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Thriving Health Workforce”


Rich Cornell is the founder and president of Santé Consulting, a national laboratory medicine recruitment and consulting company. Prior to forming Santé, Rich was managing partner of PracticeMatch Services, the nation’s leading healthcare recruitment resource provider. Rich brings more than three decades of healthcare recruiting and consulting to the industry. He is a nationally recognized speaker on topics ranging from pathology candidate recruitment and retention, recruiting firm management, and pathologist compensation. Rich has published numerous articles on the “art of recruiting” and co-authored and published The Opportunity Search Guide, a useful guide and workbook for physicians entering the job market.

Rich will be discussing lab staffing further during his June 2023 G2 Lab Institute session, “How Can Labs Attract Top Talent In a Tough Economy?” on June 13.

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