Physician Staffing Blog

Career Insights

Why Physicians Should Consider Working for the VA - Part 1

Merritt Hawkins Team | January 11, 2018


By Travis Singleton and JB Tanner

Job vacancy data at Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities obtained by USA Today show that about one in six VA positions (nearly 41,000) went unfilled last year. The data also show that more than 5,100 physicians are needed across the VA system. Due largely to physician vacancies, wait times for veterans to see a physician remain long at many VA locations.

Both vacancies and wait times could be reduced if more doctors knew about the benefits of working at one of the nation’s 152 hospitals and 1,400 clinics that treat veterans. These include:

  • A favorable practice style. Over 55% of physicians responding to a 2014 survey Merritt Hawkins conducted for The Physicians Foundation described their attitude toward the medical profession as negative, while 58% said they would not recommend medicine as a career to their children. Pervasive physician dissatisfaction stems from the current medical practice environment, which features rising practice costs, problematic reimbursement methods, and an epic amount of paperwork. The VA offers an antidote to much of what ails today’s doctors, including the type of practice style many physicians prefer. At the VA, physician compensation is not tied to arcane and documentation-heavy quality measures, or to productivity metrics that virtually compel physicians to churn patients. VA physicians can actually spend time with patients and maintain a relatively high level of clinical autonomy without the constant battle to justify their reimbursement. They also can work set hours, enjoy regular vacations and tap into a pioneering electronic health records system.
  • The ability to transfer to new, interesting locations. The VA encourages physicians to transfer among its various facility locations and makes it easy to do so. After a two-year stint at one location, physicians often can take their pick of many others. VA hospitals and clinics are located in such highly desirable communities as Charlottesville, VA; Asheville, NC; West Palm Beach, FL, Stamford, CT, Anchorage, AL; Honolulu, HI; San Francisco, CA, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA; Denver, CO; Madison, WI; Ann Arbor, MI, and many more. IT systems, nomenclature, and operations are fairly uniform at VA facilities, so transfers can be professionally seamless while being personally stimulating.
  • The opportunity to lead. Opportunities for leadership abound at VA healthcare facilities at both large medical centers and community-based outpatient clinics. After gaining leadership experience at VA facilities, many physicians have gone on to top administrative or medical director positions at private institutions. 

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