Physician Staffing Blog

Career Insights

Physician Finds Iowa an Unexpected Field of Dreams

March 18, 2019

Physician Recruitment Story Dr. Jonathan Hood

From locum tenens to permanent placement

After 30 years of practicing medicine in Alabama, a small town in Iowa was the last place Jonathan Hood, MD, envisioned himself working and living. But along with his wife Kristi and their three children who are still at home, Hood has fallen in love with his new practice and adopted hometown in Primghar, Iowa.

Looking back, he also realizes that his work experiences have uniquely prepared him to thrive in his current role.

Early in his career, while fulfilling a public health scholarship assignment, Hood decided to remain in Oneonta, Alabama. His physician jobs spanned 12 years in family practice and 18 years in emergency medicine. 

“I worked throughout Alabama in many ERs to support my frequent mission trips to 30 nations,” he said. “However, one wife and five kids later, I found myself needing a real job. Despite having the American dream in our small town of Oneonta, my full-time ER job ended when the hospital closed.”

After that, Hood took a number of locum tenens physician jobs in ERs across Alabama and Wyoming. While these jobs paid the bills, they kept him away from family and provided little security. He longed for a permanent job with benefits where he could successfully complete his career and support the increasing overhead of his family, which now included two kids in college. So, he took a few months to look for his next opportunity, with a little help from his family.

“Using a whiteboard in our job ‘war room,’ the family reviewed 10 job options -- listing pay, benefits, location and job desirability,” he explained. After a long process of interviewing and receiving offers in Wyoming, North Carolina, Michigan and Alabama, he and his family decided to stay in Alabama with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“I initially accepted a VA job offer, persuaded by the 51 paid days off and generous retirement our federal government provides. Yet, I wasn't completely excited about the bureaucracy involved or the relatively mundane, extensive daily computer clinic work,” he recalled.


An unexpected call

Yet, something interrupted Hood’s plans; it was a call from Justin Thompson, a physician recruiter with Merritt Hawkins, who happened to contact him just one day before finalizing plans with the VA.

Hood admits he was kind of rude to his unexpected caller. “I really was tired of the job search process!” he said. “Nevertheless, after my return call to Justin to apologize, I considered his offer for a job in Iowa, a place I've never been nor ever entertained going to.”

The family then made a last-minute jobsite visit and fell in love with the town, the people, the hospital CEO and the job itself. Shortly after that visit, Hood made the decision to sign a contract and move to Iowa.

A change in circumstances

“Life is unpredictable, and circumstances changed dramatically as leadership changes at the hospital were made around the time we were traveling in our family caravan, making the 16-hour trip,” Hood said. “The hospital leadership was a big part of why we signed up in the first place! I then found myself in a totally different environment than expected.”

However, the family strived to make it work. The kids got involved in scouts, sports and dance, and made close friends at school. The family also got involved in a church and made friends in the neighborhood. Kristi volunteered at the hospital. But the job changes were out of Hood’s control.

“Despite going beyond my job requirements by accepting two nursing homes directorships, giving lectures to businesses and taking extra courses for coding, I found myself in an unsustainable position,” he said. “Once the new permanent CEO came on board, I decided to meet with him. He generously supported my graceful departure, giving my family the means to find yet another opportunity.”

Thompson found out about their predicament and stepped back in to help with his physician job search. “He was committed to following through to find us a most suitable career position—again! I think he had both professional pride to get the job done as well as a personal concern to take care of our family,” Hood explained.

Finding that “one in a thousand”

“At this point, we preferred to remain in Iowa since we had come to love the state and the people,” Hood reported. “Again, after considering numerous options and several offers, we interviewed here at Primghar with Justin's encouragement. He indicated I was ‘one out of a thousand’ docs who would fit in this position.”

The job, in a town of 900 people, involves full-time ER coverage, clinic coverage, admitting inpatients and making rounds in the hospital and nursing homes, along with caring for patients at the county jail. As the only physician, Hood also oversees a talented crew of midlevel providers.

The town had been served well for 20 years by the previous physician, but he had left a year earlier for family reasons. Hood has found the people to be quite resilient, including many who are farmers.

“They are strong, but many are in their eighties and nineties and need medical care,” he explained. “With the closest medical center over an hour away, and no doctor to count on, the community was hurting.” He has enjoyed providing this much-needed care.

While some physicians may be reluctant to take on such a wide range of responsibilities, Hood has found his new role to be a perfect fit.

"This is my best and the most enjoyable job yet. There is no typical day and it's not boring nor is it overbearing,” he reported, adding that it has been the best scenario for both him and his family. Hood appreciates that his new physician job allows him to use his extensive experience and expertise; he also got a pay raise.

The people in this friendly town are also quick to offer assistance; in fact, the local sheriff has offered to show him the best places to go hunting, should he decide to give that a try.

“There is nowhere else I’d rather be than in this community, and the employer of the hospital (Mercy Sioux City) is a great employer as well. They are faith-based, family-oriented, and offer their physicians plenty of time off so you can really have a true work–life balance.”

So, thanks to an unexpected job offer and great follow-through from his physician recruiter, the Hoods are firmly planted in their new hometown of Primghar, Iowa.

When asked if he would recommend that a colleague use Merritt Hawkins for a job search, Hood answered, “Unequivocally yes. The reason why is that they have an extensive network of professionals and diligence to serve clients, and genuine interests of the client in mind.”



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