Winning the Healthcare Staffing Battle with Tips for Better Physician Recruitment and Retention Solutions that Work, with Bernie Frazier

by Coach Jill Farmer | Physician Coaching, Physician Job Change, Physician Recruitment, Physician Retention, Podcast

Winning the Healthcare Staffing Battle and Avoid a Hiring Crisis: Tips for Better Physician Recruitment and Retention Solutions with Bernie Frazier right here on DocWorking:The Whole Physician Podcast.

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“What are you starting to do now to ensure that your organization will appeal to who you’re going to need in the future, so that you can attract them at the time that you need them?” -Bernie Frazier, SPHR

Today Master Certified Coach Jill Farmer talks with Bernie Frazier, talent acquisition expert. Bernie is an author, speaker, and career coach/strategist.  She spent almost 25 years leading corporate recruiting organizations, has served as keynote speaker for Fortune 500 corporations and organizations, and has coached clients globally from C-Suite executives to individual contributors.  In this episode, Bernie shares her expertise with the DocWorking audience about how employers should be thinking forward in order to put themselves in the best position to avoid a hiring crisis. She and Jill discuss how to win the healthcare staffing battle by using proven advice from Bernie. You will hear how top companies find and keep top talent, what you should be doing to increase your likelihood of attracting that talent, when you should begin looking for talent and a lot more! The talent is out there and they want to work for employers that foster a culture of balance and resilience for physicians and other medical personnel. Listen to this episode to learn how to make them want to work for you! 

Author of the highly acclaimed book, Your Success is in YOU!: Empowering and Equipping You to Create Your Best Career Ever!, Bernie Frazier, SPHR is an author, speaker, career coach/strategist, and talent acquisition expert whose mission is to help people overcome barriers to create greater success. Bernie spent almost 25 years leading corporate recruiting organizations, has served as keynote speaker for Fortune 500 corporations and organizations, and has coached clients globally from C-Suite executives to individual contributors. She also served as the “Career Coach” on KSDK’s Today in St. Louis – the St. Louis NBC affiliate, shared timeless job search tips on SiriusXM and KTRS 550 AM radio in St. Louis, has been featured in the New York Times, profiled in the St. Louis Business Journal, and is a contributing writer for Thrive Global.

To learn more about, please visit her website at and follow her on social media.

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Podcast produced by: Amanda Taran


Please enjoy the full transcript below


Bernie: What are you starting to do now to ensure that your organization will appeal to who you’re going to need in the future, so that you can attract them at the time that you need them?


[DocWorking theme]


Jill: Hi everyone and welcome to DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. I’m Jill Farmer, one of your hosts of the podcast and lead coach at DocWorking. And today, I’m really excited about the conversation we’re about to have on how you can find and keep great talent in your organization, in your healthcare group, even in these challenging times that we’ve had post COVID. But before we do that, I want to remind you that the podcast is brought to you by DocWorking THRIVE. Go to today to find out how you can learn to thrive in work and life with our low cost, incredibly helpful courses, and platform coaching. Go to today to find out more. 


We are really lucky. You guys are in for a huge treat. Today, we are joined by Bernie Frazier. Bernie is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Your Success is in YOU!: Empowering and Equipping You to Create Your Best Career Ever. She’s an author, a speaker, a career coach and strategist, and talent acquisition expert and her mission is to help people overcome barriers to create greater success. She comes to this wisdom by spending 25 years leading a corporate recruiting organization. She is a very dynamic person and somebody I like and respect a lot.


And Bernie, you also spent a long time working in a healthcare organization helping to recruit executives, managers, and folks in that healthcare organization. You understand what a lot of our listeners, physician listeners, healthcare professionals are talking about when they say, “Oh, we can’t find and keep staff. We’re losing people too quickly.” I’m talking to clients, who are physicians and having trouble with front office folks, keeping them and other support staff. People who are in larger organizations are talking about having to work longer hours because staffing is an issue. What are you seeing in your expertise as a consultant in this field as well?


Bernie: Yeah, it’s the same thing. One of the things that is– I don’t even know if it’s uniquely different right now, but everyone is struggling to find talent. You talk to anyone in just about any industry and they will go, “Oh, my God, where are the people? We just can’t find them. We’ve got all of these resources going out and we’re not getting the talent back in.” I think that’s probably one of the things that is definitely universal. I think there are some areas that have been hit a little bit harder, retail, of course. Healthcare has been one because we’re hearing so much about unfortunately, how some people may have been on the edge before COVID and COVID just pushed them over with the additional stress, and even the dangers that so many healthcare workers experienced. But yeah, it is really affecting everyone.


I still get notifications just to keep a pulse on what’s happening with recruiting and recruiting leader types of opportunities. Because I’ve always gauged, I’ve said, “When companies are hiring recruiters that means that there’s a lot of demand for talent,” because they need recruiters to find them. Every day I’m seeing notices for companies that are trying to hire recruiters because they need the recruiters to find their talent.


Jill: As we have talked about, “Yes, the challenge is there. We know that there is a need for staffing and that there seems to be a talent shortage.” And you and I both think that sometimes leaders, and leadership, and physicians running practices, everybody is throwing up their hands and saying, “It’s so hard to find people now. You can’t keep people.” They’re missing an opportunity to make some important changes that can help them win this battle of finding talent and keeping themselves at a level where they can provide the patient care, the customer care that they want to provide. So, let’s start with, what is one of the things that you think leaders, and people who are looking for staff, and want to keep good staff need to be thinking about right now?


Bernie: That’s a great question. Some leaders, they’re looking for the silver bullet now. How do we get 50 people hired tomorrow? And these are the top people and they are willing to make $3 an hour. And I go, “Good luck. You’re not going to find them.” But a lot of what I try to get employers to think about is being more proactive with their recruiting. The first thing is they have to make a commitment. What I have seen time and time again over the years with recruiting is too many organizations, they only think about recruiting when they have a need right then and there. It’s very reactive and I’m going, “You’ve waited too late.”


I can remember an instance once when I was working in healthcare and I was talking with the leader who came to me with all of this urgency of, “Okay, we need to find these people and we’ve got to have somebody on board in a month.” I’m thinking, “Okay, well, if this person has to give two weeks’ notice, one I have to find them, everyone’s schedules have to be clear to do the interviews, we’ve got to do background checks, reference checks, the whole process.” He started talking about– This is an initiative. We started working on this six months ago, and we’ve been putting these pieces together, and I went, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Six months ago?” I said, “So, you’ve known about this for six months and you wait until right before you’re ready to push to let me know about it.” I said, “Why didn’t you come to me six months ago? My team could have been doing some light recruiting. We could have had people teed up for you by now but you waited until you had that absolute need.”


One of the first things I tell companies is, “You have to make a commitment.” In sales, they call it the “ABCs”, “always be closing.” In recruiting, we call it “ABL”, “always be looking.” And so, companies, if they have positions that they know are high demand positions, if they know that they are high volume positions, maybe they always need a lot of them. In healthcare, there are never enough nurses. And so, they should be constantly interviewing people whether they have openings or not, and bring them in and let them know, “Hey, we like you, we don’t have any needs now, but we’re anticipating some needs in the near future. Let’s stay in touch.” And come up with some type of mechanism to stay in touch with those people, then when you have a need, you already have some people that have been screened, and you can move them along through the process a lot faster. So, that is certainly one of the things that organizations have to start doing.


Jill: 100%. And this came up not too long ago with a physician coaching client. He was a surgeon and they had a really good situation with their assistant and said, “He’s just done an amazing job for me. His partner is a grad student. I know he’s not going to be here for the long haul because of what’s going to happen.” So, she said, “I’m so scared when he leaves.” I said, “You need to be interviewing people now.” She’s like, “I can’t hire him now.” But exactly because of wisdom from you, to always be looking, Bernie, I think that’s the conversation where a lot of people are way too linear.


A lot of my physician clients who are trying to help provide staffing, either as leaders within larger hospital groups or in their own practices, they’re myopic about that. It’s like, “Where’s the opening, how do I find somebody, how do I fill the need, and then wait till the next crisis when somebody leaves?” And so, I love that idea of building relationships, bringing people in. It’s not going to solve your problem immediately now, but if you can use the sensation of being short staffed now as a reminder to make a permanent behavior change of beginning to recognize that this needs to be not just a crisis, patch up the bucket now until the next hole pops, but a different way of creating a new vessel, I think it’s a good way to think about it.


Bernie: Yeah, absolutely. The thing that I’ve told people, they’re like, “Well, that’s not doing me any good now,” and I go, “But let’s think about this. If you had started doing this two years ago, you wouldn’t be in the situation you are now.” So, if you don’t start to make some changes now, two years from now, you’re going to be sitting here the same way, frustrated because you can’t find talent. I’m like, “So, at what point do you start to make the change? Now is a good time.”


Jill: Excellent. What else are you advising business people and practice owners, like those who are listening in our audience, to be able to win this war of talent acquisition right now?


Bernie: A big one is strengthening your employer brand. First of all, everyone has a brand. It may be known, it may not be known, it may be good, it may not be so good. But whatever it is, now is a good time to strengthen your brand. And especially, I was doing some reading and they said that, “CareerBuilder is now reporting that companies that are offering remote and flexible work, they’re getting seven times more applicants.” If you offer flexibility and you offer remote work, you need to be screaming that to the hills. Because that’s part of your brand and that will let people know, “Hey, this might be somewhere to check out, because they’re allowing you to work from home two days a week or five days a week, whatever the case may be.” But it is so important to do that because a lot of companies don’t even have a brand.


When people think about looking for jobs, they never come up in conversation. You have to make sure you’re out there. And I’ll give you an example. Now, obviously, this is not a doctor’s office. This is a much, much larger organization but Southwest Airlines is a great example. On Glassdoor’s top list of companies, Southwest Airlines has been on there every year, I believe, for the last 11 years and that says a lot because people are going to Glassdoor to get an idea of what it’s like to work for an organization. When a company like Glassdoor gives you that type of thumbs up, that’s huge. But I can remember years ago when I used to recruit and this was back in the late 90s when everything was about Y2K and we couldn’t find talent.


And to put this in perspective, I remember reading an article that said, “Southwest Airlines, they receive over 300,000 applicants a year.” Think about that. They don’t have anywhere near that many jobs, but they were getting that many applicants. To put that in perspective, the healthcare system that I used to work for is the largest private employer in the State of Missouri. With the applicant tracking system that we used over a period of years of amassing all of these candidates, we only hit a quarter of a million. So, think about that. The largest private employer over a period of years, we only had 250,000 in our system. Southwest Airlines, they got that many and more in one year and it was all about their brand.


Everybody wanted to work there because they came across as fun and they cared about their employees and then I knew people who were getting jobs there and they loved it. Of course, what does that do, that raises their stock more. And companies need to understand there is value in having a strong brand, it has worked for Southwest Airlines for years. They continue to get so many applicants each year and it’s because they continue to work on their employer brand.


Jill: Right. When you say employer brand, what you really mean is their reputation as an employer, right?


Bernie: Exactly.


Jill: Do people want to work for you? And I think so many physicians rightfully so, so many people in healthcare leadership are so focused on the patient experience and how well they are reflected in patient experience and that should be the number one priority. Right now, with where people are with staffing and the staffing shortages that people are experiencing, to add to that, you need to think about, “What is your reputation and how well do you treat the people who work for you?” I think in some cases, it means that like you said, there may be a bit of a reckoning with that. It may be time to do a better job of being a great place to work, so that it makes it easier to attract it. Would you say that’s fair?


Bernie: Oh, absolutely. Certainly, there are industries that are what I’ll call relatively small. What I mean by that is, people talk. If your friend works for X company, and they leave, and they tell you, “Listen, that place is a hot mess. Don’t ever apply for that job there because those people are crazy. I hated my boss and this.” I said, “Do you think I would ever apply there? No. I would never apply and then I’m going to tell three other people. Oh, you want to work in hell? Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Do not work for that organization.” You’ve just lost out on potentially five, six, 10, 20, 50, 100 applicants because of the reputation that you have. It’s important to have a good reputation or employer brand, but it also has to align with what it’s really like to work there. Because if your brand is X, but a candidate gets there and they start to experience Y, one, they’re going to leave and again, they’re going to talk and your brand is going to go down the toilet.


Jill: Yeah, and I’m hearing that from some of my folks that I coach in leadership at very large prestigious healthcare institutions that they used to be able to rely on the reputation of the healthcare institution being an excellent institution.


Bernie: [laughs]


Jill: And that helps with employee attraction and retention. What they’re discovering is people at this phase of life, post COVID, everybody’s done a lot of internal assessments about what they want their life to look like and quality of life issues often will usurp the academic reputation, for instance, of an institution.


Bernie: Absolutely.


Jill: I don’t know. I think that reckoning might be good. I think we all need to think about how we create really good cultures within organizations that people love working in, are aligned with the mission and want to do their best work for you. I think it makes life and work better for all.


Bernie: You hit on a really key point right there around COVID. Because I’ve done career coaching for years and it seems like ambitions have definitely changed. You still have some, they want to climb the corporate ladder, but people are now saying, “Yes, I still want to grow in my career but only if these things are present.” And they are really, like you said, doing some self-reflection, some soul searching, and they’re going, “You know what, I am no longer willing to tolerate this.” And especially, in a labor market like this, which they’re predicting, this isn’t going to change anytime soon. Companies are really going to have to think about how they’re treating their employees. And unfortunately, there are a lot of employers out here that really have not been doing a good job. And hence, the career coaching business has been pretty darn good lately because people are going, “I need to figure out either a better plan or I’ve got to get to a better place.” And they’re no longer willing to tolerate what they used to before COVID.


Some people will go, “Well, Bernie, you shouldn’t think like this.” But there is this part of me that thinks. “You know what, I’m really glad that the labor market is the way it is.” Because for many, many years now, too many employers have been mistreating employees and taking them for granted. I think a lot of employees have gotten to the point where they’re saying, “I’m not taking it anymore.” I think it’s going to cause and hopefully it is already causing a lot of employers to look at themselves and go, “Wow, we’ve been so focused on shareholder value. We forgot that it’s our employees that create any value whatsoever. If we mistreat our employees, they’re not going to give us their best.” That’s just a human response.


People who are abused don’t run to their abuser with open arms and go, “Oh, abuse me some more.” I think employers need to learn that garbage in=garbage out and you reap what you sow. And if they start to turn some things around and really start focusing on sowing good with their employees, I guarantee they’re going to reap that back.


Jill: Yeah, as you said, employers have to recognize that employees are not robots, they need to be treated as beautiful human beings that they are.


Bernie: Exactly, exactly. And with some dignity, respect, and some appreciation, because they show up every day, good, bad, rain or shine and that’s something to be appreciative about.


Jill: Beautifully said. I think that’s just a good reminder for all of this. It’s a better way to be in the world, to think more about how well you treat people, and what kind of a team setting you have, and what your culture is, I think that’s all good stuff. Final thoughts on this subject for our audience today?


Bernie: I think one of the things that is going to be important for organizations is to think more strategically about your talent. And not just what you’re going to need today, but really plan out your workforce. They call it strategic workforce planning. That’s not just looking six months out, but think about what your business goals are. Where do you want your business to be in three years or in five years? And start to think about what type of employee base you’re going to need in order to not only get there, but continue to grow and to go from there. A lot of organizations, they don’t take that longer look to go, “You know what, we’re going to need an X, a Y, and a Z. Not this year, but I think we’re going to need Y next year, we’ll probably need X and Z the year after that.”


What are you starting to do now to ensure that your organization will appeal to who you’re going to need in the future, so that you can attract them at the time that you need them? That’s really just taking a little bit of a longer look and making sure that they’re putting some things in place now. Whether that’s the structure of your organization or do you need to partner with universities because you need to start to build those relationships to attract talent? Do you need to look at your benefits? Is it going to be appealing enough in three years for the talent that you say you’re going to want? Why wait until you get in that moment? Start now, and start planning ahead, and then you won’t be biting your nails in two years like you might be doing now.


Jill: Yeah, I think flexible thinking and being willing to be a little bit creative and strategic at the same time are really going to help. I just had a situation with a physician client, who was having trouble filling an office manager position and she started asking around outside the usual watering holes that you would find people for applicants, and came into a situation, where two people who she knew in her life in other settings who’d never really managed an office together, but were highly capable, really overqualified for the position, didn’t want a full-time job. They job shared the position, made some significant changes and things worked out really well.


I think if there’s anything you take from this conversation with the brilliant Bernie Frazier and what we’ve talked about here is, you have to be willing to think outside the box a little bit with this and to be able to think a little bit more forward, because disruptions like pandemics, we hope we don’t have another one soon, but they remind us that disruptions happen and we can’t just simply fit the need immediately when we have an open position. We need to think more strategically as business owners, business leaders, physicians, practice group owners, or wherever you find yourself. So, thanks for this conversation, Bernie. It was just great.


Bernie: Oh, absolutely. Thank you for having me.


Jill: So, if someone wants to get more information on the work that you do, or hear more from you, or find out more about having you come speak, what’s the best way to find you?


Bernie: Well, actually, there are two different paths. One is through CAREERCompass, my business. I do coaching, I do speaking in that lane if you will and they can reach me through my website, which is But I also do some work with a company here called Alliance Advisors. And we are working with a lot of companies to help them start to rethink some of their approaches to human resources and things like talent acquisition, so that they don’t get caught, like so many are feeling the pain right now. And so, they can go to Not COM but dot CO. So, you’ve got a couple of paths by which you can reach me.


Jill: And I highly recommend you do. We didn’t even get to the tiniest tip of the iceberg for knowledge on these subjects.


Bernie: [laughs]


Jill: And so, it was fun to get some good ideas, hopefully be inspired, not just throwing your hands up saying, “I can’t find people to work or to stay here in my practice or in my work.” I think you inspired us to think about the longer vision and that’s important. So, thank you, Bernie.


Bernie: Oh, absolutely. And thank you and good luck to your audience, too.


Jill: Thank you all for joining us today. Be sure to share this with friends, colleagues, and others that will find it useful as well. Don’t forget to go to now to check out DocWorking THRIVE. We have just what you need to stop being stressed and overwhelmed and reconnect to your purpose and wellbeing in your career as a physician or healthcare professional. Until next time, I’m Jill Farmer.




Amanda: I’m Amanda Taran, producer of DocWorking: The Whole Physician Podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Please don’t forget to like and subscribe, and head over to to see all we have to offer.

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Jill Farmer is an experienced physician coach who has been helping doctors live their best lives, increase their success, and move through burnout for well over a decade.

She has delivered keynotes, programs, and training everywhere from Harvard Medical School to the American College of Cardiology.

She has personally coached hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and other busy professionals to help them be at their best—without burning themselves out. Her coaching has supported professionals at places like Mass General Brigham in Boston, Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University in Chicago and too many others to list.

Jill wrote the book on time management for busy people. Literally. It’s called “There’s Not Enough Time…and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves” which debuted as a bestseller on Amazon. Her work has been featured everywhere from Inc. to Fitness Magazine to The Washington Post.

Nationally recognized as a “brilliant time optimizer and life maximizer,” Jill will cut straight to the heart of your stress to liberate you from its shackles. She has two young adult daughters. She lives with her husband and their poorly behaved dachshund in St. Louis, MO.

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