4 Warning Signs When Hiring a Trauma Surgeon

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Don’t hire a dud!

There are 4 red flags you need to be on the lookout for

Recruiting the right acute care surgeon for your trauma center is a difficult challenge. The key is to find a candidate with the right mix of clinical abilities and interpersonal skills. And while certain characteristics are desirable in a trauma surgeon, other traits are indicators to proceed with caution.

 Following are four red flags to watch for when assessing physician candidates for your trauma medical staff:

 1. Not board certified within five years. Failure to pass board exams within a few years of graduation could indicate fundamental problems in clinical skill, cause major problems with medical staff credentialing, and actually lead to increased malpractice premiums. Focus on finding a board-certified  general surgeon with trauma experience and, ideally, added qualifications in surgical critical care. An acceptable alternative is a new physician who is making strong progress toward board certification.

 2. Multiple residency programs. Working in three different residency programs to finish a five-year training course may indicate issues. The physician may lack focus, or they may have trouble getting along with colleagues. Look for candidates who are able to “bloom where they are planted.” One positive sign: The candidate was chosen to do a fellowship at the same program where they did their general surgery.

 3. Multiple divergent fellowships. Training in several unrelated specialties could indicate that the physician has had trouble securing a job. The candidate may have jumped from a transplant fellowship to a surgical endoscopy fellowship before entering training for acute care surgery. However, there are several fellowship which are complementary, such as critical care and burns, or trauma and critical care.

 4. Vague evaluations. Strong evaluations include examples of a candidate's outcomes, practice style and interactions with others. Vague evaluations with few details and just a few adjectives may indicate that evaluators are reluctant to talk substance. Even less talented surgeons should be able to find three evaluators who have something good to say, so vague comments could indicate real problems with the candidate.

 Would you like to learn more strategies for identifying the strongest physician candidates for your trauma program? Just contact us!  

Getting administration to let you add more surgeons


Trauma center clinical leaders who want to expand the trauma staff often meet resistance from their hospital’s chief operating officer, chief financial officer or both. These executives typically manage labor costs very closely, and any proposal to add staff will be met with scrutiny. To overcome this hurdle, trauma leaders must demonstrate the need for additional physicians. There are two techniques:

External benchmarking. One approach is to benchmark your trauma staff against other trauma centers in the state or region. Calculate the ratio of relative value units (RVUs) to full-time employees (FTEs) for your program and others. Benchmarking is difficult, because you need to take into account differing service commitments and support structures. But done effectively, benchmark comparisons are an effective way to demonstrate staffing needs to hospital executives.

Volume analysis. The alternative approach is simply to run a report on trauma patient volume over the last several quarters and compare it to physician staffing levels. If you can show that case volumes have been increasing while physicians FTEs have not, you can make a strong case for expanding the trauma medical staff.

Need more help making the case? Trauma Ready http://www.traumaready.com/, a trauma center consulting firm, can help you make a strong argument for adding medical, nursing and support staff.

How can you weed out surgeons that will cause your program trouble in the long run? (It's easier than you think)

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When considering a trauma physician candidate, you need to understand how he or she will function on the job. The gold standard is personal experience—hiring one of your program's residents or a physician you have worked with in the past. But absent firsthand experience, the next best way to assess a candidate is to conduct an oral examination based on trauma team scenarios:

Clinical scenarios. Ask the candidate to tell you what they do when they suspect a hemothorax that may require operative exploration. What factors do they consider? What is their philosophy for resuscitative thoracotomy? How do they decide when to leave a colostomy versus primary anastomosis? Ask about the grey, or controversial, areas in clinical management. Even if you do not agree with the candidate’s perspective, you will very quickly see whether they are dogmatic about their views and how they respond to disagreement.

Non-clinical scenarios. It is also important to understand how a candidate deals with the many management headaches and organizational challenges that surround trauma care. How would the candidate handle a disagreement with the ICU charge nurse over clinical management? What would they do if they felt that referrals were not being distributed fairly? How would they react if the ER was consistently “dumping” intoxicated patients on their service?

What's the most important factor that no one thinks about when trying to recruit a Trauma Surgeon?

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If you said money, you would be close, but not right. After a certain amount of salary, it is the little things that make a difference.

What you need to do is limit additional duties

Make your opportunity more attractive is to set clear limits on physician duties. For example:

Non-call clinical care. You can limit non-call duties by hiring physician assistants and/or nurse practitioners to see patients in clinic for follow-up appointments. Mid-level providers can also be assigned to take care of patients post-op.

Paperwork. No trauma physician wants to sit up at night doing paperwork. That is why 24/7 support from either a physician assistant or resident is a very attractive recruiting incentive. The PA or resident handles the paperwork so the physician can focus on caring for patients.

Semi-elective surgery. Develop a rational policy for determining when trauma surgeons will and will not be called in for semi-elective procedures. Let physician candidates know that they will not be handed a gallbladder surgery just because they happen to be on call.

Performance improvement responsibilities. Create guidelines that spell out the expected physician contribution to PI activities. Let candidates know they will not be required to review two dozen charts for every PI meeting.

What good is a strong salary, if you are too stressed out to enjoy it?

For more tips, please download our free e-book by clicking here.

This is the most overlooked change in the business of Trauma Surgery staffing; so why don't more people know about it?

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*With the development of the Acute Care Surgery model, the door opened wide for surgeons to no longer live where they practice.*

So why wouldn’t someone want to live where they practice?

If the conditions were right, I am sure most providers would prefer to practice in the community where they provide clinical services. When the question is posed to surgeons that work essentially as hospitalists and do not go “home” for at least a week a month, a few themes began to appear.

· Most training programs are in the urban environment. Therefore providers and their families begin putting roots down. Factors such as school continuity for their children and social support for spouses are important.

The market is saturated in areas such as New York City, driving compensation down.

· Practicing in a rural or suburban environment allows a wider breadth of cases, and to be more “hands on” when not in teaching facilities.

So, how can a facility that is having trouble recruiting Trauma Surgeons use this information to get a good candidate?

Accept that this is the reality, and that you are competing with centers that have accepted this reality.

Accommodate physicians who are reluctant to relocate.

· Make room for commuters. Trauma physicians do not have to live full-time in your community. Facilitate commuting by grouping a physician’s call days together in a block. For example, a trauma surgeon could be on call every other day for two weeks and then have the next two weeks off. He or she can staff your program for half the month, and then spend the other half at home.

· Enable remote PI participation. Another strong incentive is to allow physicians to participate remotely in monthly M&M conferences and PI activities via HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing. Remote participation further supports commuter surgeons. It is also a benefit to everyone on your medical staff because it lets physicians participate in PI from home, while traveling for conferences, on vacation, etc.

What 3 secrets could make or break your program if you HAVE to use Locums

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No facility wants to use locums. Let’s face it; it’s expensive, there’s limited accountability, and you often don’t know what you’re getting. One bad locums provider can round up enough complaints over a weekend to set your program back months, or worse set off audit filters that will have their charts under scrutiny the next time there’s a site visit.

Temporary placement is an important option for trauma centers that are having trouble filling a medical staff vacancy or that need additional coverage immediately. InterTrauma provides locum tenens physicians for trauma centers nationwide. Based on our experience, three systems must be in place to ensure a successful trauma locum engagement:

A system for downloading key information to the locum physician. Successful locum tenens surgeons get up to speed quickly on local workflows and protocols. InterTrauma has developed efficient processes for quickly capturing client preferences and ensuring that our locum physicians understand the practice philosophy of the trauma medical director.

A system for enabling participation in PI activities. According to the *Orange Book*, any physician who takes call at a trauma center must participate in at least 50% of the program’s PI activities. InterTrauma uses HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing to enable our locum physicians to take part in PI meetings. Plus, participation is fully documented.

A system for supporting effective leadership. A trauma surgeon is not just a provider of care, he or she is the leader of a system of care. InterTrauma physicians are fully vetted for strong leadership skills. And they receive additional training to help them quickly establish effective communication patterns with local trauma teams.

Also, give a strong consideration to a locums group that has some clinical accountability. Locums can be dicey, but doesn’t have to be. It is just the way much of the industry evolved in a vacuum of physician leadership.

3 reasons it is harder than ever to maintain a full team of trauma physicians

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Physician staffing is a major challenge for trauma centers today. Many trauma program leaders are finding it harder than ever to maintain a full team of trauma surgeons.

We talk about this issue with trauma medical directors nationwide, and a handful of themes come up again and again:

*1. A shortage of qualified practitioners, particularly outside of urban centers*

Top-notch trauma surgeons are in short supply. And if your hospital is in a non-urban or remote location, the selection can be even narrower. Most surgical critical care fellowships are in larger cities, and recruiting new practitioners to non-urban facilities can be a challenge.

2. Increasing service demands

Trauma programs today are frequently hit with administrative mandates to increase clinical services. Program leaders may push back, but in many hospitals there is strong sense that trauma surgeons are available to cover any service gap. These demands leave the trauma program short-staffed and create an acute need to recruit more trauma physicians.

3. Physician burnout

Physicians in all specialties are facing increased levels of burnout, and trauma surgeons may be at higher risk. Clearly, physicians who are edging toward burnout are more likely to resign and seek other employment. In some hospitals, heavy workloads caused by insufficient staffing have led to the mass resignation of the entire trauma medical staff.

All of three of these problems have the potential to cause a staffing crisis in your trauma center. The solution? Trauma program leaders today need to make physician recruiting and retention a top priority. The key is to pursue a comprehensive staffing strategy. To find out how, download *The Essential Guide to Finding, Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Trauma Physicians*.

What your hospital recruiting department won't tell you about your next trauma physician candidate

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When you need to beef up your trauma medical staff, what is your first step? For most trauma medical directors and program managers, the answer is “Call the hospital recruiting department and have them send me some candidates.”

What’s the problem with this approach? You will probably have to pick from a severely limited pool of candidates.

You see, most hospitals have a contractual agreement with one of the large national healthcare staffing companies. What hospital recruiters may not tell you is that they will only send you physician candidates available through the hospital’s contracted staffing firm.

But for large staffing firms, trauma is only a very small part of their business. As a result, these firms do not understand the special needs of trauma programs.

For trauma program leaders, this creates a few specific problems:

1. You may not get candidates with the strongest clinical skills. Big staffing firms try to weed out problem candidates. They do not have the expertise to evaluate physicians for clinical excellence and trauma leadership abilities.

2. You will get little support with program viability. Large staffing firms are unaware of the unique financial needs of trauma programs—or how physician documentation and coding are critical to financial viability.

3. You will get no support for ACS requirements. General staffing firms are not structured to provide physician candidates who support program compliance with the Orange Book and other trauma standards.

The bottom line is that if you rely exclusively on your hospital recruiting department, you may be reducing your chances of hiring a “star player” who helps propel your trauma team forward.

*But here’s a secret…despite what your physician recruiting office tells you, staffing contracts are NOT exclusive. *That means most trauma program leaders can receive permission to work with a staffing firm that specializes in trauma physicians. It is often more work for the physician recruitment office, so there is some inertia associated with adding a company.

Do you want an alternative to the “big box” staffing firms? InterTrauma specializes in staffing for trauma and acute care surgery. We leverage an extensive network and careful due diligence to find “the best of the best” trauma physicians.

Led by an active trauma surgeon, InterTrauma vets all physician candidates for clinical and leadership skill. It also provides locum tenens physicians with extensive support. This ensures that they thrive as team leaders, help optimize charge capture, and make a strong contribution to maintaining designation/verification standards.

To find out more, contact InterTrauma today.


Why is Med Staff Credentialing Hopeless?

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Being a surgeon is a great career. However, sometimes a surgeon has to deal with medical staff and credentialing. Thankfully for most surgeons this is a rare occurrence and they only have to think about it whenever they start at a new hospital. When working as a locums or per diem surgeon this is a problem that is encountered on a frequent basis. There is no standardized credentialing application. And to make matters worse despite having the same requirements at almost every single hospital, without the same forms, new letters of recommendation and new verifications are required continuously.

As a surgeon that works at different facilities the problem compounds itself because when you work at numerous places you have to get more more and more verifications and the problem expands exponentially causing a great bureaucratic burden.

My dream would be to have a standardized credentialing system and a unified verification platform that would allow hospitals to indicate when a surgeon has worked at a particular location much like the FCVS system works. Another irksome aspect of this is requiring frequent letters of recommendation. These letters of recommendation are oftentimes accompanied with an evaluation form. It would be so much simpler if this could be done annually and logged into a unified database where it could be accessed by all credentialing bodies.

We live in an era where cars drive themselves and our phones have more computing power than ever before. It does not seem like it would be a difficult process for a large accrediting body such as JCHAO to provide a service such as this. In an era where we value and accountability is prized this is one area of Medicine that is lagging far far behind.

The evolution of policing in England: From Bobby police caps to Robocop

Ask anyone outside of the UK (and most people within the UK for that matter) to conjure up an image in their mind of a British police officer and what will you get? A friendly and approachable man in his smart white shirt and black tie wearing a strange chin-strapped rounded helmet adorned with a gleaming silver royal crest and nothing more than a truncheon with which to effectively discharge the duties of his office. For the most part this continues to remain true, and aside from the incremental introduction of stab-vests, CS spray, Tasers and a few other bits of kit, the vast majority of British police do not carry firearms.

Dixon of Dock Green, the quintessential British police officer

Dixon of Dock Green, the quintessential British police officer

 Official UK government figures ([1]) show there to be just over 6000 armed officers in England and Wales, a mere 5% of the total number of police officers in the country. In the year ending 31st March 2017 there were only 10 incidents of police officers discharging their weapons in the whole country.

Firearms officers are normally only dispatched to incidents believed to involve a firearm. Gun crime in the UK continues to pale in comparison to that of the US. Guns were used in over 60% of homicides in the US in 2016 compared to 4.5% of homicides in the UK in the same year ([2]).

Whilst gun ownership is enshrined in the US Constitution, private ownership of handguns was effectively banned in the UK in 1997 following the notorious Dunblane Massacre the previous year when 16 kindergarten-aged children and their teacher were shot dead in their school gymnasium by a lone gunman. Former world number one tennis star Andy Murray was an 8-year-old pupil at the school at the time and narrowly escaped.

The biggest threat with regards to firearms in the UK is not from private owners, but instead is believed to come from pre-planned Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attacks (MTFA). The current threat level for international terrorism in the UK, as determined by the security services remains at ‘severe’, meaning an attack is highly likely. Since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks which killed over 160 people and the November 2015 Paris attacks in which 137 people died (both incidents involving mass shooting and bombing campaigns), the security services have ramped up preparations for similar such attacks in the UK. Whilst the 20-mile stretch of water that separates the UK from the rest of continental Europe offers a slight degree of protection against the free movement of automatic and semi-automatic weapons witnessed elsewhere on the continent, it is deemed to be a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ a MTFA occurs on British soil.

This ongoing threat has prompted a paradigm shift in the image of British policing. It is now common place to see armed officers with Heckler & Koch MP5s and G36s patrolling airports, subway stations, shopping malls, tourist hotspots and even Christmas markets. An 11% increase in the numbers of armed officers was seen in 2017, and alongside the recruitment drive and increased police funding, senior officers have begun to develop new tactics to confront the evolving MTFA terror threat.

Counter-Terrorism Specialist Firearms Officers (CTSFO)

 In addition to the regular deployment of firearms officers, there is now a 24-hour immediate response team of highly trained CTSFOs ready to respond to an unfolding MTFA. Established in the run up to the 2012 London Olympic Games, these elite police officers train alongside special forces soldiers to hone skills in close-quarter combat, sniping, fast-roping from helicopters, marine operations and siege tactics.

Rapid deployment

In major cities congestion, pedestrianised zones, abandoned vehicles and street furniture can pose significant obstacles to emergency services responding to a fast-moving MTFA. To counter this, London’s Metropolitan Police Force have access to a fleet of high-speed BMW GS800 motorcycles, each capable of carrying 2 firearms officers to the scene of an attack.

From containment to confrontation

Kevlar-clad CTSFOs stand beside their new fast response motorcycles in this 2016 publicity shoot (London Evening Standard)

Kevlar-clad CTSFOs stand beside their new fast response motorcycles in this 2016 publicity shoot (London Evening Standard)

Previously, armed incidents were dealt with by setting up cordons to contain a threat and attempts made to negotiate with the attacker. This tactic would prove hopeless against ideologically-driven terrorists with suicidal intent and automatic weapons, leaving innocent civilians in their immediate vicinity as sitting ducks. Therefore, the response to such an incident now would involve the first armed officers on scene immediately moving forward to confront and neutralize the threat with lethal force. This would involve them stepping over the bodies of the dead and injured to deal with the attackers in the ‘hot zone’ leaving specialist EMS and fire crews to move in to the ‘warm zone’ behind them to provide battlefield-style triage, immediate emergency treatment and rapid evacuation of injured civilians from the scene.

 Inter-agency cooperation

During a sustained MTFA, plans are in place under the banner of ‘Operation Temperer’ to draw on the armed resources of the regular army, the Ministry of Defence Police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary (who guard the UKs nuclear sites) to backfill regular armed police roles and provide additional operational capability. If required, special forces personnel can be directly deployed to confront and neutralise a terrorist threat. On 22nd March 2017 a lone attacker drove his van at pedestrians walking along London’s Westminster Bridge, killing 4 people and injuring 50 others before fatally stabbing an unarmed police officer outside the gates of the Houses of Parliament. At the time a friend and colleague of mine who is a British Army doctor was refereeing a military rugby game just outside of the city. One of the players on the field happened to be a special forces soldier. As the attack unfolded many miles away a helicopter landed unannounced in the middle of the field of play. That particular special forces soldier was promptly summoned into the helicopter and flown away before anyone on the field had any idea that a terrorist incident was in progress. Clearly this particular soldier was on standby for just such an incident.

 The UK has seen an uplift in armed police resources and operational capability in response to world events in recent years and the ongoing terrorist threat closer to home. This alongside the establishment of the London Major Trauma system in 2010 followed by similar regionalised trauma systems across the country has enhanced the UK’s ability to respond to mass casualty events. Lessons continue to be learnt from recent incidents such as the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, London Bridge attack and Grenfell Tower tragedy. Through multi-agency training and proactive preparation more lives will continue to be saved in future.


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/police-use-of-firearms-statistics-england-and-wales-april-2016-to-march-2017/police-use-of-firearms-statistics-england-and-wales-april-2016-to-march-2017#fn:3

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41488081