Student health center anticipates job openings, increases advertising

By: 

Staff Photographer

Photo by: 

Despite increasing advertising expenditures to promote an open physician position, the Student Health Center is preparing for the addition of new positions.

The health center, which is estimated to serve 18,000 students this year, currently employs five physicians who treat students three to five days per week. The health center has nearly doubled its advertising spending every year since 2010 in an effort to fill positions like the one that has been vacant for the past nine months.

The health center spent $2,892 in 2010 on advertising efforts in an effort to fill open positions, according to information provided by the university. The center spent $5,669 in advertising in 2011 and $9,610 in 2012. The center had $19,485 in advertising expenditures in 2013.

The health center will have even more vacancies to fill in 2014, according to Associate Director Karen Gordon-Sosby. Four staff members are expected to retire by the end of the year, creating a total of five vacant positions at the San Marcos facility,  she said.

The center spends money on using a number of advertising mediums to reach prospective employees, according to Deborah Chandler, health center business manager.

The center places online advertisements on websites such as Monster.com, Craigslist.com, Indeed.com and Jobelephant.com. Additionally, the center has begun to rely on email solicitations, Chandler said.

Print advertisements such as post cards are also distributed by the center, Chandler said. A list of licensed medical professionals is obtained through the State Board of Medical Examiners and then the cards are mailed to their listed addresses, she said.

A portion of the money was spent on advertisements in medical journals in the past, but that method has largely been phased out because it is ineffective, Chandler said.

“They are very costly and we just don’t get a lot of response,” Chandler said.

Despite the impending vacancies, both Burns and Chandler said the health center will remain patient in the hiring process, ensuring that only the most qualified applicants are selected.

“We really do hire quality people,” said Burns. “That is so critical to us, that we will let a position go empty rather than hire the wrong person.”

The center is having difficulty filling positions because of the center’s inability to match salaries offered by private practices and hospitals, said Gina Burns, assistant director of clinical services.

“It has to do with being in the business of health care,” Burns said. “The salaries tend to be higher (elsewhere) and so it’s very difficult for us to compete.”

Budget information provided by the health center shows physicians will make an average of $135,000 this year. The National Bureau of Labor statistics reports that doctors nationwide earned an average of $184,820 in 2012, showing physicians at the Student Health Center are making nearly 30 percent less than their industry peers did two years ago.

Physicians often choose to work at the health center because of the higher quality of lifestyle and increased level of patient communication despite the considerably lower salaries, according to some doctors at the center.

Bryant Frazier, who ran his own private practice for 12 years and served as doctor to the Houston Aeros hockey team, joined the health center in 2012. He said working as a full-time doctor for the university ended the constant stress, long hours and high patient traffic that consumed his professional and personal life.

“The ability to be home for dinner every night, to have no call overnight or weekends, and the built in vacations over winter and spring breaks, was very enticing,” Frazier said.  “Combined with my predictions on the direction of healthcare in general, I felt that the long-term benefits in lifestyle change, while relieving me of the business stresses, was the best choice to get my life back.”

Frazier said the center’s current doctors have equally divided the workload left by the vacancy. They have implemented a rotating schedule where each assumes the responsibilities of the missing “late day” doctor, seeing late arrival and walk-in patients.