Redefining Recruitment to Retention

COVID 2020 – One Experience of a Physician Recruiter

By Marissa Anderson, Mayo Clinic


March, 2020. Social Distancing was starting to become a familiar term, and all eyes were on the rising numbers of COVID among the U.S. It was just a typical day in the office on Friday the 13th – typical in the sense that we were still able to sit in our office and collaborate with our colleagues IN PERSON. Corporate travel had already been halted, COVID numbers were the talk in every corner, and we were moving to an official Pandemic in the world.

I headed home for the weekend … and then never went back. It happened so fast. As most of us in the nation, the majority of Mayo Clinic staff was pulled out of our offices and told to work from home until further notice – only direct patient care were to be on the campus. We had daily calls to update us on the ever changing situation of the nation and at Mayo. Elective or non-emergent cases were getting cancelled. Direct patient care staff was starting to get pulled home. It was getting scary.

At first, our team was told that hiring APPs and Physicians was a priority – so to continue to recruit full speed ahead, but interviews would be coordinated virtually. The pendulum was starting to slide in the opposite direction by the end of our 2nd week in. Mayo Leadership had asked all positions to be pulled from our website until further notice. Do not recruit. Instead, compile status reports of each position –do that tonight and then wait for more direction.

Our director pulled us into projects until we knew more. She tried to keep us calm, and keep us occupied. She was transparent that she couldn’t promise the future wouldn’t be scary. But that she had faith in Mayo. And then, in early April our highest leadership made some very historic decisions (historic for Mayo Clinic). It was announced all salaried staff were taking pay cuts. The higher up in ranking, the higher the pay cut. Our physicians were taking cuts too. Then, the words and information surrounding pending furloughs was announced.

Mayo Clinic? Furlough? What does that even mean? How does this happen in a matter of weeks? Thankfully, our leadership anticipated the questions and had the answers. Given the situation, they did as well as they could. We were provided multiple resources. All staff was asked to consider volunteering for furloughs. After it was all said in done, our Physician Recruitment team was cut by 80%. Just enough to keep the lights on, the rest of us were off for 4 months. Some were to be longer, none were to be less.

So, I embraced the summer with a bittersweet feeling. I have kids – so to be a full time mom off of work for a long period of time was fun to consider; especially with the kids not in school. But of course, in the back of your head there is worry. Would I really get my job back? Those left behind were busy holding down the fort. BUSY. I felt bad for them! But, it did help the anxiety and worry of a job to return to. They promised they couldn’t wait to have us all back together again.

Mid summer, WAY earlier than planned, Mayo leadership announced that furloughs would all end no later than 8/31/2020 – even if you were to be out longer. And, everyone’s full pay was being reinstated. VERY GOOD NEWS! In the spring, Mayo had made quick – drastic – changes to our payroll to be sure we could survive the revenue that had stopped from cancelling and delaying certain patient needs. Because of that and the fast-acting decisions to safely get patients back, things were up and running on a quicker timeline than planned.

This was all very exciting. And it has been great to have our entire team back. Across the nation, employees everywhere are working from home. The one difference for Mayo, unlike many others – is that it is permanent. We will NOT be going back to campus. Our offices have been condensed and repurposed. Leases have been let go. We are now completely virtual Mayo Clinic employees.

I walked in to our office to grab all of my things – and my calendar was still stuck on March. That hit me hard. I gathered 9 years of materials, paperwork, pictures, etc. and walked out of the office. I walked around our campus and smiled with my eyes at all the patients I saw (because…mask over my mouth). And I cried. We are recruiters! We like to interact with people. I personally love connecting with the patients and being reminded why we do our jobs. And just like that – my motivators had to change. I had to figure out different ways to remind myself why I do the job I do.
It’s tough. I’m not going to lie. It’s an interesting concept to wrap our heads around. But our Recruitment team is adjusting to the “new normal”. We are intentional with our team interactions. Making sure we find avenues to collaborate in a professional and social way safely via Zoom. It’s been a lifesaver for our sanity. We’ve identified different ways to give team shout outs. We celebrate the successes in very different ways. But we still do it.

We also clearly defined roles & responsibility among our departments, our assistants, the recruiters, and more to be sure that nothing gets missed. The candidate experience is different – but it is still meaningful. The job is getting done.

For me, the hardest part being home is blending my professional world with my home life. I value being a subject matter expert. Being a professional and known as Marissa the recruiter. Not Marissa the recruiter who has a kid walk behind her in the camera…or Marissa with the random table in the background (shout out to the inventor of virtual backgrounds!). I’m learning how to set my boundaries of work and home. I took my email off of my phone because my workstation is always a few steps away. I try to schedule intentional social breaks with people in my “COVID circle” such as a coffee or lunch.

I’m still learning. We all are. And, as we approach the colder Midwestern months – my anxiety of being stuck inside and home all the time is definitely getting to me. But, like all of us – I will keep adjusting my needs and finding my balance. I will keep supporting my colleagues and my family through this interesting year. I will keep working with the AIR leadership team to figure out ways to connect our community. I will keep on keeping on. And I bet you will too.