UPMC Northwest ‘an easy sell’

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By JUDITH O. ETZEL – Staff writer

As the Oil Valley struggles to ramp up its economy, swell its workforce and entice new employers to the region, one local business is reaping benefits from what the pitchman says is “an easy sell.”

“How do I make the case to come here? It’s not too hard. Really, it is an easy sell,” said Brian Durniok, president of the UPMC Northwest Hospital.

That’s the mantra he is sharing both in-house with fellow workers as well as with various boards and organizations affiliated with the hospital in Cranberry Township.

His spiel, delivered in a quick and articulate style, is designed to lure and eventually sign up new physicians, nurses, technicians and all other health-related personnel to work at UPMC Northwest.

So far, his recruitment efforts, some a holdover from his predecessor David Gibbons, have netted some big catches. In the past year, 12 to 15 new physicians have signed on to the local hospital.

“A urologist, cardiologist, orthopedic surgeon, general surgeons, pediatrician, anesthesiologist, primary care doctors and more,” said Durniok. “And they all had other options. They could pretty much go anywhere in the country. But, they chose us.”

Their credentials allow them wide latitude in selecting where they will practice their skills. One doctor is coming from the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Another is a top Fellow from UPMC Pittsburgh while another served as chief Resident at the Cleveland Clinic.

So why are those professionals, plus a larger cast of health workers, choosing to settle in the Oil City-Franklin area?

“There are factors we sell when we are talking to candidates,” said Durniok, noting some are professional aspects while others focus on “how you want to live your life.”

A wider practice

Regardless of whether a doctor is a specialist or a general practitioner, where they locate can determine how they practice medicine, said the hospital president.

“Here, they will be able to have a setting where they can do a variety of care, to use all of their training instead of just this part or that part,” said Durniok.

“If you go to the bigger hospitals, the more specialized you become. It appeals to these physicians that they can use their entire scope of training in a smaller setting.”

The big picture

UPMC Northwest, a $72 million hospital that opened in 2004 and boasts an employee roster of about 700 people, is part of the sprawling, nationally-ranked UPMC system based in Pittsburgh.

The affiliation with the health giant, the result of a merger between the independent Oil City and Franklin hospitals, is a key ingredient in recruiting medical personnel to the local hospital.

“It’s important, the fact that we are part of a big academic hospital center,” said Durniok. “It makes it easy for our physicians to talk to a peer and contributes to the continuity of care for our patients. And, our people can participate in top research.”

The local health care providers

Once the professional details as to practices and the hospital network are discussed, the recruitment talk goes local, said the hospital president.

“When we get beyond all that, then we start selling who we are and what our area offers,” said Durniok.

UPMC Northwest staff as well as outlying health care providers assist Durniok with his recruitment campaign. The dialogue features personal stories shared by physicians and others who work here.

“Our folks talk about the collaborative, collegial and congenial work atmosphere we have here and that really resonates with them,” he said. “Their remarks center on ‘we will welcome you and we will help make you successful.’ There are no issues of bureaucracy, no politics involved. And it works.”

Selling the small town

Durniok, a native of Jamestown in Mercer County and a graduate of Thiel College, finds it relatively easy to sell the quality-of-life component to entice health care professionals to set up shop here.

“I know the benefits of a small community and I’m passionate about what that means. And I’m finding it’s not too hard to promote how good that is for someone,” Durniok said.

“What I tell them is: ‘We offer to you a quality of life outside of work to give you balance and contentment in your life that is fantastic.’ It’s all true,” he added.

As Durniok escorts recruits up and down the UPMC Northwest corridors, the camaraderie shows, he said.

“What strikes them is that everyone they meet says hello and how are you doing. It makes the job so much easier,” he said.

As to communities, Durniok sets up tours for potential hires and affiliates and customizes their visits to what types of homes they are interested in.

“This is a very affordable area, especially to those individuals who have gone to school or trained in big cities, like Pittsburgh,” said the hospital president.

For a small-town native used to a rural setting, pitching the area’s natural setting and recreational opportunities is easy, he said.

“They are so impressed with what we have here – the outdoors, the trails, the river and just the beauty of the area,” said Durniok. “Everyone of them loves it.”

There are resources, too, that are plentiful and inviting.

“Look at our child care centers. They are just blown away that we have that type of quality in our communities, And the schools. Our home-grown physicians and staff members, people who grew up here, are great examples of how good our schools are. And they point that out,” he said.

“The schools are huge. That’s one of the first things they ask about. They like the quality of education here in all our schools as well as the size of the schools. They’re small enough that children can participate in a lot of things, something that makes them well-rounded and builds their confidence,” he said.

Not all of Durniok’s sign-them-up efforts yield fruit. That neither dissuades him or prompts him to change his sales techniques which he also taps when trying to entice local high school students to enter the medical field and “come to work for us.”

“It goes without saying that I want to see this hospital be successful,” he said. “But it is just as important that people see more than the facility and see the whole community. We live and work in a very special place and I’m working at selling it to attract people here. Like I said, ‘it’s an easy sell.'”