Quick Look: Physician Retention Tips

By

Each year, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) updates their report outlining projected Physician Supply and Demand for the United States.  The most recent report is projecting physician deficits between 42,600 and 121,300 by the year 2030.  As in years past, primary care physicians represent the largest shortfall with estimates as high as 49,300.  Surgical specialists are not far behind with a projected shortage of up to 30,500.

If nothing else, these projected physician shortages highlight the importance for healthcare administrators to ensure that their organizations are utilizing best practices in their physician recruitment and retention policies.  In today’s highly competitive physician recruitment environment, the best way to ensure that your organization avoids lengthy physician vacancies is to minimize turnover.

Here is an overview of eight retention strategies that every healthcare organization should be practicing now.

  1. Focus on Making Good Hires – One of the best ways to give your organization a better chance at retaining the physicians you have on staff is to make sure you are hiring for fit and not hiring to fill. Ensuring that your recruitment process targets individuals that are already aligned with your organizational values gives you the best opportunity to keep them engaged and not seeking greener pastures.
  2. Develop a Culture that Feeds Retention – By now, you should be well aware of the role that organizational culture plays in physician retention. Poor work environments and dysfunctional communication is the surest way to alienate the physicians you have on staff and will lead to a revolving door of vacancies.
  3. Help Your Physicians Stay Engaged – In any work environment, when staff is engaged they exhibit more loyalty to the organization, they are better at working through issues, and consistently put forth greater effort than employees who are not engaged. According to Gallup, fully engaged physicians generate more outpatient referrals and a whopping 51% more inpatient referrals than non-engaged physicians.
  4. Provide Personal Growth Opportunities – According to Medscape’s 2018 National Physician Burnout & Depression Report, 42% of physicians reporting feeling burned out while 15% admitted feeling varying levels of depression. Keep your physicians engaged by encouraging them to pursue the things they are passionate about.
  5. Allow for Career Advancement Opportunities – The Physicians on your staff have spent many years of schooling to reach their current position, and it is a mistake to think that they are now on cruise control. Collaborating on a plan that affords them the flexibility to pursue their career goals will benefit your organization and ultimately make them better doctors.
  6. Promote Work/Life Balance – Physician burnout is dominating the headlines on medical news outlets, and it is reasonable to assume your physicians are experiencing those same issues. It is critical for administrators to engage their physician staff to develop solutions. The Mayo Clinic developed a model to reduce burnout called the “Listen-Act-Develop” approach.
  7. Compensation – According to Kresser Institute, forty percent of medical school graduates finish with more than $200,000 in student loan debt. Organizations cannot ignore this intrinsic pressure on their physician staff and should explore creative ways to ensure that financial pressures are not contributing to physician burnout.
  8. Encourage Time Off/Family Time – When physicians are asked directly about what would help them the most in dealing with workplace pressures, most will respond that they need more time off and more manageable call schedules. A healthy family life can be a physician’s best defense against burnout and depression, and a supportive administration can help foster physician well-being.

As the physician shortage continues to impact healthcare organizations across the U.S., retaining the physicians you have on staff is going to be increasingly more critical to keeping up with the projected demand.  The question for healthcare executives is whether or not to spend the time, effort, and money on developing a successful retention program or on a continuous cycle of recruitment and hiring to fill avoidable physician vacancies.