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Addressing Physician Turnover and Retention: 3 Strategies

July 10, 2019

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As healthcare organizations and physician groups continually examine their strategic workforce plans, it's evident that the supply and demand of physicians looks bleak. In fact, a recent report by the Association of American Medical Colleges breaks down the complexities of the physician shortage and reports that by 2032:

  • There is a possible shortage of 46,900 to 121,900 physicians
  • Primary care physician shortage is estimated between 21,100 to 55,200
  • Non-primary care specialties physician shortage is estimated in the range of 24,800 to 65,800
  • Shortage of physicians in surgical specialists is roughly 14,300 to 23,400

Compounding factors contributing to the shortage include the fact that two out of five active physicians will be 65 or older within the next decade and changes in physician retirement decisions could have the greatest impact on physician supply. The trend toward fewer weekly hours worked is also impacting physician supply within all age groups.

The question now is not only how do we meet the need for physicians, but also how do you retain and keep the physicians you currently have? With latest numbers from a Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) survey revealing that 59% of practices are reporting that they have had physicians leave in the past year, let’s dig into ways to address turnover and employee retention: 

  • Set expectations appropriately. “Lack of alignment” and “unmet expectations” are reported as two of the top reasons physicians leave a practice. During the hiring process, consider including a realistic job preview, outlining all of the expectations in terms of schedule and productivity to be successful, and gather information on motivational fit. Motivational fit is defined as the extent to which an employee’s expectations of what they’ll get out of a job match up with what the organization provides. Ensuring there is alignment in motivational fit is a critical component to helping reduce turnover at all levels.  One great way to gather insightful motivational fit data is to add motivational fit questions to a specific, structured interview guide for your physician hiring.

    Read more: 5 Interview Questions You Must Ask To Assess Motivational Fit

  • Create a positive on-boarding experience. Once the physician is hired, ensure the physician is set up for success from Day 1.  Align goals and expectations in detail and set up reoccurring meetings to review performance and provide support to remove any barriers that may be preventing value-adds (i.e., lean management).  Consider creating a mentoring program with existing providers to help create a positive experience and giving an additional resource for your new investment.

  • Don’t stop developing your workforce. Help prevent burnout by continually engaging physicians and developing their skills.  As expectations and consumerism in healthcare is evolving, new skills are needed and can be developed.  Assess your workforce’s behavioral standards that impact patient care and productivity, identify areas with opportunities for growth (e.g., emotional intelligence, resilience, innovation, team collaboration, etc.), and work closely with your physicians and leaders to create specific action plans.

    5 Steps To Position Physicians For Success And Prevent Burnout

With the demand of physicians increasing in a tight labor market, the supply low, and some reports estimating the cost of replacing a physician ranging from $200,000 to $1 million, what is your organization doing to prevent turnover and retain your workforce?

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Jason Frizzell Jason Frizzell is a Consultant at PSI with experience in designing and implementing valid and legally defensible large-scale selection systems across a number of industries. He is involved in project management, supporting and managing clients within the healthcare, manufacturing, technology, retail, call center, mining, and transportation industries to help each in identifying, selecting, and developing top talent. Jason also holds a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification. His area of expertise include developing selection tools, competency modeling, efficient selection process design, job analyses, and talent management.