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Three Causes of Physician Turnover

December 17, 2015


Hospital and health system physician recruiters are working overtime these days. More private practice physicians are opting for employment and new graduates want to avoid the headaches and uncertainty of private practice.

Physician turnover, though, is on the rise. Studies show that the number one reason physicians leave a group/job is dissatisfaction with the situation (not pay) – often because it’s not what they expected, or what they believe they were promised. How does this happen?

  1. Physicians don’t always know what they need to succeed so they aren’t able to adequately evaluate a job opportunity.
  2. Recruiters are rewarded for placing candidates – not for their long term success; and
  3. Hospitals aren’t always clear on what a physician needs to succeed and are, primarily, concerned with filling an immediate need.

A physician employment arrangement is a significant investment for the hospital and a big career decision for the physician. Failure is costly to both. How can expectations be so far out of alignment that everyone is surprised two years into the relationship? A lack of detail with regard to “operational fit” – that’s how. Every hospital can tell you about the cardiac surgeon with the big base salary but low surgical volume – because no one thought to ask how many cases he intended to do! Or the young physician who leaves because she wanted to build a particular program but never got the chance, or wants to work hard and meet her performance goals, but can’t get enough OR time or clinic staff to be productive.86487883

Some things don’t show up on the CV and rarely come up in the interview but make a big difference in physician satisfaction. Just a few examples:

  1. Do both parties understand the performance goals (productivity, quality and patient satisfaction)?
  2. Can the hospital meet the physician’s needs/preferences with regard to OR time, Clinic and OR support staff and equipment?
  3. Is the physician experienced/comfortable working with a mid-level provider, hospitalist program, or other disciplines?
  4. Experience with EHR and order entry systems? Openness to learning new systems?
  5. Interests in leadership, management, or working in teams on program development, quality and cost initiatives, etc.

Incorporate a more detailed evaluation of operational fit into a comprehensive program, including a useful interview and physician-specific behavioral assessment, which selects the right physician candidates. Then, use this information to build an individual developmental plan. You can increase the odds that physicians meet their career goals and evolve into the productive physician leaders you need.

Reducing Turnover in Healthcare

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.