MGMA and Jackson Physician Search Release Findings on Physician Burnout, Engagement and Retention

New research report, presented at the 2022 Medical Practice Excellence: Leaders Conference, underscores the need for immediate action across the industry     

New research from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and Jackson Physician Search, a leading firm in physician recruitment, confirms that physician burnout and turnover rates remain dangerously high due to the rising toll of stress during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting staffing shortages.

The new report – Back from Burnout: Confronting the Post-Pandemic Physician Turnover Crisis – reflects data from hundreds of administrators and physicians across the country who took part in the 2022 Physician Burnout, Engagement and Retention Survey, commissioned by Jackson Physician Search in partnership with MGMA and conducted in August 2022. The survey sought these industry leaders’ unique views on physician issues following the pandemic and staffing crisis in healthcare, and to understand how medical groups can improve physician recruitment, engagement and retention efforts through identifying root causes of burnout and steps to mitigate it.

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Key Findings

After qualitative interviews with administrators and physicians, the report — a follow-up to a 2021 whitepaper — revealed several key themes:

  • Nearly two-thirds of physicians (65%) report they are experiencing burnout in 2022, up four percentage points from the 2021 study.
  • Of those experiencing burnout, more than one in three physicians (35%) said their levels of burnout significantly increased in 2022.
  • Administrators acknowledge worsening levels of burnout in physicians, but physicians often don’t perceive enough is being done to mitigate that burnout or engage them.
  • Administrators vary their approaches to retention and engagement, often with informal efforts rather than structured, strategic programs.
  • Perhaps most telling is that 51% of physicians have considered leaving their current employer for another, up from 46% last year.

In addition to these newly released survey findings, recent MGMA polling found that four in 10 medical practices (40%) had a physician resign or retire early in the past year due to burnout.

“While burnout is certainly not new, it’s disheartening that one in three physicians is reporting a significant increase in their level of burnout in 2022,” said Tony Stajduhar, president of Jackson Physician Search. “Administrators and physicians recognize that solving the burnout crisis is complicated as many of its drivers are rooted in the business of healthcare. However, burnout mitigation should include creative recruitment and staffing strategies that bring additional talent into the organization to help defuse the impact of stress and administrative overload, and that allow for the pursuit of physician work-life balance.”

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What’s Being Done to Confront Burnout and Turnover

The new Back from Burnout: Confronting the Post-Pandemic Physician Turnover Crisis report points to the fact that most medical groups are discussing burnout and turnover but have yet to implement specific strategies to address these mission-critical issues. In fact, MGMA polling during the pandemic found that nearly 9 in 10 healthcare leaders said they did not have a formal plan or strategy to reduce physician burnout. This new report confirms that with just 19% reporting having a formal, written retention plan.

With one in two physicians seriously considering leaving their current employer for a new one and 36% considering early retirement, healthcare leaders must take heed. The report details that mitigating burnout and rising rates of physician turnover may best be achieved through streamlining clinical workflows, managing workload equity amid ongoing staffing shortages, improving two-way communication between physicians and administrators, and increasing psychological safety in the workplace to encourage quality, honest feedback.

“Simply talking about burnout in healthcare will not stop physicians from leaving the profession in the coming years,” said Halee Fischer-Wright, MD, MMM, FAAP, FACMPE, president and chief executive officer at MGMA. “Instead, we need to focus on empathy and organizational efforts to revive these professional relationships that make high-quality care delivery a sustainable reality for everyone involved.”

As medical groups continue to feel the strain of rising costs amid sustained inflation and an uncertain economic future, and as care needs intensify, the efforts to recruit and retain top physician talent will remain of the utmost importance to the bottom line of healthcare businesses.

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