New Study From Jackson Physician Search Reveals 69% Of Physicians Disengaged; 54% Say COVID Driving Change In Job Plans
Survey results raise the question, is the healthcare industry on the verge of a physician turnover epidemic?
The impact of COVID-19 on frontline healthcare staff will likely be felt for years, but one group that may be in crisis are physicians, nearly 70% of whom now say they are actively disengaged from their employers. This is among several key findings from a new survey conducted by Jackson Physician Search, a national physician recruitment firm.
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The same study found that 54% of physicians surveyed said COVID-19 has changed their employment plans. Of those, 50% are considering leaving for a new healthcare employer, 21% said they may hang up their white coat for early retirement, and 15% are thinking about leaving the practice of medicine entirely. These results suggest that the practice of how the healthcare industry engages and retains physicians needs an intervention.
“Prioritizing physician engagement and retention is critical to the well-being of physicians, their patients and the healthcare organizations they serve,” said Jackson Physician Search President Tony Stajduhar. “The burnout physicians feel today is only exacerbated by long-standing doctor shortages and the perception by physicians that healthcare facilities rarely have a plan in place to retain them.”
In the survey, conducted during Q4 2020, 83% of physicians said their employers have no retention program. However, administrators had a different take, with only 30% reporting that there was no program in place. More concerning, physicians and administrators both felt that even when a retention program did exist, it wasn’t favorable. Only 2% of physicians and just 10% of administrators rated it highly.
“A single physician vacancy can easily cost a healthcare organization $1 million in lost revenue, which has a detrimental impact on already financially struggling hospitals and medical practices,” Stajduhar added. “When you also consider that recruiting a culturally aligned physician can take up to 6-12 months and cost $250,000 or more – including sourcing, relocation and sign-on bonus – greater emphasis on retaining physicians is key to meeting the healthcare needs of Americans now and into the future.”
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Administrators recognize the need and have long attempted to devise retention programs, but it appears that physicians have deemed these efforts as largely ineffective or, at a minimum, poorly communicated.
Responses to the survey were received from 400 physicians across a range of specialties and from 86 healthcare administrators from throughout the country. Findings from the study are detailed in the new paper titled “On the Verge of a Physician Turnover Epidemic: Physician Retention Survey Results.” Released this week, some key takeaways include:
- Formal physician retention programs are rare, and physicians have taken notice. Just 12% of physician respondents said their employers have an informal, unwritten retention program, and only 5% reported that there is a formal, written program in place.
- 1 in 3 physicians receive no formal orientation upon joining their employer. Orientation is critical to physician performance and retention. However, 32% of physician respondents said no formal orientation is in place.
- Physicians report being disengaged, while employers are more optimistic. Physicians and administrators were asked to rate physician engagement. Of those who responded, 69% of physicians rated themselves as actively disengaged, while administrators said only 35% of their physicians felt this way.
- 28% of physicians say there are no programs in place at their organization to deal with burnout. For those who did have access to programs that are designed to mitigate burnout, the most common options were wellness and mental health initiatives.
“It’s difficult to read some of the physicians’ comments throughout the survey, especially knowing the unimaginable sacrifices they’ve made and continue to make to see us through the pandemic,” noted Stajduhar. “They’re struggling. But we’re hopeful that with vaccines now being rolled out, a renewed emphasis will be placed on developing strategies to effectively engage physicians and mitigate burnout, both of which contribute to stronger physician retention and lifelong, fulfilling medical careers.”