Getting Ahead of Resignations and Renegs in Healthcare

In the healthcare industry, physician turnover remains a costly, worrisome problem. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), one in five physicians will likely leave their current practice within the next two years.

Unfortunately, high turnover rates often lead to lower quality care, plummeting morale and higher costs. When physicians resign unexpectedly—something 28% of healthcare organizations experienced last year—it can result in million-dollar losses.

Needless to say, healthcare administrators are eagerly seeking ways to prevent physicians from resigning and reneging on employment agreements. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to get ahead of this critical problem, including those covered here.

What’s Driving Physician Resignations?  

Practicing medicine has always been demanding and stressful, but for many, the pandemic was the last straw. Research indicates that burnout is the overwhelming reason behind many recent resignations.

According to provider surveys, physicians seek a healthier work/life balance, lighter schedules, and beneficial locations, plus competitive salaries. New hires want these things, too, along with generous time-off, career development opportunities and stellar benefits that include relocation assistance.

Yes, it’s a big ask. And it’s not something most hospitals can produce overnight. But there are some very real improvements you can make over time—starting with a solid retention plan.


6 Ways to Build a Healthcare Retention Plan   

If you don’t have a formal physician retention plan, now’s the time to create one. While no single action is likely to turn the tide, a thoughtful, multipronged initiative—one that includes these six strategies—will make a difference.

1. Ask Physicians What They Want 

Don’t assume you know why your physicians are leaving—ask them. Form a retention plan team or committee, conduct surveys, hold virtual meetings. Ask for specific feedback on how you can improve your staff’s work lives. The mere fact that you’re asking will carry some weight.

2. Address Burnout Aggressively 

Many healthcare employers enriched their wellness benefit offerings in the wake of the pandemic. That’s a great start, but there’s much more you can do—like offering more PTO and flexible work schedules (admittedly, no small thing, but very compelling). And how about offering customized stress management programs and conducting regular wellness check-ins?


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3. Provide Staff Recognition and Support

Everyone likes to be recognized for their work; it’s a basic human need. Create opportunities to honor staff at every level via hospital communications, social media and in on-premises materials.

In addition, work on creating a culture of teamwork and camaraderie. Celebrate individual and organizational wins. All these things will make your facility a more desirable place to work—one doctors will think twice about leaving.

4. Pair Young Doctors with Mentors

Pay special attention to retaining new hires. After all, 40-70% of physicians leave their first job within five years. Pairing newbies with mentors not only helps them acclimate faster, but drives higher retention rates, since they’re less likely to leave a place where they have supportive peer relationships.

5. Conduct Exit and Stay Interviews 

Many organizations view exit interviews as a quick formality, when in fact they can yield a goldmine of valuable information. Find out why physicians are leaving, capture it—and then analyze that data for patterns that can guide what improvements you should make.

Better yet, minimize the need for exit interviews altogether by conducting stay interviews—i.e., touching base with current employees to make sure they’re engaged and satisfied. Stay interviews encourage physicians to share concerns early on, giving administrators the opportunity to address them before it’s too late.

6. Guard Against New-Hire Renegs     

It’s not uncommon for newly-hired physicians to change their minds before they even start the job, but there are steps you can take to prevent this, including:

  1. Be clear about the position upfront, including the work schedule and patient load. Avoid last-minute surprises.
  2. Do culture and values match? When new hires are on the same page as their new employers values-wise, they’re more likely to stick with them.      
  3. Look for red flags during interviews, asking open-ended questions that may reveal the candidate’s level of commitment.
  4. Offer standout benefits. Obviously, you’re going to offer the most competitive compensation you can, but going the extra mile on benefits—i.e., PTO, continuing education, personalized relocation support—shows that you’re a caring employer.

Admittedly, forming a retention plan is an investment of time and money. But considering how much you lose each time a physician reneges or resigns (and conversely, how much you save with each one that stays), you just can’t beat the ROI.


Human Resources Today