The Biggest Myth About Physician Retention

In an average week, over half of all practicing physicians receive three or more solicitations for new opportunities. Whether for competing practices in the same community or on the other side of the country, the competition for top talent has made it increasingly difficult for many hospitals and health systems to retain their highest performing physicians. In an effort to combat this, many employers have developed physician retention programs aimed at keeping their physicians engaged and fulfilled at work. Despite this, few employers fail to see the crucial role that recruitment plays in the retention of top talent, often thinking that physician recruitment and physician retention are two separate issues. While many practices may believe this, the fact is that the best retention strategy begins in the earliest stages of the recruitment process.

When looking at some of the top reasons that a physician leaves, it becomes increasingly obvious that many of these reasons could have been recognized and addressed during a thorough candidate screening process.

1.  Compensation Expectations

While not the main reason physicians leave a practice, compensation can often be a contributing factor, especially if their expectations aren’t met. With a highly competitive marketplace for physicians, some employers may seek to oversell the earning potential of an opportunity. This is common in positions where a guaranteed salary is offered for the first year or two, but the market for the physician’s services doesn’t support the same income after the salary guarantee ends. At the very beginning of any recruitment effort, it is essential to develop a realistic compensation plan for a potential candidate that they will be able to maintain, even after the income guarantee ends. The recruiter can then go forth with this information and find the right candidate that is looking within this range.

2.  Community 

A common mistake many employers make in recruiting physicians is not taking into account the needs of the physician and their family in relation to the community. A physician with young children and/or a spouse with a specific profession will need certain educational and professional resources that may not be available in every community. Additionally, cultural and religious needs play a large factor in whether or not a physician and their family can be happy in a community. It is essential that during the interview process to address these needs with the candidate to make sure that the community has the resources they need, and to connect them with these resources. A physician whose personal or familial needs cannot be met within a community will not stay long.

3.  Stagnant Career Development

Does your organization offer leadership and professional development opportunities? It is important to address each candidate’s short term and long term career goals, and make sure that they jive with the opportunities available within your organization. An ambitious physician may be happy within a practice with no upward mobility for a time, but eventually such a physician will look to move on to opportunities that will fulfill their professional needs.

4.  Cultural Fit

Every practice and organization has a culture, even if at first it doesn’t seem evident. A physician who doesn’t fit in with the organization’s culture, or doesn’t ascribe to its morals and values, will eventually become dissatisfied and move on. It is important during the recruitment process to not only find a well qualified and likable candidate, but to find a physician who is aligned with what your organization stands for and shares it’s goals. 

Overall, the best retention programs begin before the physician even joins the team. By ensuring that the candidate is aligned with the culture, goals, and opportunity with an organization, an employer greatly increases the chances that a physician will be satisfied with their new position for the long haul.

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