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Retaining the Best Physicians in Your Medical Practice

One of the greatest challenges facing health care companies today, from the smallest private practice to the largest hospital, is how to retain quality physicians.

No health organization wants to lose a good doctor. It not only takes time and effort to recruit a replacement, but the departing physician takes with him or her knowledge of the specific facility and of the individual patients that is difficult to replace.

What can you do as a health care administrator to keep physicians from leaving for a new job somewhere else? A recent CompHealth survey interviewed senior health care executives, practice owners and staff to look for the answer to this question. Here’s what they found out.

When do physicians leave?

The survey learned that more than half (52 percent) of health care employers surveyed retained their physicians for an average of seven years or more. They also learned that if a physician leaves, it’s generally during the “growing stage” of employment. While less than 6 percent of physicians leave their jobs during the first two years, nearly 25 percent depart during years three and four. Integrated health care systems and small hospitals are the most successful at retaining physicians, according to the survey.

Reasons physicians leave

Money is the primary reason physicians give for changing jobs. A full 58 percent of those surveyed said that they were leaving for higher pay. However, pay isn’t the only motivating factor. Forty percent indicated that a better location enticed them to make a move, while 25 percent of respondents were motivated by more prestige. Other reasons cited included better shifts and better leadership opportunities. Some more reasons include scheduling problems, strained relationships with other staff, and workload ratios.

How to entice physicians to stay

Although offering more money is an important factor, it’s far from the only thing your organization can do to help retain physicians. Consider the following actions:

  • Making them feel welcome. While most health care companies provided good orientations and welcome packets for new doctors, few of the companies surveyed followed up with new doctors to see if they had any questions or concerns.
  • Good benefits. Today’s physicians are looking for more than health, dental and life insurance. Respondents indicated that they value paid leave, malpractice insurance and retirement benefits as well as the basics. Only half of the responding health care companies offer these additional benefits.
  • Administrative support. Doctors are faced with increasing amounts of administrative work. The majority of physicians surveyed would like help with these tasks so they can spend more time with patients.
  • Continuing education. Part of being a good doctor is staying current on developments in the field, which requires continuing education. The majority of physicians feel that their company should pay for this education–and most companies do.

If you’re concerned about how to retain good physicians — and you should be — take some time to evaluate how your company rates in these key areas.

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