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6 Physician Retention Strategies

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media, June 6, 2011

If the greatest asset of a healthcare organization is its physicians, why then are so few resources put into retention and so many put into recruitment? It's a costly imbalance, explains J. Gregory Stovall, MD, senior vice president of medical affairs for Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics in Tyler, TX and Lori Schutte, president of the healthcare recruiting firm Cejka Search.

Schutte and Stovall spoke on techniques for hiring and retaining star physicians during the April American Medical Group Association annual conference in Washington, DC. I caught up with them to learn more about quick, low-cost strategies that hospitals or health systems can use to decrease their turnover.

"We know from surveys that the critical time period after a physician is hired is the first one to three years," says Schutte. "Somewhere in there they start to get unsettled."

Just 5 years ago, Stovall explains, his organization had a physician turnover rate of 14%, more than double the current industry average, which hovers around 6.1%, according to a Cejka Search survey. The 400-plus-bed system, which employs more than 250 of their nearly 500 physicians, took a step back and decided to evaluate retention's true cost.

"We realized we'd been resting on our laurels. Retaining our outstanding physician has to be a high priority," says Stovall. "Every organization recognizes the value of hiring a superstar physician, yet very few invest the time and energy to create intentional strategies that contribute to retention."

Stovall says when Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals analyzed the numbers, the need to get a retention strategy in place became clear. The organization estimated $50,000–$75,000 was spent per physician just on recruitment. Then there was the additional $200,000–$300,000 spent to train, credential, market, and onboard the physician. Total cost per new recruit came to roughly $250,000–$350,000.

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1 comments on "6 Physician Retention Strategies"


Francine Gaillour, MD, MBA, FACPE (6/10/2011 at 6:48 PM)
I appreciate the comprehensive approach organizations are taking to retaining physicians. As an executive coach for physicians I especially relate to the impact physician leadership and related collegiality-building programs have on physician engagement. Recently I led a workshop for physicians, introducing them to coaching skills to use with each other. For many it was the first time they'd had an opportunity to truly listen and get to know their colleagues[INVALID]after years of working together. Empowering, high touch, low tech, and[INVALID]as noted in the article[INVALID]-much lower cost than losing a good doctor.