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Formalize Retention Policies to Keep Physicians

Physician Compensation & Recruitment, April 3, 2008
Many of the same market forces that have made recruitment more difficult and a higher priority recently--physician shortages, demographic changes, and generational attitude differences--have also increased many facilities' focus on physician retention.

Retaining physicians begins with a concerted effort to address retention issues within the organization on an ongoing basis, says Kevin Donovan, FACHE, FACMPE, vice president of physician and ambulatory services at Elliot Health System in Manchester, NH.

Groups that have formalized retention initiatives tend to have lower turnover rates than groups without them. Although any retention-targeted initiatives are a step in the right direction, Donovan recommends outlining a dedicated retention plan that involves senior leadership and is based on routine reporting, analysis, discussion, and accountability.

The plan should also address cultural-fit issues, which are frequently identified as the top cause of voluntary turnover, and establish a plan to identify at-risk physicians and intervene before turnover becomes a probability.

"The plan doesn't have to be a 20-page document, but it has to be a set of actions you agree to and actually implement," Donovan says.

Focus on the first three years
Physicians are at the highest risk of leaving during their first three years at a new practice. In fact, roughly 46% of newly hired recruits will "fail" within 18 months, Donovan says, adding that "communication is key" to keeping newly hired physicians content and engaged. Provide physicians with answers to the following questions upon hiring and throughout the first few months:

  • Where is the organization going?
  • How do you expect me to contribute?
  • How am I doing?
  • How do I improve my skills?
"Communication starts with mentorship or mentors, but it goes all the way up to the highest level of the organization and meeting at set intervals," Donovan says.
This story was adapted from one that first appeared in the March edition of Physician Compensation & Recruitment, a monthly publication by HealthLeaders Media.