10 Top Ways to Keep Physicians Happy
September 30, 2019
By Debra Wood, contributor
the key actors in a play, physicians are paramount to successful health care
roles are central to patient care quality, patient satisfaction, disease
management and population health. Their responsibilities are both clinical and
operational, and the reputation and fiscal health of hospitals and health
systems rest primarily on their shoulders.
systems and hospitals cannot exist without physicians,” said Kelly
Rakowski, president of leadership and search solutions for AMN Healthcare. “They
are the greatest and most critical asset health systems have.”
doesn’t matter how modern the hospital is or how large the endowment at the
clinic if the physician staff is not fully on board, loyal and engaged. Thus, physician
retention efforts need to be a top priority, in order to improve physician
satisfaction and performance, and reduce costly turnover.
clinical and economic impact of physicians
important as they are to patient care, physicians are just as vital when it comes
to the economics of health care. For instance, physicians direct 87 percent of
health care spending, according to a 2016 white
paper from Merritt Hawkins, the nation’s leading physician search
firm and a company of AMN Healthcare.
generate a healthy amount of net revenue, averaging $2.4 million per physician
in 2018, according to a recent
survey conducted by the firm. While the average amount generated
varied by specialty, researchers noted that physicians’ overall worth to a
hospital or practice is hard to measure. In reality, they are indispensable.
the value they contribute, you want to put considerable resources, thought and
time into keeping physicians happy,” said Phil Miller, vice president of
are also in short supply, which makes retention even more critical. In fact,
the next eight years are expected to be the toughest physician recruitment
market ever, according to Travis Singleton, Merritt Hawkins’ executive vice
cannot recruit your way to salvation; you are going to have to retain
physicians,” Singleton said.
reality in mind, these physician recruitment and retention experts share the
following guidelines for boosting physician satisfaction, improving their
longevity and avoiding excessive turnover.
10 keys to keeping
physicians happy and improving retention
1. Address physician burnout and
give freedom to practice
health care delivery has become more complex and the demands on the physicians
have increased, many have experienced physician
systems need to address that by balancing the workload, providing a support
system and simplifying administrative processes,” Rakowski said.
physicians feel under siege; thus, it is important to give them autonomy to
practice, grow, and serve their patients and community, she added.
2. Support leadership and
reports a new call to action for physicians to lead. Hospitals and health
systems can help their physicians to grow and develop a career path, which will
help with physician retention.
executive is one of the fastest growing roles in medicine, Singleton added.
3. Offer good compensation and
and benefits rank high on the list of some physicians’ priorities. Physician
incentives should align with organizational goals, quality of outcomes and
productivity, Rakowski said.
compensation formula is important,” Miller added. “Doctors may be unclear or
dissatisfied about how they are getting paid. The compensation formulas are
tied to different metrics.”
metrics may include patient satisfaction, adherence to guidelines, appropriate
use of electronic medical records, and other things beyond clinical decision-making.
4. Develop a formal physician
and practices should create a formal physician retention program, which
outlines compensation plans, physician incentives, recognition programs, feedback
and support plans, performance reviews and leadership opportunities.
you have a formal retention program, it shows physicians that you care about
them and are trying to make them happy,” Singleton said.
5. Assign someone to oversee physician
of simply assigning retention goals to the human resources department,
designate one person who will be responsible for overseeing these efforts. That
person, such as a physician liaison, should then have the authority and resources
to carry out the formal physician retention plan, Miller advised.
6. Facilitate physician feedback
and boost communication
important to use both formal and informal communication to receive physician
feedback, Miller noted. Formal methods should include a survey, asking about
how busy the clinician is and how satisfied the physician is with the practice
and staff should also take time to simply talk with physicians, on an ongoing
system or practice may want to conduct a short, scheduled “stay interview” 90
days after a physician has come on board to ask how things are going from his
or her perspective.
Survey of America’s Physicians: Practice Patterns and Perspectives
7. Recognize the importance of
and recruitment are two sides of the same coin,” Miller said. “If you recruit
the doctor effectively, that will have a lot to do with whether they stay.”
description of the practice, compensation, physician incentives, number of
patients, call hours and negative things about the community should be honestly
portrayed, Miller advised. If not, the physician may start looking for another
opportunity soon after they arrive.
all about setting up accurate expectations,” Miller said. “Put in the time,
effort and attention to detail.” Be straightforward as you answer
key questions from physician job candidates about their expected role
and the work environment.
new physician shows up, it’s equally important to ensure that he or she has an
adequate orientation, ongoing support and does not feel ignored, Miller added.
8. Offer flexible scheduling
physicians want more flexibility and work–life balance in their schedules,”
Rakowski said. “Health systems should understand those needs and be able to
provide for them.”
may want more time with their children or to pursue a personal passion. Employers
should consider the possibility of hiring part-time physicians.
should keep in mind that today’s new physicians may not be as productive as
those retiring, because newer physicians place a higher premium on quality of
life, Singleton said.
9. Create a sense of belonging
a culture of community among physicians, other caregivers and the support
a sense of belonging, so physicians are establishing roots and surrounded by a
community they enjoy being a part of,” Rakowski said.
things are important, too, like adding the physician’s name to the sign. Miller
knows of one physician who left a practice due to that oversight.
10. Develop a positive,
call this ‘the primacy of the workplace,’” Miller said. “Just create a place
doctors like to work.”
needed are an adequate nursing staff, fast test turnaround time, easy access to
patient data, emergency department and hospital efficiency, current equipment, reasonable
call schedules, and flexible scheduling for work–life balance.
suggestions include bringing in locum tenens during peak usage periods to
prevent burnout and a scribe to enter data in the EMR.
their lives easier,” Miller said. “Your grass has to be greener.”
Work Environment Affects Physician Happiness: 8 Factors
Issues in Physician Recruitment and Retention
Keys to Enhancing Physician/Hospital Relations – white paper
MERRITT HAWKINS places talented physicians
and advanced practice providers in rewarding career
opportunities across the U.S.
A Raised Hand: Volume to Value and the Quality Industrial Complex
Even as most of healthcare compensation is still in transition from volume-based models, it is crucial that...
The Importance and Role of Physician Recruiting Professionals
Part of the job description of being a Physician Recruiting Professional is explaining to people at parties,...
A Healthcare Resource for Hiring Veterans
On the day we honor the members of America’s Armed Forces who have served on our behalf, it is appropriate to...