Four Ways to Boost Physician Retention, Satisfaction, and Engagement

January 22, 2014

Medical practices need to focus on the top‐ranking elements of engagement to improve their chances of hiring and keeping their physicians of choice.

According to a recent survey on physician engagement, physicians are strongly influenced by their sense of engagement when deciding on career opportunities. In fact, nearly half of respondents reported that feelings of disengagement have prompted them to leave a practice.

Successful recruitment and retention depends on strong engagement throughout the physician career cycle, starting with recruitment and onboarding.

The good news is that you can focus on the top‐ranking elements of engagement to identify gaps and improve your chances of hiring and keeping the physicians of choice.

Here are four tangible and specific tactics to foster physician engagement:

1. Promote work-life balance with flexible scheduling.
• Encourage a desirable lifestyle by offering a four‐day work week, part‐time schedules, job sharing, or reduced call.
• Establish clear work expectations for flexible and part‐time schedules to create the best working environment.
• Provide the resources of hospitalists and nonphysician providers, as well as the technology required to ensure clear communication around patient status.
•  Offer competitive compensation in your recruitment package.

2. Reinforce and nurture a healthy organizational culture.
• Recruit for cultural fit. Develop assessment tools and processes to ensure that physician candidates understand the organizational culture and demonstrate their ability to fit in and support the culture.
• Use behavioral interviewing techniques to drill down with candidates regarding such things as conflict management, teamwork, and communication - making sure they tie clearly into the desired cultural attributes.
• Incentivize the behaviors and attitudes that support the desired culture. Incorporate them into performance appraisals and assess them objectively.

3. Structure a year‐long onboarding program that keeps the physician at the center.
• Begin onboarding when the employment contract is signed - but don’t wait until the start date to keep communication flowing.
• Assign an onboarding specialist or navigator who is the new physician's single‐point of contact for questions, concerns, and progress through the onboarding process.
• Provide clear expectations, milestones. and benchmarks for the development of his practice.
• Schedule and document onboarding activities and checkpoints that enable you to give and receive feedback.
• Develop a mentoring program with specific roles and accountabilities for the mentor and the mentee.

4. Choose physician leaders who personify positive cultural attributes, motivate their colleagues, and raise morale.
• Avoid rotating these positions based only on seniority or other benign qualities.
• Offer real incentives to keep your excellent physician leaders in these roles for extended periods of time.
• Facilitate engagement through surveys, focus groups, and social interaction in which physicians and the entire organizational team can take the time to invest in building relationships, deal with change, participate in continuous learning, and create the culture of engagement that will enable your organization to grow.

Physician engagement is important to physicians’ satisfaction and impacts their career decisions at a time when it’s never been more important to have them contributing in a more meaningful way to your organization’s goals and objectives.

How do you plan to engage your physicians in 2014?