Work life balance is becoming more and more of a concern for physicians as burnout and the doctor shortage grows.
Work life balance can be a hard thing to achieve in any business, but when it comes to practicing medicine, it can seem impossible. Meanwhile, physicians coming out of school and entering the workforce are putting more of an emphasis on this as they choose their first jobs.
This was an issue Tara Osseck, MHA, of Jackson Physician Search, tried to tackle during the MGMA Leaders Conference 2023 session titled “Building Better Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Early Career Physicians.”
The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
“So, I think this is where physician groups and private practices can have potentially more of a competitive advantage than a traditional employed physician at a big health system. I always start by asking candidates first, what does work life balance mean to you? Because if you ask that question, it means something very different to different providers. And I don't think just the youngest generation of physicians are the only ones that we need to be asking that question to aside of the looming physician shortage, we're also dealing with physician burnout rates that are arguably higher than they ever have been in the past.
“So, if you start by asking, what are your needs and wants from a work life balance perspective, you then may be able to adjust the way that your schedule or different components of that practice structure look, to attract and ultimately retain a provider for the long term. For the longest time, I think the 40-hour traditional workweek was kind of the set standard. And even for physicians, there's call and you know, other responsibilities beyond that, that are just assumed to be part of the job. We're seeing more and more organizations moving to a 36-patient contact hour week or even 32-patient contact hour week is becoming more of the norm. And maybe that makes it easier to offer a four-day work week. But we're seeing other practices get even more creative than that to satisfy that work life balance desire for physicians, so the seven-on seven-off or block schedule.
“Obviously, not every specialty or practice type can accommodate that but that's becoming increasingly popular. In fact, a recruiter in my region recently worked with a small critical access hospital that was having a really difficult time staffing their rural traditional, you know full scope Family Medicine, practice and were able to implement the seven-on seven-off model, provide coverage, they were able to eliminate the cost of locums, ensure that continuity of care, and were able to place two very high-caliber physicians there in less than four months with that outside of the box strategy.
“And so, thinking about the cost and benefit of being able to implement scheduling factors such as that, I think is one creative way. But you might also be able to reduce the call burden by tapping a community call pool depending on your location and specialty. Maybe you're able to supplement with locums to reduce that call burden on occasion, or for some rural communities, maybe you're okay with shipping out. If it's going to cost that physician additional burden, APPs might take the first call or cover inpatient rounding. And we've seen a lot of practices as well moving to hiring scribes to be able to offload some of that administrative burden to the physician. So, lots of different ways that you can look at creative options to offer that balance, but still justify the cost of being competitive.”
You can find the rest of our MGMA Leaders Conference 2023 coverage here.