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Practices Face Highest Physician Turnover Rates


While physician recruitment is challenging, so is retention. Here’s why and how practices can deal.

While many practices are struggling to recruit new physicians, they are also struggling to retain their current doctors.

Medical group physician turnover rates reached their highest levels since the first year such data was collected in 2005, according to recently released findings from the 2012 Physician Retention Survey from physician recruiting organization Cejka Search and the American Medical Group Association (AMGA). The average physician turnover rate of 6.7 percent in 2012 also exceeds prerecession levels.

In a statement detailing the report’s findings, Cejka Search noted that the increasing turnover rates coincide with housing market improvements and recovery in stock prices. As physicians feel more financially secure, they are also more willing to consider new job opportunities and relocating.

The findings also suggest that the number of physicians delaying retirement due to retirement or portfolio losses (nearly 45 percent of our 2012 Great American Physician Survey respondents said they had done so) may be decreasing. In fact, nearly one-third of the 80 respondents from medical groups to the 2012 Physician Retention Survey said they expect the pace of retirements to increase in 2013.

While high turnover rates indicate that many individual physicians may feel more stable financially, the rates are problematic for medical practices, as they will likely face an influx of new patients in 2014 due to the Affordable Care Act. In addition, practices will face more challenges recruiting new physicians to fill in when physicians leave their practices and to add to their physician ranks as the physician shortage intensifies. The Association of American Medical Colleges anticipates a shortfall of 45,000 primary-care physicians and 46,000 specialists in the coming decade.

In fact, competition to recruit new physicians is already increasing, according to the 2012 Physician Retention Survey. More than three quarters of respondents said they plan to hire more primary-care physicians in the next 12 months; 22 percent said they plan to hire “significantly more” new physicians.

Aside from high physician turnover rates creating patient access problems for practices, high turnover also causes financial problems. Cejka Search estimates that the loss of a full-time physician and the cost of recruiting a new one over a one-year time period adds up to approximately $1.2 million.

One way to prevent such problems from occurring at your practice is to focus your retention efforts where they are needed most. For instance, turnover is particularly high among physicians who have recently joined a practice, according to the 2012 Physician Retention Survey.

Make sure you provide your newest physicians with adequate orientation, training, and resources. That begins before the new physician even starts working at your practice, consultant Jack Valancy recently told Physicians Practice. Do all you can to ensure your practice is the right fit for the new physician, and that he is the right fit for your practice. Also have a plan regarding how the physician will be oriented to your practice. “We want to prepare for this new doctor, we want to be ready with this orientation and training program, we want to be ready with a practice development plan and be working with the new doctor before he arrives,” said Valancy. 

Also, make sure you provide the physician with adequate orientation and resources once he gets started at your practice. The first week after a new physician joins a practice “is critical in terms of helping the doctor understand the environment,” practice management consultant Judy Capko recently told Physicians Practice.

As part of that orienting process, be sure to provide the new physician with a more established physician mentor. Respondents to the 2012 Physician Retention Survey who said their group assigned a mentor reported a lower overall turnover rate than other groups.

Another noteworthy finding? Respondents who said their group provided a year-long orientation process reported lower turnover rates for new physicians between two and three years with the practice than other groups.

What retention efforts have worked for your practice? Share them in the comments section below.


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