Healthcare Staffing Resources

What physicians want: How to attract and retain physicians in today’s market

Physician and patient

The workforce upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — often referred to as The Great Resignation — presents a double-edged sword for healthcare organizations. On one hand, physicians are leaving their jobs at unprecedented rates — a recent CHG Healthcare survey of more than 500 physicians found that a staggering 46% of physicians changed jobs during the pandemic. On the other hand, this willingness to consider new opportunities makes it possible to attract physicians to join your team. The most successful organizations will be those that understand what’s really important to physicians and are willing to partner with them to meet their needs.

Why physicians are quitting

In the CHG survey, 35% of physicians who switched jobs said they were seeking a better work/life balance. About 40% of all respondents said the pandemic has made their stress and burnout unsustainable.

Chart - physicians' primary motivation for making a career change

“A lot of providers are looking for a better work/life balance and the joy of practicing medicine,” says Luke Woodyard, president of Weatherby Healthcare.

Woodyard asserts that the attitude of physicians toward their work and careers is shifting. “Years ago, we heard from physicians that their focus was on the job — their ability to earn income while providing the level of patient care they wanted. While that’s still true, we’re also hearing the culture of the health system, the work experience, and the work environment are more important than ever. It’s about being able to strike a balance that lets them do things that are important to them and their family, while still contributing to their job and the patients they care for within their communities.”

Additionally, he says providers want to have a voice and be part of the discussion. “What a lot of providers are looking for is simply to be part of the conversation,” Woodyard says. That frustration is reflected in the CHG survey, which found that 35% of physicians were unhappy with their administration’s response to the pandemic.

Chart - Ways the pandemic impacted career decisions

Position your organization to attract and retain talent

Woodyard has some specific advice for healthcare systems that want to attract physicians and retain their current talent.

First, he says, “You’ve got to make sure you’re competitive with what the market is dictating from a compensation standpoint.”

Next, Woodyard emphasizes embracing the concept of work/life balance. “You have to be able to market the lifestyle they’re going to have. It’s not just about the job anymore. It’s about the experience and the balance the providers are seeking,” he says. “It’s not a one-size fits all approach; it’s about discovering what’s important to that provider. That journey of discovery will help create a better match, a better experience, and better work environment, all of which impacts the provider’s engagement, performance, and the quality of patient outcomes.”

Flexibility is one aspect of work/life balance that physicians are looking for more than ever. Of the physicians who left their job during the pandemic, 31% turned to locum tenens work, in part for the flexibility that locum tenens positions offer. “Locum tenens jobs come in a wide variety — with many different locations and different hours to choose from. That enables providers to choose based on what’s important to them,” Woodyard says.

Healthcare facilities that can find ways to offer more schedule flexibility to their physicians will have an advantage in attracting new providers and retaining existing staff.

Finally, he says organizations need to ensure staffing levels are adequate. “You need to have the right level of support and the right level of providers to create the best experience — not only for the patients but also for the physicians working within your healthcare organization.”

Two physicians engaged in a consultation

How locum tenens can help with recruiting and retention

Inadequate staffing levels add to physician stress and burnout. Of the physicians surveyed, 40% said burnout and stress were factors that led to their decision to change jobs.  

Effective utilization of locum tenens physicians can support your recruiting and retention efforts in several ways, while at the same time boosting revenue for the facility when used appropriately.

1. Maintain staffing levels

Hiring a new physician can take months, if not years. “While you’re looking for that ideal provider, locum tenens can help you maintain the staffing levels you need,” Woodyard says.

2. Protect staff from burnout

“Physicians go into healthcare to provide patient care, and they want to be able to deliver that at the level they feel is appropriate. When a physician is overwhelmed or sees an increase in patient load, it can present challenges in delivering care and spending the time they need with patients,” Woodyard explains. “Locum tenens support gives providers the ability to spend more time with patients while still maintain their own work/life balance.”

Physician enjoying time with a patient

3. Provide a trial run

“Locum tenens gives providers the option to try different practice settings without making a permanent commitment. For healthcare facilities, they have a chance to test-drive a provider’s clinical skills and see how they fit with the team culturally,” Woodyard says. This means a great locum tenens placement could turn into a permanent hire when it’s a good match for both the physician and the facility.  

4. Maintain quality and continuity of care for the community

Tapping into the locum tenens workforce enables healthcare facilities “to care for the people in the community while you try to build out that workforce within your healthcare system,” Woodyard says. Adequate staffing helps cut down wait times, particularly when it comes to specialists. “Shorter wait times impact the patient experiences and ultimately patient lives. It also benefits the health system by continuing to drive revenue while providing patient care.”

As long as physicians are dissatisfied with their current employers, organizations that offer a better work/live balance and workplace culture will have a strategic advantage when it comes to hiring new physicians. And understanding and responding to the needs of your team will help you offer more attractive working conditions and improve retention.

Weatherby Healthcare has the locum tenens physicians and advanced practice providers to help you meet your healthcare staffing needs. Give us a call at 954.343.3050 to learn more.

About the author

Heather Stewart

Heather Stewart is a journalist who frequently covers issues and trends in the healthcare industry.