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Survey reveals COVID-19 effect on physician employment

physician and patient - survey finds COVID-19 effect on physician employment

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on physician employment. A recent survey performed by CHG Healthcare, the parent company of Weatherby Healthcare, found that a majority of providers experienced decreased workloads during the pandemic, and they are eager to get back to work.

Weatherby Healthcare providers were among more than 1,200 physicians, NPs, and PAs who responded to the survey, providing insight into their altered workloads and plans for the future. What hasn’t changed is healthcare providers’ desire to treat patients and make a difference in the lives of those they serve.

Decreased workloads

The survey shows that providers are experiencing an unprecedented disruption to their employment. In an industry not used to downturns, 13% of healthcare providers reported that they had been recently laid off (7%) and or furloughed (6%). Of those still working, 74% say they are working less today due to the pandemic.

Current employment status of physicians, PAs, and NPs

Chart showing COVID-19 effect on physician employment

Some providers have been asked by their employer to stay home for their own safety. “Due to my having asthma, my doctors have forbidden me from having direct patient contact. As a result, I can’t work until COVID is gone,” reported one respondent.

Another has had to choose between jobs: “I was splitting time between a nursing home and an outpatient clinic, but the guidelines say that nursing home doctors can’t work anywhere else right now.”

Many locums providers have had their contracts cancelled by hospitals and clinics where their services are no longer needed, often due to the temporary cancellation of elective procedures and reduced hospital revenue.

Desire to help

With only 11% of providers working more now than before the pandemic, a majority of physicians want to get back to doing what they do best — serving patients. 73% of providers stated they want elective care to resume in the next month or sooner, and an additional 22% would like it to resume in the next two to three months.

For some PAs and NPs, a decreased patient load means they’re seeing fewer patients as their supervising physician sees incoming cases. “A state order for no non-emergent procedures has meant the physician I work with wants to see most of the patients,” said one respondent.

Another provider expressed what many in healthcare are feeling right now: “I’ll take anything. Not working is killing me, and I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. I just want to help people.”

Interest in alternative career paths

A sudden upset in employment has led many providers to reconsider their options for the future. 37% of providers are planning to work locums tenens assignments, while 24% would like to change employers.

Providers’ plans for working in the future in light of the COVID-19 outbreak

Chart showing providers’ plans for working in the future in light of the COVID-19 outbreak

Additionally, nearly a third of respondents (30%) think working in telehealth is a good idea to supplement their income.  

Locum tenens can be a useful way for providers to maintain their income after losing employment. “Weatherby already found me an assignment starting June 1. I was laid off from my outpatient practice one month ago,” said one respondent.

 Other respondents have stated they’ll focus on building a private practice, going into research, or retiring earlier than planned. One respondent who is considering retiring said, “With retirement, I would be interested in locums [as a way to continue practicing].”

For additional findings, see the full survey results on the CHG Healthcare blog: “Survey Report: High anxiety and desire to work driving physicians, PAs and NPs”

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your employment or staffing at your healthcare facility? Share in the comments below.

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About the author

Alisa Tank

Alisa Tank

Alisa Tank is a communications coordinator at CHG Healthcare. She is passionate about making a difference in the lives of others. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and exploring Utah’s desert landscapes.

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