It is well-recognized that there is a large number of physicians leaving medicine or preparing to do so. This is not to be debated!
Many physicians are retiring due to age, and others have accepted early retirement as their best option with the current state of health care. Beyond those retiring, it is concerning how many young physicians are leaving medicine and no longer want to stay in the current health care system. It is predicted that many will seek alternative careers and other avenues of financial success rather than grind it out for 20 to 30 years, like the current generation of retiring physicians.
What will the health care system do with so many physicians leaving medicine? Will the physicians left behind be asked to work harder without greater compensation? Will physicians be entirely replaced by physician assistants and nurse practitioners? Who will take care of grandma?
This article reviews two reasons physicians leave their current roles for something else. Physicians are leaving due to the medical facilities and their clinical arrangements.
Let us explain the two reasons.
Physicians don’t want fluff or lip service; they want to work for facilities that prioritize caring for their staff and patients over profits. Health care administrators are responsible for developing a workplace where physicians want to work. Physicians want to ensure that they and their patients are treated well. This includes having the resources available to do their jobs and a culture that invites collegiality, collaboration, and openness. Physicians want to be compensated appropriately and work at medical facilities with systems and processes in place (i.e., EMR) that expedite the care of patients without bogging them down.
Clinical arrangements. Employment and staffing models are changing in all industries, and health care is not immune to this. Health care administrators must be open to new employment models if they want to avoid a mass exodus of physicians. There will continue to be physicians that want traditional full-time employment. Still, many will seek part-time, locums, and non-traditional roles as they prioritize an improved work-life balance and alternative sources of income. Some physicians may want to work less by agreeing to fewer scheduled days per month. This may include working three days per week rather than five or working two weeks per month instead of four. More so, physicians are looking to take fewer call days which will require facilities to contract with other physicians solely to provide call coverage. Lastly, physicians want to avoid being required to take on an excessive number of patients and consults that endanger patients and increase the odds of burnout. Rather than following the dogma of doing what the facility asks of them, physicians will ask for clinical arrangements that work well for them and their families.
What can physicians take from this article?
The stress of the profession leads many physicians to consider quitting medicine altogether. Some will suggest physicians speak with a life coach or therapist to deal with this stress. Instead of seeking help immediately, we propose that physicians consider how their burn-out may be linked to the facility or their clinical arrangement. Physician happiness can be directly linked to working for the right facility and having a clinical schedule that works well for them.
A physician must recognize which element, the facility or clinical arrangement, is causing them the greatest stress and how they might be able to change it. There are over 5,000 hospitals and even more medical clinics in this country. One of them likely aligns with what you, a physician, might be looking for. More so, there will be a facility that will match the clinical arrangement you seek. If you are looking to work three weeks per month, two days per week, or two weekends per month, there are facilities out there that could utilize your services.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to quit and find a new opportunity at a facility that matches your demands.
What can medical facilities and health care administrators take from this article?
Too many physicians are on the brink of quitting medicine. What would your facility look like if physicians were to quit? This article simplifies why physicians are leaving medicine. We discuss how physicians look for the right facilities and clinical arrangements to stay in medicine. Health care administrators must recognize that the two reasons for physicians leaving are modifiable. A health care facility can change its relationship with physicians and also establish clinical schedules with physicians that benefit all parties. We propose that health care administrators consider supporting their physicians with action rather than words alone. Consider some of the following:
- Provide written expectations during the interview stage and within the employment agreement
- Physicians must feel valued. Ditch the “rounding” and show your commitment to physicians by working collaboratively on a 1-on-1 basis to improve patient care and improve physician well-being. Don’t just schedule “another” meeting. Instead, demonstrate your ability to solve problems.
- Rather than always asking physicians to empathize with their patients, why not have administrators show empathy toward their physicians and staff?
These are only a few suggestions of many we have for the health care system to keep physicians in medicine. If administrators do not adjust to the growing demands from physicians, it will expedite the process of the physician leaving medicine.
This article narrows in on what we feel is why physicians leave their current roles in medicine. Are physicians leaving due to the facility or their clinical arrangements? These reasons are modifiable and can be altered by health care administrators to appease physicians to keep them from quitting medicine. Unhappy physicians should seek out new opportunities that align with their interests. Health care administrators focused on recruiting physicians should analyze how their facility and clinical arrangements can be tweaked to help retain physicians. Without changes and addressing these two areas of concern, physicians will continue to leave medicine as they develop other passions and careers.
Aaron Morgenstein is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and founder, FlexMedStaff.com, a fully transparent and free marketplace for physicians to find new clinical and non-clinical opportunities to improve work-life balance. Contact Aaron here.