Reduce Physician Turnover Pitfalls Using Locum Tenens in Your Employment Model


Physician and advanced practice clinician (APC) turnover rates continue to be a major concern for Chief Medical Officers and other healthcare facility leaders heading into 2016.  As retirement in the field accelerates, major regulatory changes take place, and facilities continue to worry over staffing budgets; we continue to see a rise in turnover rates year over year.  Other causes include internal and external stressors leading to practitioner burnout, as well as inefficient recruitment and retention policies industry-wide.  This alarming fact is leading to major hidden costs for the healthcare system and in some cases a drop in the quality of care for patients.  By evaluating your current workforce strategies, identifying areas of concern, and implementing innovative new staffing tactics; your facility can increase employee satisfaction and reduce turnover rates.  In turn, this will lead to lower overhead and higher levels of care for your patients.

Cause of Turnover

A 2011 survey, conducted by Physician Wellness Services and Cejka Search, of more than 2,000 physicians showcased the prevalence, cause, and effect of physician stress and burnout.  It found that 87 percent of respondents felt moderately to severely stressed and burned out on an average day, and close to 63 percent admitted feeling more stressed and burned out today than they did three years ago.  It also reported some very interesting effects due to stress, all of which hold enormous implications for healthcare organizations.  According to the physicians surveyed, the stress and burnout caused:

  • Decreased job satisfaction
  • Decreased productivity
  • Personal health and family issues
  • Patient safety concerns

Even more thought-provoking was the effects of the stress on work.  Below are the top three effects of stress and or burnout on work:

  • Lowered job satisfaction (51%)
  • Desire to change jobs, practices, careers, or retire (combined total of 95 %!)
  • Already made a job or career change (14%)

Rates of Turnover

The 9th Annual Physician Retention Survey conducted by the American Medical Group Association (AMGA) reported the highest turnover rates since its inception in 2005.  Medical groups reported an average turnover rate of 6.8 percent for physicians in 2013 and 9.4 percent for APCs.  The major cause of turnover tracked was retirement acceleration, hitting 18 percent in 2013. This is a 50 percent increase from 2012 and the highest rate of retirement ever reported in the healthcare industry.  It also provided evidence that changing demographics and healthcare reforms are making recruitment and retention strategies obsolete, meaning leaders in healthcare need to invest in new staffing delivery models and strategic team building opportunities.

Cost of Turnover

The causes of increased turnover rates tell us why and how many physicians/APCs are leaving.  A much more difficult and important metric to define from a business standpoint is the cost of this turnover.  Costs included in physician/APC staffing turnover include:

  • Salaries
  • Sign on bonuses and relocation costs
  • Recruiting costs
  • Lost revenue on open positions
  • Administration costs
  • Reduction in department productivity

All of these lead to a range of loss and replacement costs starting at $250,000 and more realistically hover around $1 million per physician.  This data leads us to a couple conclusions regarding costs of turnover:

  • Making a bad hire is MORE expensive in the long run than taking your time to hire quality practitioners
  • There are tools and data available to understand why physicians are leaving and how to fix these issues your organization
  • There are staffing tactics that can not only decrease turnover rates, but costs associated with turnover; all while maintaining or even increasing facility productivity

As we move forward into a shifting healthcare industry that grows increasingly complicated, we have to be aware of the pitfalls affecting our employees, our patients, and the overall fiscal health of our facilities.  By identifying the cause of employee dissatisfaction and turnover, we can implement new strategies and tactics into our recruitment and staffing plans to reduce the rate of each.  In turn, this can cut down on overhead costs and patient safety concerns.

Using locum tenens staffing solutions is one such way, giving you high quality practitioners at a fair rate to cover your workforce needs, when you need it.  Whether it is while you find the right candidate or even as a long term solution.  To learn more about how including locum tenens physicians and advanced practice clinicians staffing into your workforce delivery model can drive your organization towards success, contact a MPLT Healthcare recruiter today!