Table of Contents:
Supporting Work-Life Balance
More critical today than ever before, supporting physicians'
needs for work-life balance can improve their satisfaction on the
job. "When we fail to recognize the importance of worklife balance
for employees, we lose a tremendous opportunity not only to
demonstrate understanding and compassion, but to provide
appreciable help in what has become a significant challenge for
most people," author Manion observes.
Many of them have based their practice decisions primarily on
financial factors, and they realize the satisfaction just isn't
there. A number of them would trade many financial rewards of their
current practices for greater autonomy or flexibility in how those
practices are run. Some even expressed desires that administration
would hire locum tenens physicians to cover for them more often so
they could achieve more well-rounded lives.
- "All physicians should be able to direct the pace, intensity
and productivity of their professional lives. This is really all
that is needed for practice satisfaction and sustenance."
- "Basically, physician retention has more to do with control of
hours/time off/coverage for call/reimbursement for CME and leave
for same not counted as vacation…"
- "The most important factors for a growing practice would be an
increase in salary as patient load increases, and a guarantee of
vacation, even if it means hiring more locum tenens
- "Every effort MUST be made to retain a physician. Incentives
like extra pay, leave, flexible work hours, manageable case load,
light call, major rural allowance per year to retain a physician in
a rural community with extra leave."
- "Physician recruitment and retention needs to be more than just
salary. With over 50% of the primary care physician force soon to
be female, there must be increased attention to flexibility that
recognizes the phases of a physician's life and career."
- 2006 LocumTenens.com physician survey respondents
Creating a Positive Workplace
When managers ensure that individuals are able to fulfill both
physical and emotional needs in the workplace, they increase the
likelihood of employee commitment to the organization - and
organizational commitment is critical to employee retention.
Essentially, experts say, there are 5 things administrators must
do to create a "culture of retention" in a healthcare
- Value employees as people - respect, appreciate and support
- Build strong teams - create a sense of community with employees
and have fun together
- Support employee development - set high standards and
- Empower employees - involve employees in decisionmaking and
provide adequate resources
- Lead - be visible and accessible, maintain clear boundaries,
communicate openly and honestly
CEO survey results published by Quorum Health Resources
(QHR)22 offer insights into methods hospital CEOs are using to
attract and keep good employees. These include:
- Offering better pay and benefits and checking regional salary
scales frequently to keep salaries and benefits competitive with
other area employers (35% of respondents).
- Offering training and education reimbursement programs to
assist employees in professional development (about 33% of
- Some have established full-time recruiting offices to boost
their hospitals' images.
- Some are offering progressive benefits like childcare, no
mandatory overtime or scheduling flexibility in lieu of higher pay
- A number are working to create "a culture of respect and
ownership" through surveying employees and responding to their
concerns, involving employees in decision-making, offering
mentoring and employee recognition programs, etc.
Still others are using advertising, PR, employment fairs,
industry Web sites and connections with educational institutions to
get applicants to come and see their hospitals.
Not unlike these CEOs, permanent physician recruiters rely
heavily on the strategy of getting recruits to come and see the
facility and local community first-hand, then letting the people
and environment do the rest. This makes every day of supplemental
physician coverage a potential recruiting opportunity.
Likewise, expert recruiters and healthcare executives generally
agree that helping both the physician and his or her spouse and
family connect with the local community is critical to retaining
the physicians they work so hard to recruit.
An effective human resources function that supports the
physician throughout the "employee life cycle" also is critical to
physician satisfaction and retention.
Locum Tenens Use Assists in Physician
Practicing medicine is among the most stressful occupations in
the world today. Even the most dedicated physician needs work-life
balance to help relieve the pressure. Here are just a few comments
from respondents to LocumTenens.com's 2006 physician retention
- "The ideal situation would provide for both reasonable
compensation with CME benefits and flexible work hours which
allowed for extended leave for vacation, mission, work, sabbatical
- "The 2 most important elements are time and money."
- "…If physicians are not satisfied or do not feel appreciated
for the hours they work, they will look for another position. Money
isn't everything, quality of life counts more."
- "As physician reimbursement continues to dwindle, we will need
other incentives to stop our exodus from the medical field. These
will include monetary and lifestyle benefits including insurance,
CME, paid call coverage, retirement plans, and predictable time off
work with shorter work weeks."
- "Most places that I have worked really don't care about
retaining physicians. This is sad as there is now a physician
shortage and it will be worse as the baby boomers retire."
- 2006 LocumTenens.com physician survey respondents
Physician recruiters are beginning to acknowledge increasing
acceptance and use of locum tenens physicians as a way to
- provide care needed by the community and
- prevent outflow of patients and loss of revenue.
Considering workforce trends-and in light of what physicians are
telling us - wise healthcare organizations also will begin
assisting physician retention through more proactive staffing that
allows staff physicians to have lives away from the practice.
"In the long run it's a lot more cost-effective to utilize
'relief physicians' periodically than to recruit new staff
physicians continually," LocumTenens.com's president says. Building
locum tenens physicians into a healthcare organization's staffing
plan is one way to begin improving physician retention and
alleviating the physician shortage at your healthcare facility.
Customized, Flexible Packages Ideal
Based on physician survey responses to LocumTenens.com, it
probably would be impossible to design a perfect, one-size-fits all
retention plan within reasonable financial limits. A strong human
resources function that includes monitoring of physician
expectations (starting at the interview stage) and satisfaction is
a critical first step.
Unlike most other healthcare employees, physicians have invested
a decade in their education and medical training. They didn't do so
to become "just another cog in the wheel." They want to feel
respected and valued as "partners" of management.
In the words of physician survey respondents:
- "…No formal plan for retention puts my group on a shaky ground.
The result is one-half of doctors left the group [in the] past 3
- "'Retention' is bi-phasic (sic): The employer must do those
things which assure the physician that he adds value to the
organization; the physician must find himself/herself in an
environment in which effort and creativity are rewarded by the
- "I think this is becoming critical. My employer didn't have one
and I am leaving. It would not have been hard for them to keep