Fit, Family are Keys to Retention

Physician Compensation & Recruitment , May 21, 2009

The recession appears to have—at least temporarily—slowed physician turnover. But the factors that make retention such a challenge haven't disappeared, and hospitals and practices continue to seek ways to keep physicians they've recruited.

So it's not surprising that the 2008 Physician Retention Survey from AMGA and Cejka Search finds that groups are renewing their focus on retention. It identifies current trends and provides some insights into best practices, from actively courting spouses to implementing formal retention programs.

As in previous surveys, fit and family were top reasons for turnover: Fifty percent cited "poor cultural fit with the practice" and 32% indicated "relocation to be closer to family" as the reasons for leaving practices voluntarily.

When all family priorities regarding separation are factored in, family-related concerns are just as important as cultural fit.

The survey suggests that compensation is a secondary consideration. "Seeking higher compensation" was the third most frequently cited reason for voluntary departure. Compensation may be a reason for a physician candidate to rule out a practice during recruitment, but long-term retention depends more on other factors—in particular, fit and family—at least as long as the compensation is reasonable, says David Cornett, regional vice president at St. Louis–based Cejka Search.

Accordingly, the ability to assess the cultural fit and family needs of candidates appears to be an important factor in retention plans, the survey finds. Ideally, this begins by including the spouse or partner early in the recruiting process.

Most respondents (71%) indicated they began communicating with the spouse or significant other before or during the first in-person interview. Only 2% said they waited until after signing to reach out, whereas 10% had no interaction with the candidate's spouse or significant other.

Ignoring the spouse or partner is not a good plan, says Cornett, noting that "80% of the decision to relocate is ultimately up to the spouse. Spouse interests, concerns, questions should always be addressed up front as part of the interviewing process. The more resources an organization devotes to making the spouse feel comfortable and valued, the better the results will be."

This article was adapted from one that originally appeared in the May 2009 issue of Physician Compensation & Recruitment, a HealthLeaders Media publication.

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