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Three questions to identify—and retain—physicians who have one foot out the door

October 19, 2018

    For hospitals and health systems facing looming physician shortages, retaining current physician talent is just as important as recruiting new talent—especially given the staggering six-figures it costs organizations to replace one departing physician. The challenge is: It's often difficult to spot the physicians who are most at risk of turnover and intervene in time to retain them.

    That's why we recommend medical leaders proactively facilitate retention risk check-ins—and it's never too early in a physician's tenure to start. In fact, a physician's first 90 days at your organization can be an important predictor of long-term engagement and loyalty, and present a critical window of opportunity to surface and address retention risks to prevent future turnover.

    But there's good news: Surfacing retention risks doesn't need to be time intensive. Start with our three "must-ask" questions to check in with newly hired physicians at the 30-, 60-, and 90-day marks.

    3 must-ask questions to surface early-tenure physician retention risks

    1. Has this job been meeting your expectations?

      Physician and organizational expectations must be aligned to sustain long-term engagement and loyalty. If your new hires describe unrealistic expectations or voice multiple concerns about their day-to-day role, they are likely retention risks.

      To readjust a new physician's expectations, consider setting up a longer check-in with a senior medical leader to clarify the organization's mission and priorities. Connecting the dots between the organization's goals and the physician's day-to-day experience provides the why behind leadership asks and clarifies how the physician's new responsibilities may be different than in a previous role.

    2. Which co-workers have been especially helpful to you?

      Strong connections with colleagues are a foundational component of engagement. It is a red flag if a new physician hire can't name several helpful peers after his or her first 30 days at your organization.

      If new physician hires haven't established peer relationships early in their tenure, help introduce them to their coworkers. To bolster peer support, consider assigning a peer mentor who can show them the ropes and connect them to others in their department.

    3. Have you experienced any frustrations so far—and how have you addressed them?

      Taking the initiative to independently solve problems demonstrates a new physician's adaptability and commitment to your organization. Physicians who cite multiple frustrations but blame others or take no steps towards resolution are often retention risks.

      Demonstrate the organization's responsiveness to physician concerns by acting quickly to resolve one of your new hire's frustrations, such as providing additional training, securing certain equipment, or improving a process. Showing that your organization solicits and addresses physician input empowers new physicians to raise concerns as they arise. Continue to assess your new hire’s long-term fit through more frequent check-ins if dissatisfaction about typical conditions of his or her department are repeatedly expressed.

    Review the full list of retention check-in questions

    Quick tips to make the most of your next check-in

    Physician teams are short on time. Use the pointers below to maximize the impact of your next retention check-in:

    • Keep the check-in to 30 minutes or less. Limiting the conversation makes it easier to schedule.
    • Meet in a private space. Selecting a location where peers can't overhear your conversation creates an environment for candid feedback.
    • Send the questions ahead of time (and stick to them). Sharing questions in advance allows physicians to prepare thoughtful answers.

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