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July 7, 2022

Why so many doctors are quitting, in 4 charts

Daily Briefing

    A survey from CHG Healthcare found that almost half of physicians changed jobs during the pandemic in search of work-life balance, suggesting that many physicians are no longer "willing to work 100-hour weeks and have no life outside their jobs."

    Report details and key findings

    For the report, CHG surveyed 534 physicians around the country about their career changes from the start of the Covid-19 pandemic through April 2022. Among the respondents, 40% were in the early stage of their careers, 26% were mid-career, and 34% were in their late careers.

    According to the report, 43% of physicians changed jobs during the pandemic, 8% retired, and 3% left medicine for non-clinical careers.

    Overall, the primary motivation physicians cited for their career change was a desire for better work-life balance—a finding that reinforces data from a previous CHG survey from early 2022 that found work-life balance was the most important benefit for new physicians searching for their first job.

    For physicians who changed careers, 42% said the pandemic was either very influential or extremely influential in their decision to change careers. However, 36% said the pandemic was not at all or only slightly influential. Among physicians who retired, 31% said the pandemic was very influential or extremely influential in their decision to retire.

    Overall, the primary reasons physicians cited for how the pandemic impacted their careers were unsustainable levels of burnout and stress (40%), unhappiness with their administration's response to the pandemic (35%), and unhappiness with the way medicine is changing (33%).

    While work-life balance was the most common reason cited for changing jobs, other key reasons varied slightly by career stage. For example, physicians early in their careers were more likely to change jobs for a more desirable location, mid-career physicians prioritized workplace culture, and late-career physicians were motivated by flexibility.

    Among respondents who said they were unhappy with their administration's response to the pandemic, the top issues cited were poor leadership (42%), lack of overall employer support (34%), and insufficient staffing levels (27%).

    Notably, when changing jobs, 39% of physicians accepted positions in a different practice setting, 31% worked locum tenens assignments, 25% accepted positions in practice settings that were similar to their current one, and 10% transitioned to a telehealth position.

    Among the physicians who did not make a career change during the past two years, 73% said they are extremely or somewhat likely to remain in their current position through the end of 2022. However, that commitment declined to 59% through the end of 2023 and 46% beyond 2023.

    Still, while most physicians indicated they may be searching for new positions in the coming years, fewer expressed a desire to leave medicine altogether—with 13% of physicians saying they plan on leaving the industry by 2023.

    What can employers do to address physician turnover rates?

    According to Leslie Snavely, chief sales officer for CHG, employers should prioritize flexibility and work-life balance to help address physician turnover rates.

    Currently, physicians are calling for roles where they are not overworked, are listened to by their administration, and are regarded as a valued caregiver instead of another "cog in the machine," Snavely said.

    "Physicians want to work in a place where they can practice medicine, treat patients, and still have a life for themselves and their family and friends," she said. "There has definitely been a shift in physicians no longer being willing to work 100-hour weeks and have no life outside their jobs."

    "Medicine is a hard career; it takes years of training and costs upwards of $300,000 just to get through," she added. "If you finish residency and think you're still never going to have a life of your own, it can be disheartening." (Saley, CHG Healthcare, 6/27; Adams, MedCity News, 7/4)

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