Prescription for Change

4 steps you may be missing to engage newly hired physicians

by Mack Kelly and Jennifer Stewart

Employment is now a prominent physician partnership strategy, but we're failing to engage our new physician hires—and it's costing us. One-quarter of new physician hires leave within the first three years, each costing upwards of $400,000 to replace.

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The experiences of newly hired physicians through the first 90 days of employment set the tone for their longer-term working relationships with peers, supervisors, and the health system. We've identified four steps that will help you start the relationship on stronger footing—and highlighted resources we have to help:

1. Implement more thorough two-way screens during recruitment

Our first engagement opportunity takes place even before a new physician is hired. Recruiters should embed robust hiring screens to ensure cultural compatibility between physician candidates and the health system. Behavioral-based interviewing—asking candidates to discuss how they've reacted in specific situations in the past—is an effective way to gauge how the physician (if hired) would perform in the future. Throughout the process, interviewers should share details about the organization and its unique culture, and encourage candidates to compare that culture with their own workplace values and work style.

What you need: Our checklist for physician recruitment and the physician behavioral-based interview guide.

Also available: How to win the war for physician talent.

2. Maintain contact between offer acceptance date and actual start date

You should start retaining your newly hired physician the moment the ink dries on the employment contract. Bridge communication gaps that too often develop between signing and start dates—a vulnerable time when new hires could second-guess their decisions. Keep the relationship warm with occasional communications offering lifestyle recommendations, such as housing and day care, and confirming enthusiasm about the physician's choice to accept the offer. In the background, make preparations so that newly hired physicians can begin practicing medicine seamlessly on day one.

What you need: Our checklist for the sign-on to start date phase and sample outreach letters

3. Structure brief conversations between new hires and supervisors right away

Intuitively, we know that supervisors impact employee engagement, and that they need to build strong relationships with newly hired physicians to help retain them. However, the early tenure experiences of new physician hires are too often overlooked. Conversations between supervisors and new physicians should begin in the first week of employment—and continue on two or three scheduled intervals across the first 90 days—to evaluate how new hires are adapting and spot potential retention concerns.

For these conversations, a little structure goes a long way. It's important to keep them very brief, yet productive, to respect other time commitments. Simple conversation guides help supervisors spark more meaningful conversations with new hires in less time.

What you need: Our discussion guides for the 15-minute first week check-in and for retention risk check-ins across the first 90 days.

4. Surface potential first year problems and brainstorm solutions

During the first 90 days, conduct workshops for newly hired physicians that proactively identify common early tenure challenges. You can opt for a formal or informal workshop, with executive-led or peer physician-led group conversation. These workshops surface the challenges that new physicians could face in the first year and brainstorm strategies to overcome them. Use these sessions to highlight support and services offered by the organization that physicians may find rewarding.

What you need: Our guides for the executive led kick-off breakfast conversation and the peer physician panel on "what I wish I had known."

Learn more: Get 4 key strategies to mitigate physician burnout

Physician burnout links to a 16% decrease in patient satisfaction, an 11% increase in reported medical errors, increased turnover, and early retirement. Act now to prevent further damage to your business, physicians, and patients.

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