Report: Physician turnover rates are climbing as they clamor for better work-life balance

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Job turnover is on the rise among physicians because their desire for flexibility and work-life balance is emboldening them to leave jobs where they feel overworked or underappreciated, according to a new report released by healthcare staffing company CHG Healthcare.

The report found that 43% of physicians switched jobs during the pandemic. It also found that 8% of physicians retired, and 3% left medicine to work in a non-clinical career.

For the report, CHG surveyed 534 physicians throughout the country about their career changes since the beginning of the pandemic through April 2022. Forty percent of respondents were in the early stage of their career, 26% were mid-career and 34% were late-career.

The average annual turnover rate for physicians is 6-7%, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The 43% finding from CHG’s report represents physicians who changed jobs over the course of two years, but it still reveals that there is significant disruption in the physician workforce, 

The primary motivation for switching positions was the desire to improve work-life balance, the report found.

“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,” said Leslie Snavely, CHG Healthcare’s chief sales officer. “There has definitely been a shift in physicians no longer being willing to work 100-hour weeks and have no life outside their jobs.”

Work-life balance remained the most common motivator for changing jobs, even after survey responses were broken down by career stage. However, some other key reasons varied by career stage. For example, early-career physicians were more likely to change jobs for a more desirable location, mid-career respondents were more interested in attaining a better workplace culture, and late-career physicians were motivated by flexibility.

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Nearly 40% of physicians who switched positions accepted a job at a different practice setting — this change in practice setting could be attributable to the national trend of decreasing inpatient admissions. The report also found that 31% of physicians who changed jobs began locum tenens assignments, 25% accepted a position in a practice setting similar to their current practice, and 10% switched to telehealth.

Just 3% of the respondents said they had left for a non-clinical career, which is a relatively small sample, but they primarily took roles in consulting, education and research, according to Snavely.

Among physicians who did not make any career changes in the past two years, 73% said they are likely to stay in their current position through the end of 2022. That willingness to stay decreased to 59% through 2023 and 46% in 2024 and beyond. However, just 13% said they want to leave the medical field by 2023.

To mitigate rising physician turnover rates, employers should prioritize flexibility and work-life balance, according to Snavely. She said physicians are clamoring for roles where they are not overworked, feel heard by their administration and are treated like a valued caregiver, not just another “cog in the machine.”

Medicine is a hard career; it takes years of training and costs upwards of $300,000 just to get through,” she said. “If you finish residency and think you’re still never going to have a life of your own, it can be disheartening.”

Photo: PeopleImages, Getty Images


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