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Two reasons, Why physicians are leaving medicine ?

It is well known that many physicians leave medicine or prepare to do so. This is NOT to be debated!  

Many physicians are retiring due to age, and others have accepted early retirement as their best option with the current state of healthcare. Beyond those retiring, it concerns how many young physicians are leaving medicine and no longer want to stay in the current healthcare system. It is predicted that many will seek alternative careers and other avenues of financial success rather than grind it out for 20-30 years, like the current generation of retiring physicians. 

What will the healthcare system do with so many physicians leaving medicine? Will the physicians left behind be asked to work harder without greater compensation? Will physicians be entirely replaced by Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners? Who will take care of grandma?  

This article reviews two reasons physicians are leaving their current roles for something else. Physicians are leaving due to the medical facilities and their clinical arrangements.  

Let us explain the two reasons 

  1. Facility. Physicians don’t want fluff or lip service; they want to work for facilities that prioritize caring for their staff and patients over profits. Healthcare administrators are responsible for developing a workplace where physicians want to work. Physicians want to ensure that they and their patients are treated well. This includes having the resources available to do their jobs and a culture that invites collegiality, collaboration, and openness. Physicians want to be compensated appropriately and work at medical facilities with systems and processes in place (i.e., EMR) that expedite the care of patients without bogging them down.
  2. Clinical arrangements. Employment and staffing models are changing in all industries, and healthcare is not immune to this. If healthcare administrators want to avoid a mass exodus of physicians, they must be open to new employment models. There will continue to be physicians that want traditional full-time employment. Still, many will seek part-time, locums, and non-traditional roles as they prioritize an improved work-life balance and alternative sources of income. Some physicians may want to work less by agreeing to fewer scheduled days per month. This may include working three days per week rather than five or working two weeks per month instead of four. More so, physicians are looking to take fewer call days which will require facilities to contract with other physicians solely to provide call coverage. Lastly, physicians want to avoid being required to take on an excessive number of patients and consultations that endanger patients and increase the odds of burnout. Rather than following the dogma of doing what the facility asks of them, physicians will ask for clinical arrangements that work well for them and their families.  

 What can physicians take from this article? 

The stress of the profession leads many physicians to consider quitting medicine altogether. Some will suggest physicians speak with a life coach or therapist to deal with this stress. Instead of seeking help immediately, we propose that physicians consider how their burn-out may be linked to the facility or their clinical arrangement. Physician happiness can be directly linked to working for the right facility and having a clinical schedule that works well for them.  

A physician must recognize which element, the facility or clinical arrangement, is causing them the greatest stress and how they might be able to change it. There are over 5,000 hospitals and even more medical clinics in this country. One of them likely aligns with what you, a physician, might be looking for. More so, there will be a facility that will match the clinical arrangement you seek. If you are looking to work three weeks per month, two days per week, or two weekends per month, there are facilities out there that could utilize your services.  

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to quit and find a new opportunity at a facility that matches your demands.      

What can medical facilities and healthcare administrators take from this article? 

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Too many physicians are on the brink of quitting medicine. What would your facility look like if physicians were to all quit?  This article simplifies why physicians are leaving medicine. We discuss how physicians are looking for the right facilities and clinical arrangements to stay in medicine. Healthcare administrators must recognize that the two reasons for physicians leaving are modifiable. A healthcare facility can change its relationship with physicians and establish clinical schedules that benefit all parties. We propose that healthcare administrators consider supporting their physicians with action rather than words-alone. Consider some of the following: 

  • Provide written expectations during the interview stage and within the employment agreement 
  • Physicians must feel valued. Ditch the “rounding” and show your commitment to physicians by working collaboratively on 1-on-1 basis to improve patient care and improve physician well-being. Don’t just schedule “another” meeting. Instead, demonstrate your ability to solve problems. 
  • Rather than always asking physicians to empathize with their patients, why not have administrators show empathy toward their physicians and staff?  

These are only a few suggestions of many we have for the healthcare system to keep physicians in medicine. If administrators do not adjust to the growing demands from physicians, it will speed up the physician leaving medicine.  

Final Thoughts: 

This article narrows in on what we feel are the two reasons for physicians leaving their current roles in medicine. Are physicians leaving due to the facility or their clinical arrangements? These reasons are modifiable and can be altered by healthcare administrators to appease physicians to keep them from quitting medicine. Unhappy physicians should seek out new opportunities that align with their interests. Healthcare administrators focused on recruiting physicians should analyze how their facility and clinical arrangements can be tweaked to help retain physicians. Without changes and addressing these two areas of concern, physicians will continue to leave medicine as they develop other passions and careers.  

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