Stress May Affect Physician Retention


Clinician executives who want to relieve stressed-out physicians, and perhaps help stave off doctors leaving the profession, can start by encouraging the recruitment of nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and other ancillary caregivers, according to a survey by Cejka Search and Physician Wellness Services (PWS), a company that helps doctors manage stress.

“Physicians surveyed indicated that of the organization-supported services which they felt might help them more effectively deal with stress and burnout, the top choice by far was ‘ancillary support,’ by 63 percent,” says the “Physician Stress and Burnout Survey.” Such support can help doctors “deal with their top three work-related stress factors: paperwork and administrative tasks (39.8 percent), too many hours of work (33.3 percent), and on-call schedules and expectations (26.2 percent). In addition, it frees them up to provide more time with and to see more patients.”

Lori Schutte, Cejka Search president, says that “the survey underscores the need for organizations to recognize physicians’ stress and take action to improve retention.”

Perhaps help is on the way. A recent study in Health Affairs says that the number of young registered nurses increased 62 percent from 102,000 in 2002 to 165,000 in 2009, the highest growth rate since the 1970s.

Sixty-three percent of respondents in the study by Cejka and PWS say that their stress increased moderately or dramatically in the past three years.

There is something else clinician executives should be mindful of. “Since 2005, the part-time physician workforce has grown by 62 percent,” says the survey. “This trend tracks with the change in profile in today’s medical workforce, in which the two fastest-growing segments are female physicians entering practice and male physicians approaching retirement.”

The survey was conducted in September 2011. More than 2,000 physicians throughout the nation participated.

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