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By Nisha Mehta, MD, a physician leader whose work focuses on physician empowerment, community building, and career longevity in medicine
Statistically, the majority of physicians will change jobs within their first five years out of training. Additionally — even at later stages of physician careers — an increasing percentage of the physician population considering changes in their career. Physician turnover is an often talked about issue amongst hospital administrators and practice owners.
Why is this? Well, part of it has to do with the challenges associated with being a physician in the current health care landscape. My father, a cardiologist, spent four decades of his career with the same group. Many of his friends can say the same. On the other hand, I know a far lower percentage of colleagues who could say with confidence that they see themselves with the same group for the remainder of their careers. Aside from practical drivers of physician turnover, such as a desire to be closer to family or a change in the job of a significant other, many are finding their workplaces increasingly challenging. As consolidation within the health care space increases, physician demographics change, and the pressure to do more with less increases, more physicians find themselves asking if their situation is sustainable.
We all have aspects of our jobs that are pain points, and the expectation that any job will be perfect is unrealistic. How do you know you’re not just trading one set of pain points for another — which in a worst case scenario, is potentially worse elsewhere?
When considering a job change, I always recommend writing down the pain points at your current job, delineating which ones are dealbreakers, and which ones could potentially be changed if discussed openly with the employer. If you are planning on leaving anyways, it’s advisable to first see if the current situation can be fixed. Although these conversations can be uncomfortable, ultimately if you’re planning on leaving regardless, it may be that there’s little to lose in trying. Similarly, ensuring that these same pain points are not present at the new job is prudent.
Factors such as salary, flexibility in work hours, opportunities for growth or promotion, dissatisfaction with the current job environment and the direction a company is going in, burnout, or other non-salary aspects of the compensation package are all examples of things that lead to job turnover that could potentially be negotiated with the current employer.
There are other factors which many see as writing on the wall that a change is inevitable. Sometimes these can be related to changes in ownership or management structure of a group, a confirmed trend towards cutting physician compensation or hiring patterns which suggest the physician’s time at the job is limited, or administrative mandates that have been challenged and upheld which leave the physician with the conclusion that they can’t practice medicine in a way that they enjoy or feel is best for the patient.
Many people stay with jobs out of comfort or fear of change. Unfortunately, this leads to burnout, and ultimately is a threat to career longevity. If you’re feeling unhappy with your job, it’s time to either advocate for change within your current position, or consider other options.