First physician job post-residency often a way station: survey

Timothy M. Smith , Contributing News Writer

For medicine to meet the needs of an ever-changing population, employers must understand what motivates physicians to work for them early on and also how motivations change along the career path.

AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians

After fighting for physicians during the pandemic, the AMA is taking on the next extraordinary challenge: Renewing the nation’s commitment to physicians.

Survey results from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and recruiting firm Jackson Physician Search has found a potentially troubling trend: Early career physicians are staying less than two years at their first jobs.

For the report, researchers analyzed data gathered online from more than 250 physicians and administrators detailing their views on the factors that most influence residents and fellows to accept and then remain in their first jobs.

“Our survey data found that currently practicing physicians of all ages spent about six years on average at their first jobs following residency or fellowship,” the report says. “But among physicians who finished residency or fellowship in the past six years, the average drops below two years spent in their first job before leaving, signaling a disconnect between organizations and beginning physicians and/or increasing willingness among today’s beginning physicians to leave their first job in short order.”

In fact, not even half, 45%, of administrators reported that they retained at least three-quarters of their beginning physicians after the first three years, and 5% reported that they hadn’t retained any.

While half of physicians in training rated pay as their greatest need in their first job, 35%, said the biggest factor in their leaving that first job was practice ownership or governance—not work-life balance or organizational culture.

The AMA has assembled a variety of resources to help physicians flourish in the employment setting, including a great collection to help you in understanding physician employment contracts.

Environment is long term

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So, what keeps physicians sticking around?

According to this survey, “there is a high correlation between practices where early career physicians stay for five or more years and practices where the administrators rank the organization highly for reputation, ownership/governance model, compensation and benefits.”

In addition, this change is taking place while society is undergoing unprecedented technological changes.

“The pressures of physician retirement and turnover will not ease soon, and top-performing organizations will recognize the need to look beyond that challenge,” the report says. As health care continues to incorporate augmented intelligence (AI), “it will be crucial to engage early careerists in these changes, as they have trained and come of age in the burgeoning new normal of AI and tech-assisted clinical support.”

Also, learn more about the AMA Young Physicians Section, which gives voice to, and advocates on, issues that affect physicians under 40 or within the first eight years of professional practice after their training as residents and fellows.