5 Tips for a Well-Defined Onboarding Program (That Will Make Physicians Want to Stay)

Posted by Doximity TF Team

104895063_sRecruiting goes hand-in-hand with physician retention, but what really works to convince doctors to stay? Offering compelling benefits and ensuring your organization (or the one you’re recruiting for) has a curriculum for addressing physician burnout are two ways to increase physician retention; however, the key to keeping physicians happy long-term starts with the onboarding process.

Dr. Jessica (Pappas) Bland, DNP, ACHPN, BSBA, who specializes in palliative care, joined Landmark Health in 2020 and was impressed by their onboarding program out of the gate. “I was highly impressed with the time they took to focus on educating employees on the Landmark mission, vision, and values,” says Bland. “Other companies may briefly go over these things, but at Landmark, it’s continuously the main focus. They took time to make sure we completely understood how to do our jobs. I had a really strong foundation before I started my role,” Bland says. Now it’s her turn: Bland is training and mentoring new Landmark providers and says, “It’s exciting when I am able to watch it click for them. Giving them the confidence to do their job well is so rewarding.”

Regrettably, only 1 in 3 physicians says they received any formal orientation when they joined their employer (per a recent study from Jackson Physician Search). What’s more, nearly 70 percent of those physicians say they are actively disengaged from their employers (per the same report). Something that’s shocking when you consider the loss of revenue a single physician vacancy can easily cost a healthcare organization $1 million in lost revenue and cost. 

“Recruiting a culturally-aligned physician can take up to 6-12 months and cost $250,000 or more – including sourcing, relocation, and sign-on bonus – greater emphasis on retaining physicians is key to meeting Americans’ healthcare needs now and into the future,” said Jackson Physician Search President Tony Stajduhar. “The burnout physicians feel today is only exacerbated by long-standing doctor shortages and the perception by physicians that healthcare facilities rarely have a plan in place to retain them.”

A successful onboarding program should go beyond enculturation and education, according to Landmark Health. Framing it can be a lengthy process, but when you compare that to the time to recruit and hire physicians (and the cost to your facility when you lose a physician), it’s a task that’s more than worthwhile.

Onboarding can set the tone for a physician's entire experience and gives you a strong foundation for engagement and retention, so it’s important to get it right. Here are some tips for onboarding physicians: 

  1. Make onboarding a team effort. The best physicians are great at working with their team, and onboarding as a team shows your organization works together as one. 
  2. Take time to educate physicians about your organization’s mission, vision, and values. It will help build a strong foundation before they begin their new role. 
  3. Don’t dampen a new physician’s enthusiasm right off the bat with overwhelming compliance issues and paperwork. New recruits have a sense of “being the star” during recruiting, and you don’t want them to feel like another cog in the wheel.
  4. Try pre-boarding new physicians by giving them a separate time to complete paperwork. This makes the onboarding process more employee-friendly and ensures their first days are spent engaging with their team, which sets the stage for ongoing success. 
  5. Monitor engagement at your organization and continuously make adjustments. Engagement tends to slip after three to five years in a position, which is when many physicians start looking for new opportunities. 

A well-defined onboarding program can ensure new physicians understand requirements completely, know the mission, overall goals, and organizational culture of your hospital or healthcare organization, and ensure their expectations are in alignment with yours right from the start. Are you setting clear expectations up front? Learn more with our 10 tips for setting realistic expectations with physician candidates. 

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Topics: physician retention, physician recruiting tips, onboarding programs

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