Is Physician Turnover a Result of Too Much Choice?

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By: Allison McCarthy, MBA

Could it really be that we are our own worst enemies?  That we encourage physician turnover by offering so much practice choice for physicians?

Given the multitudes of offerings in nearly every inch of the country and beyond, we believe recruited physicians select an opportunity because they have determined that offering best meets their personal and professional needs.

But is that really the case?  Or is something else at play?   I recently read an article by Barry Schwartz – highlighting key points made in his book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.  He suggests there is a downside to choice.  If a physician chooses practice opportunity “A” – he/she loses out on the potential experience gained through option “B”.

I recently heard a final year resident go through this thought process as he considered a practice option in an academic setting versus one in a large single specialty private practice.  Going one direction would bring the notoriety of doing cutting-edge research.  But the other option of building a strong clinical practice coupled with solid patient/community relationships and a financially lucrative situation for his family couldn’t be ignored.  And both options were available in his desired geographic region.  Will it be that no matter which one he selects he will have some regrets……always yearning for what could have been?

So as an industry are we shooting ourselves in the foot?  By creating this “field of plenty”, are we setting the stage for disappointment……and then turnover?  It certainly means our messaging work continues long after the contract is signed.  We must continue to remind them that they made the right decision (in both actions and words) to keep their attention away from the “regret” syndrome.

Limiting choice is just not likely to make happen.  But we can more carefully manage its downside.

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