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Top 5 Reasons Why Physicians are Leaving their Jobs in 2023: Based on a Survey of 1,639 Doctors

In an ever-evolving healthcare environment, many physicians face challenges that prompt them to reconsider their job roles. To uncover the truth, Physicianonfire conducted a survey from a private group of verified physicians in August 2023.

This survey aimed to uncover why physicians felt compelled to leave or change a job in 2023. Based on a survey of 1,639 physicians’ responses, we’ve compiled the top 5 reasons physicians are leaving their job positions.

While some of these findings are well documented, we wanted to understand how to work with the system to articulate the change we need, specifically around physician concerns for improved management and corporate relations.

 

Infographic
Image credit: www.physicianonfire.com

 

1. The Unrelenting Tide of Burnout

Based on our survey of 1,639 physicians, 59% of physicians quit their jobs due to feeling burned out.

Other independent research paints a similar picture, with about half of all American doctors acknowledging symptoms associated with burnout.

A revealing AMA survey highlighted that 56% of doctors under the age of 35 are unhappy with the current medical system. That said, it’s important to highlight that 83% of that group state they are committed to their jobs. Not only are physicians committed, but many are dedicated to seeking ways to improve medical care throughout the remaining years of their professions.

Still, burnout among physicians continues to rise among physicians of all ages. What is causing doctors to burn out?

The survey found that burnout can be attributed to 4 key reasons, including:

  • Not feeling valued at work
  • Cultural or management concerns
  • Lack of support for their well-being
  • Work-life balance does not match their needs
  • Long working hours

 

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Overwhelmed by Administrative Tasks

Physicians have expressed concern over the increasing administrative overhead since the rise of electronic health records (EHRs). Approximately one-third of doctors have indicated that they dedicate over 20 hours weekly to administrative duties. In other studies, physicians reported that they only spend 27% of their time with patients.

Though EHRs were designed to simplify data documentation and sharing, the reality has proven otherwise. For many doctors, paperwork stands as their primary grievance. A poll from Medical Economics showed that administrative overload, precisely paperwork, was the predominant reason for feelings of burnout among 31% of physicians.

These administrative tasks have resulted in physicians spending less time with their patients and more time completing administrative tasks.

An AMA found that physicians can spend up to two hours in the EHR for every hour they spend with a patient. Much of the frustration with physicians is that EHRs could be more user-friendly and are required to input excessive data, most of which is to support billing and not necessarily related to patient care.

 

Physician Support

Trust between physicians and administrators has frayed considerably. Doctors often can and do feel a complete lack of support from administrators who enforce rules without ever talking to the medical professionals on the front line.

Administrators rely on opinion surveys to determine how effective a physician is with a patient. As such, physicians don’t feel valued for their hard work and successful patients.

 

Excessive Working Hours

Most physicians can manage long working hours in the short term, but issues arise when excessive working hours become the norm in their working experience.

In a 2022 Medscape report, 34% of physicians attributed burnout to long working hours, and 39% reported that a more manageable work schedule would alleviate the feeling of burnout.

They also found that nearly half of physicians work more than 60 hours per week, significantly more than the standard 40 hours per week that most people work. Other studies indicate that 25% of physicians clock in between 61 and 80 hours weekly. This did not include any additional work that physicians performed online or at home for patient care.

There’s an emerging phenomenon called “Pajama time.” This refers to physicians’ additional hours at home catching up on paperwork. A staggering 50% of physicians, as per a Washington Post report, found themselves logging into their facility’s EHR outside of regular hours to complete patient documentation.  Such moments erode the very essence of work-life balance.

The aspiration for a harmonious work-life balance isn’t new, but its significance has escalated dramatically. From 2018 to 2022, the percentage of doctors who emphasized this balance as a prime factor when choosing a job increased from 63% to an astonishing 85%.

 

Statistics Highlighting the Disconnect

When delving into the core reasons behind dissatisfaction with administrative responses, especially during challenging times like the pandemic, physicians indicated:

  • Poor leadership: 42%
  • Inadequate employer support: 34%
  • Insufficient staffing: 27%

It’s worth noting that the stresses between physicians and their administration aren’t standalone issues. These internal conflicts ripple effect, influencing patient care and the broader healthcare environment. As administrators and physicians juggle differing priorities, the bond between doctors and their patients is inadvertently affected.

 

2. Physician Moral Injury

In a survey of 1,639 physicians, we found that 16% left their jobs due to moral injury and lack of autonomy.

The survey’s most common reasons for moral injury included.

  • Widespread corporate violations
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Insurance companies dictating care patterns.

 

But what is moral injury?

Moral injury occurs when a physician must consider other factors when determining a patient’s treatment rather than just their well-being.

In today’s healthcare landscape, which is becoming increasingly profit-centric and business-driven, physicians often find themselves weighing numerous factors beyond their patients’ well-being when determining the most appropriate treatment.

Doctors increasingly feel that the corporate administration’s focus leans more toward financial gains than genuine patient care. Physicians are often pressured to be more efficient and see more patients daily, making it difficult to serve patients well. Medical facilities are also often understaffed, which exacerbates the issue.

Balancing ethical principles in the face of such deeply conflicting motivations can be emotionally and morally draining.

What is causing physicians moral injury?

 

Lack of Autonomy at Work

Autonomy means self-governance or independence—something many physicians do not experience today. Many doctors do not feel like the captains of their ship. The ship is owned by bureaucrats, insurance companies, and hospital administrators.

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) summarized it best:

“There is worry among some professionals, in medicine and other health care fields, that an expectation for rigid adherence to guidelines will replace what was formerly considered the more elegant, artistic and satisfying aspects of medical practice.”

Instead of being free to distribute their clinical hours based on patient needs, healthcare professionals consistently face pressure to boost their productivity.

Every medical test and treatment they request is scrutinized and only moves forward if administrators and insurance companies first approve.

In other words, physicians are not just thinking about patient care but also the bottom line.

 

3. The Cost of Living / Inflation Concerns

We found that approximately 9% of physicians quit their last job due to cost of living or inflation concerns.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone living in the United States, with inflation rising faster than it has in decades.

From 2015-2022, the annual inflation rate did not surpass 2.5%, but in 2022, the annual inflation rate reached 8%. While inflation has decreased in 2023, as of August 2023, the average inflation rate was still above 4%.

Another standard measure of cost of living and inflation is the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). In 2023, the COLA was 8.7%, the highest adjustment in over 40 years.

People are moving and seeking a lower cost of living due to inflation, and it’s not just physicians.

A study of people moving in 2021 found that approximately 7% attributed it to cost of living concerns.

This is exacerbated by the significant disparity in the cost of living between different states.

Another reason physicians might be seeking a lower cost of living is that a higher cost of living does not always equate to higher physician salaries.

For example, a study conducted by Doximity on physician salaries found that the top 10 metro areas with the lowest compensation adjusted for cost of living were all located on the west or east coast. In contrast, those with the highest compensation adjusted for cost of living were located in the Midwest, Southwest, or Southeast.

In a separate study, they also found that the higher compensation cities tend to be mid-sized cities closer to rural areas.

Physicians are leveraging the location of where they work to find jobs that give them a higher purchasing power. This means that physicians can move to areas with a lower living cost while not experiencing a drop in compensation and even potentially higher compensation than before.

 

4. Corporate Advancement / Benefits

5% of respondents stated that their primary reason for leaving their job was for corporate advancement or because they were looking to improve their benefits.

Like many other professions, physicians often leave their current jobs for better positions or help them advance their careers. The first thing that comes to most people’s mind is choosing a position that gives you more responsibility and, ideally, a higher salary.

But, there are other forms of corporate advancement that physicians might leave their job. Career advancement can include leaving a job for a more challenging or rewarding position.

Likewise, this can also be a position that offers more opportunities for growth or a more direct path to a promotion.

Like many professions, physicians also commonly leave their jobs in search of better benefits.

Benefits can include a wide variety of aspects, including:

  • Paid Time Off
  • Sick leave
  • Retirement accounts/contribution matching
  • Medical insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Liability coverage
  • Student Loan Repayment
  • Catastrophic insurance coverage
  • Prepaid legal services
  • Wellness programs
  • Relocation benefits
  • Sabbatical

Physicians might choose a new position because it offers a more extensive benefits package, resulting in a higher compensation package. For example, physicians might quit their job for a position that provides more PTO and a student loan repayment program.

 

The Rise in Non-Clinical Job Opportunities

With burnout becoming a significant concern and administrative tasks increasing, physicians are increasingly exploring non-clinical roles. As of 2023, more doctors are moving into healthcare administration, tech, pharmaceuticals, and medical writing sectors.

The broader demand for medical expertise outside the clinical environment draws physicians into diverse roles. These opportunities offer a change in work dynamics and often come with a better work-life balance, reduced administrative burdens, and sometimes even better financial compensation.

“I became a hospital-based physician advisor, and it was the best decision ever,” says Valerie Ebert. “Better work-life balance and a lot more money. Plus, I got a great promotion and now co-lead my group 30. If I stayed a Peds Hospitalist, I would still be in [the] same position because other leaders are young at my hospital and likely will never leave.”

It’s clear that besides improved work-life balance, there is room for improved job satisfaction. This is an effective way to limit reasons for leaving job positions and keep burnout at bay while breathing new life into one’s role in the medical field.

 

5. Family Concerns

Based on our survey, 5% of physicians left their jobs due to family concerns. For physicians, family concerns caused them to leave their current jobs for three reasons.

  1. Not enough opportunities for spouses and children
  2. Not enough time for spouse and children
  3. Desire to be closer to family members

Family is an important aspect of most physicians’ lives. A survey conducted by Medscape found that 85% of male physicians and 72% of female physicians are married.

Most physicians are married or have children, so it is important to ensure their work environment and area are well-suited for their families and their families’ lives.

 

6. Others

All of the Above

6% of Physicians left their jobs for multiple reasons, and there wasn’t one single reason that caused them to leave.

Staying at their Job

Finally, 1% of physicians stated that they intend to stay in their current role and have been in it for an extended period. These 1% of physicians said they are happy with their current workplace and position and that there is no reason they would leave.

 

Conclusion

Our survey of 1,639 verified physicians found that 75% of physicians left their jobs due to burnout or moral injury. This phenomenon is well documented by countless other independent research. Doctor burnout and moral injury continue to rise among doctors of all ages and specialties.

A new emerging reason physicians are leaving their jobs has risen in the last several years. Rising inflation and the increasing cost of living has prompted 9% of physicians to leave their job in search of a higher purchasing power outside of where they currently live and work.

Finally, 10% of physicians attribute leaving their jobs to career advancement, benefits, or family concerns. As with any profession, physicians leave their jobs in search of better opportunities and for a better benefits package.

 

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In your opinion, what can healthcare organizations do to better support and retain physicians in light of these findings?

For those committed to staying in their current roles, what advice do you have for maintaining job satisfaction and avoiding burnout?

Considering the various reasons physicians are leaving their jobs, how can the medical community work together to create a more supportive and sustainable healthcare environment?

 

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13 thoughts on “Top 5 Reasons Why Physicians are Leaving their Jobs in 2023: Based on a Survey of 1,639 Doctors”

  1. It was so refreshing to read and keep seeing the word “physician “ throughout the article. A very positive note! However, in the demoralization of physicians you forgot to mention that we are now known as “ providers “ which I find insulting and very condescending. You left this out and shame on you!!

    Reply
  2. Subscribe to get more great content like this, an awesome spreadsheet, and more!
  3. Perhaps streamlining health insurance into one single payer system would help alleviate a lot of the BS billing and collecting paperwork that presently plagues the system. Right now, the CMS and AAMC limit the number of doctors. This limitation was created to keep doctors’ incomes high. It has unfortunately kept work hours high. The US needs more medical personnel.

    Reply
  4. This is a great and timely study. The root cause of all physicians’ burnout is that the BUSINESS model of health care is woefully wrong. Doctors were never meant to report to anyone except the patient. Anything that gets in between the doctor and his/her patient is morally wrong and reprehensible. Superior care cannot be expected. Even adequate care cannot be expected under the whims of those who have not bothered to enter medical school.
    We idiot physicians gave up our autonomy in this regard sometime in the 60’s with the advent of the infinitely wise government-controlled health care, principally via Medicare and Medicaid. It has not worked.
    Hospitals by and large are not run by physicians, yet physicians are expected to make all diagnostic and therapeutic decisions but with the administrative hammer over their head ready to crush it at any moment by individuals who do not know the business or practice of medicine. Of course they cannot. They are not physicians. The sooner America takes this to heart the better for our patients nationwide and beyond.
    Think about it. The political and economic powers in our country allow or even encourage ever more power to be consolidated in large conglomerate health systems that do not serve patients. This statement pertains to ALL political parties that wish to obtain power and money for control. It is the ages old elixir in any society that is in decline. It applies equally as well to medicine.
    Patients are not stupid. They just have no other options. No wonder there is such a high ‘burnout’ rate. Don’t get sick in America.

    Reply
    • Ain’t that the truth! Well said. Long Live the DPC model!
      And don’t forget about the moral injury of being exploited by the ABMS and MOC mandates!!

      Reply
  5. Marion McMillan’s post was on-the-money for the most part. Issue that concerns me if I may expand on this comment is that most of us will need healthcare one day. One can cut ties with the “Corporation” but the corporation remains as the entity that must be dealt with sooner or later. I already know that I will not receive the quality of healthcare I delivered to my patients. Is this KARMA Backfire? We let it get away from us and now we must pay the price unfortunate as that may be. Hello to all my old colleagues who have achieved success and yes to those who have not as well.Sydney Thompson was always a breath of fresh air. Frank Kagawa always a great friend. I believe he was well suited to publish in a Veterinary Journal based on his experience while practicing at SCVMA. I often wondered if I missed a turn and was actually training in Veterinary Medicine with the exception that the patients could talk. Love You All Louis Bergeron M.D. Elko

    Reply
  6. I am finally working in my ideal environment, a not for profit, continuum of care facility with hospital diversion, residential care, therapeutic school, OPD, and group home services for children 5-13 years old. It is a compassionate institution with the best trained staff I have ever worked with. I would not leave.

    The THORN in my side, which equates with Moral Hazard, is the interference by insurance companies, in particular MassHealth. I often have to fill out lengthy pre-authorizations for well accepted medications for children, such as Adderall for ADHD. In addition, the insurance requires this if the child is taking more than 4 medications. Seems reasonable, right?

    However, they count ALL the meds taken for the past 6-9 months. If a child is admitted from a hospital setting (frequent), and all their medications were changed, it looks like maybe they are taking 8 medications at a time. This despite the fact that the insurance companies could easily request the current medications at discharge. These same children then can’t get their meds on discharge (hospitals don’t have to get pre-auths). Of course, these are the MOST vulnerable children, often parentless and in protective services, with horrible abuse histories.

    So–Bottom line, stop dictating to MD’s and asking documentation to “Prove” that we are treating correctly. The documentation requests are equivalent to a medical student’s write-ups that residents proofread…

    Reply
  7. The common denominator is “Corporate”. Corporations are a cancer on the medical system. These doctors drank the kool-aid that you can sign up for slavery to a corporation, make a lot of easy money you really didn’t earn, and never have to “hassle” with your medical practice business life. I don’t know what they expected to happen when they gave control of their lives to a third party with no background or attachment to the professional practice of medicine they are lording over. Quite frankly, as a career independent physician with a satisfying career spanning 30 years, I don’t feel one scintilla of pity for them. Chalk it up to bad experience, bad advice, and “suck it up buttercup.” Get on with your life and get off the corporate teat.

    Reply
    • EMR were not designed to make Doctor’s work simpler. They are unpaid labor. They were designed as per George Bush ,senior, ex CIA head, to,track everything about US citizens.

      Reply

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