1 in 5 physicians, 2 in 5 nurses intend to leave practice within 2 years, AMA-led study finds

The healthcare workforce is on the brink of experiencing high staff turnover rates, indicative of what is being deemed the "Great Resignation," a new American Medical Association-led study suggests.

The study, published Dec. 15 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, examined relationships between COVID-19-related stress and work intentions, based on a survey conducted between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, among 20,665 workers at 124 hospitals and health systems.

Among survey respondents, one in five physicians and two in five nurses said they intend to leave their current practice within two years, the study found. Additionally, about one-third of physicians and nurses reported their intention to reduce clinical work hours in the next 12 months.

Intention to leave an individual's practice within two years was highest among nurses, advanced practice providers, other clinical staff and physicians. It was lowest among administrators.

Intention to reduce hours within 12 months was highest among physicians, nurses and advanced practice providers.

Higher levels of burnout, stress, workload, fear of infection, COVID-19-related anxiety or depression, and the number of years in practice were among factors associated with a greater intention to reduce work hours or leave a practice, according to the study.

"Because multiple studies have demonstrated that intent to leave among physicians correlates with actual departures, these findings are of concern," the study stated. "Costs of replacing healthcare workers are also substantial. Replacing a nurse may cost up to 1.2 to 1.3 times their annual salary. Replacing physicians may cost $250,000 to more than $1 million per physician. The aggregate cost of physicians reducing or cutting back attributable to burnout alone is estimated at $4.6 billion annually in the United States."

The American Medical Association said feeling highly valued by an individual's organization was strongly associated with lower intention to reduce work hours and leave an individual's current practice. 

Study authors concluded that "reducing burnout and improving a sense of feeling valued may allow healthcare organizations to better maintain their workforces post-pandemic."

Read the full study here

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