Job satisfaction, a clear career development path and work-life balance are key factors that prevent physicians and nurses from leaving their jobs, Project METEOR found in a literature review on this pressing challenge for healthcare managers.
The researchers reviewed articles on retention and turnover among hospital employees published over the last 10 years in three scientific literature databases: PubMed, Embase, and CINAHL. Their analysis focused on 37 articles concerning the European healthcare sector and identified six themes among determinants that affect the intention to change jobs: personal characteristics, job demands, employment services, working conditions, work relationships and organisational culture.
Even as demographic changes and a growing number of chronically ill patients are pushing up demand for healthcare around the world, hospitals are facing a lack of personnel. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016 the global shortage of doctors stood at 4.3 million, while in 2020 5.9 million nursing posts were vacant. The WHO predicts that by 2030 global unmet demand for healthcare workers will reach almost 14 million.
“The problem is growing, and the pandemic has made it even more obvious,” said Project METEOR researcher Peter de Winter from Spaarne Gasthuis, Haarlem and Hoofddorp. “Retaining people with education and experience is crucial. Any decision to change jobs is complex, so we wanted to understand what factors push nurses and doctors out, and what prompts them to stay.”
High turnover rates impact hospitals, patients and healthcare providers. Hospitals face higher recruiting costs, while frequent personnel changes reduce the quality of care, resulting in increased numbers of medical errors and higher mortality. High turnover also reduces productivity and can harm the morale of remaining employees, leading to further resignations.
The METEOR study shows that intentions to change jobs vary widely across countries and professions. For instance, more than 60% of Turkish nurses intend to leave their jobs, compared with 11.7% in Italy, 14% in Germany and 16.7% in Switzerland. Among physicians, the share that intend to leave was lowest in Switzerland at 14%, followed by Norway at 21%, Poland at 23% and Germany at 28%.
“The large number of medical staff that is thinking about quitting their jobs is worrying, but our research shows that it’s possible to reverse their thinking and convince them to stay,” said METEOR researcher Neeltje de Vries, an expert in nursing science. “We learned from our study that if hospital managers want to prevent nurses and doctors from quitting their jobs, they should take a closer look at job satisfaction, make sure that their work-life balance is secured and that they can see a clear career development path.”
de Vries N, Boone A, Godderis L, et al. The Race to Retain Healthcare Workers: A Systematic Review on Factors that Impact Retention of Nurses and Physicians in Hospitals. INQUIRY: The Journal of Health Care Organization, Provision, and Financing. 2023;60. doi:10.1177/00469580231159318 (open access).