Project METEOR offers tips on preventing doctors and nurses from quitting their jobs

The European healthcare sector is grappling with an alarming workforce shortage, prompting urgent calls for strategies to retain existing staff. To address the outflow of workers, researchers from the EU-funded Project METEOR offer practical solutions that hospital managers and policymakers can implement across four key areas: personal and professional development; education; finance; and regulatory measures.

The METEOR study revealed that 17% of physicians and 9% of nurses have expressed an intention to leave their current hospital, while 9% of physicians and 14% of nurses intended to leave the healthcare profession. Healthcare workers also pointed out factors that influence their decisions, with low job satisfaction, growing depersonalisation, and emotional exhaustion playing a key role.

“We tend to think that to keep healthcare staff we need to pay them more, but while money is an important factor, it’s not always sufficient,” says Anke Boone, a METEOR researcher from KU Leuven. “We found, for instance, that what matters for physicians and nurses is professional and personal support that they can get from their employer. And to improve this, we need to introduce changes on the organisational level.”

The METEOR team conducted workshops with physicians, nurses, health assistants, hospital management, and policymakers to gain in-depth insights into what can be done to prevent the outflow of physicians and nurses from hospitals in Europe. While the research primarily focused on Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland, many recommendations are universal and applicable in other countries while taking into account country- and hospital-specific factors.

“We used this bottom-up approach and asked practitioners what is not working in their hospitals and what can be done to fix it,” says Lode Godderis, Professor from KU Leuven “The area that was most often indicated as relevant to increase job satisfaction was professional and personal support.”

In response to this finding, and based on input from stakeholders, METEOR researchers recommend a wide range of interventions that could be beneficial to improve job retention. For instance, introducing regular interdisciplinary team meetings. Such meetings can help solve conflicts, offer opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing, and enhance teamwork. As result they improve the work experience. Another solution often suggested by respondents is leadership training programmes. Such programmes can help healthcare workers, who are experts in their clinical field, improve their managerial skills, which will translate into better division of tasks and teamwork.

Education is another area important for addressing job retention. METEOR researchers recommend for example introducing of periodic technical training, such as scenario training related to medical procedures, as well as programmes for developing soft skills, communication, and time management. Hospitals also need to invest in onboarding and mentorship programmes. Effective instruction, training, and guidance during the initial career phase are particularly important for the younger generation.

Regarding financial matters, METEOR researchers suggest better allocation of resources. Insight from respondents indicates that competitive and fair salary structures are very important for healthcare workers. Decision-makers should also ensure adequate investments in infrastructure. This means providing sufficient professional tools and medical equipment to perform tasks, investment in decent computers and technology, and upgrading hospital buildings.

In the regulatory field, healthcare professionals call for the introduction of a fixed worker-to-patient ratio. This could help solve the problem of staff shortages and ensure that doctors, nurses, and other staff have a reasonable amount of work and can provide adequate patient care. Many respondents also mentioned the need for instruments to monitor workloads.

“The retention of healthcare workers can be improved by the implementation of a comprehensive approach that combines professional and personal support, educational interventions, financial provisions, and regulatory enhancements,” says Olivia Lavreysen, another METEOR research from KU Leuven.

The Policy Brief with the full list of recommendations can be found here: