Burnout remains a driving factor in growing physician shortage crisis

The report showed that urology was among the physician positions least likely to be filled.

The physician shortage crisis has left organizations searching for more physicians than ever before and burnout continues to drive physicians from their jobs.

A report from the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment found that 48% of physician searches in 2021 were to replace departing physicians, and 33% of physicians cited burnout as the reason for leaving.

“These two data points surrounding burnout and departing physicians illustrate a challenging industry cycle,” said Carey Goryl, CEO of AAPPR, in a statement. “Physicians depart, whether to alleviate feelings of burnout or for greater compensation and recruitment teams may be in a perpetual search for a replacement. Every day a provider position remains open, is lost patient care and revenue. Although time to fill has decreased for some specialties, it can still take recruitment and onboarding teams nearly a year to fill an open position and complete the required credentialing process for the new physician, adding stress for remaining physicians and continuing the cycle of burnout.”

The AAPPR notes that after a physician candidate signs, they must complete three or more months of credentialling before actually starting in their new position. This means organizations can suffer from a lack of staff for up to a year while recruiters work to fill a single open position, increasing the risk of turnover. AAPPR is seeing a growing number of health care organizations rely on PAs and NPs because there are more candidates, and credentialing is faster.

Other notable report findings include:

  • Organizations increased their physician and advanced practice provider searches in 2021 and, as a result, grew their internal recruitment department size.
  • As demand for physicians remains high, the percentage of searches filled during 2021 decreased for a fourth straight year.
  • As in past years, primary care specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, and hospital medicine physicians are the most sought-after specialties, making them among the most competitive positions to fill.
  • Physician positions least likely to be filled in 2021 included Otorhinolaryngology, Dermatology and Urology.
  • Nearly half of all physician searches in 2021 were to replace a departing physician. This rate has been steadily increasing and has climbed 16 percentage points since 2018.
  • The percentage of provider searches still open at year-end vaulted in 2021, reaching 47% for physicians and 32% for APPs.
  • For the fourth straight year, departments have tried to manage their costs by decreasing their budgets. Departments relied more on their internal recruitment team as a result.
  • Advanced practice provider turnover increased to a six-year high 10% in 2021.