This post is the third of a four-part series on how to acquire and retain emergency medicine doctors. It discusses the importance of hospital leadership’s support and engagement to foster a positive practice environment and improve physician retention.

As recruiting and retaining ED physicians becomes increasingly competitive, it’s increasingly important that hospital leaders foster a healthy practice environment. When it comes to physician retention, practice environment is often cited as the most influential factor in a physician’s satisfaction at work. An EM physician is like any other professional: If he likes where he’s going to work each day, he’ll be less inclined to look elsewhere.

New opportunities will come calling, many with bigger paychecks and grander promises. While you can’t prevent that, you can ensure your ED physicians are working in the kind of practice environment they wouldn’t risk giving up, regardless of the perks being offered.

As outlined in our last post in this series, “The Role of the Medical Director in Physician Satisfaction,” supporting your medical director is the best way to positively contribute to a positive practice environment. Aside from the medical director, there are other factors you can impact to create a better practice environment. Namely, ensuring adequate coverage, engaging and empowering the team, and keeping communication lines open. Consider the questions below to identify opportunities to make a positive impact on physician retention.

Ensuring adequate coverage

  • Does the current provider-patient ratio allow your EM physicians to spend adequate time with patients, or are both patients and doctors feeling excessively rushed?
  • Is the current nursing and secretarial or department support adequate for all shifts?
  • If adding another physician isn’t affordable, is it feasible to add a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or a scribe to high-volume shifts?
  • Also, along with examining day-to-day operations and metrics, pull back and look at the big picture through a physician’s eyes as well.

 Engaging and empowering the ED team

  • Do your ED physicians feel valued?
  • Are they recognized for jobs well done as often as they receive suggestions for how to improve?
  • How are decisions made in the ED — by consensus or directive?
  • Are ED physicians granted a voice and an opportunity to share ideas and experience before you make decisions that affect them?
  • Is someone accountable for acknowledging or rewarding good physicians and working with or removing those who obstruct the harmony of the practice environment?

Keeping communication lines open

  • Are you checking in with ED physicians in-person to gauge their satisfaction?
  • Do you have an objective, non-supervisor in place (such as a scheduler) who frequently communicates with physicians? Are you leveraging that person to help make you aware when physicians or the practice environment are struggling?

Continue reading the series: