This post is the second of a four-part series on how to acquire and retain emergency medicine doctors. The first post in the series outlined initial steps hospitals should take to acquire and keep the best clinicians. This, the second installation in the series, discusses the importance of ongoing retention efforts and the vital role the ED medical director plays in the process.

Recruiting outstanding, well-aligned physicians to your hospital’s emergency department is one thing; keeping them is another. As long as the number of opportunities across the U.S. outweighs the number of EM physicians, your EM team will continue to receive calls about other opportunities throughout their tenure.

While you can't prevent the calls, you can give your doctors enough reasons to stay so that leaving isn't something they would seriously consider. As such, hospital administrators, along with the ED leadership team, must put as much priority on retaining top-tier talent as they do in recruiting them.

The tie between medical director leadership and physician retention

Your ED medical director bears the greatest responsibility for the success of the emergency department, not only operationally and financially but also regarding the quality of care and patient satisfaction.

Because of the intense focus these areas demand, it's possible for medical directors to lose sight of the linchpin that makes success in these areas possible: the physicians themselves.

For emergency medicine physicians to work safely and efficiently, and deliver excellent, patient-centered care they must have a medical director who can lead effectively — someone who can combine broad vision with strong clinical, managerial, and interpersonal skills.

Is your medical director up to the task?

In evaluating your ED medical director’s leadership ability, you should look not only at the individual but also at the overall flow and harmony of the emergency department.

Consider these questions:

  • Operationally, does your ED have reasonable throughput and wait times?
  • Does the medical director monitor operational and financial metrics, champion improvements, and motivate the team as a whole?
  • Does he/she help develop and implement protocols that support good patient care and a well-oiled practice environment?
  • Do complaints arise from patients, physicians, or the nursing staff?
  • Does he/she instill a sense of collaborative practice within the ED and extend it to other groups and specialists?

Ideally, you want an ED medical director who can create and maintain the kind of environment that is as beneficial for physicians as it is for patients.

Supporting your ED medical director

Before making a judgment call, consider the caliber of your support by asking these questions:

  • Are you providing your medical director with the tools and metrics they need to skillfully monitor and guide the day-to-day operations and performance of your ED and its physicians?
  • Are you giving them access to ED-specific leadership training?
  • What about ongoing education and training opportunities to advance their practice of medicine and ED management skills?
  • To whom are they accountable?
  • Who is guiding your ED medical director?

Regarding the last question, it should be someone with both clinical and management experience in emergency medicine, who can mentor your medical director in the leadership of a cohesive EM physician team and high functioning emergency department.

Because administrators, particularly the medical director, ultimately bear the burden of ensuring their hospital’s ED is stable, and a true asset to the hospital and its community, it is vital they invest in a retention plan that is on par with recruitment.

To that end, ensure you provide plenty of support for your medical director and create a stable practice environment that any doctor would be happy to work in long-term.

Continue reading the series: