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Open Access Research

A qualitative study of factors influencing different generations of Newfoundland and Saskatchewan trained physicians to leave a work location

Maria Mathews1*, Maureen Seguin2, Nurun Chowdhury3 and Robert T Card4

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Community Health & Humanities, Health Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Rm 2837, St. John’s, NL, A1B 3 V6, Canada

2 Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, Royal University Hospital, Room 2610, 103 Hospital Drive, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 0 W8, Canada

3 Division of Community Health & Humanities, Health Sciences Centre, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Rm 2847a, St. John’s, NL, A1B 3 V6, Canada

4 Division of Hematology, Department of Medicine, Royal University Hospital, Room 2610, 103 Hospital Drive, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 0 W8, Canada

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Human Resources for Health 2012, 10:18  doi:10.1186/1478-4491-10-18

Published: 25 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Some studies have suggested that young physicians may have different expectations and practice behaviours than their older generational counterparts, including their reasons for wanting to remain or leave a community. This study examined the factors associated with a physician’s decision to leave a work location. We compared different generations of physicians to assess whether these factors have changed over generations.

Methods

We conducted semi-structured, qualitative interviews with 48 physicians who graduated from two Canadian medical schools. We asked each physician about the number and nature of work location changes and the factors related to their decisions to leave each location. Interview transcripts and notes were analysed using a thematic analysis approach.

Results

Dissatisfaction with the working environment was the most frequently cited reason for leaving a location for physicians of all generations. Elements which contributed to the quality of the work environment included the collaborative nature of the practice, the relationship with administrators, and access to resources and personnel. For younger physicians, the work environment had to meet their personal expectations for work-life balance. While remuneration level was given by some physicians as the key reason for leaving a location, for others it was the “last straw” if the work environment was poor. A small number of older generation physicians moved in response to political events and/or policies

Conclusions

We documented generational differences in physicians’ reasons for choosing a work location. We found that a poor work environment was universally the most important reason why a physician chose to leave a location. A few physicians who were unsatisfied with their work location identified level of remuneration as an additional reason for leaving. Some older generation physicians cited political climate as a reason for leaving a work location. While economic factors have largely been the focus of recruitment and retention initiatives, our findings highlight the importance of the work environment and organizational culture on the retention of physicians of all generations.

Keywords:
Generations; Physician supply; Retention; Turnover; Qualitative