Stop Blaming Wages for Medical Staff Turnover

Medical staff turnover is rampant, but it doesn’t have to be if we start listening to our new employees BEFORE their exit interviews.

I recently heard a case study from a large academic medical center about their Medical Assistants (MAs) leaving at an alarming rate. They reported over 40% had left within the first 90 days and over 60% within the first year. While it is tempting to blame wages, keep in mind that all the new hires knew the wage before taking the job.

Wages make a convenient scapegoat. It is easier to blame wages than to drill down and lay bare the real reasons people leave. Why? Because knowing and acting on the truth would mean disrupting the status quo.

In this case study, leaders found that their lousy orientation wasn’t building confidence or competence in new hires. Who wants to be the new kid on the block who doesn’t know what to do or how to do it? Secondly, MAs didn’t feel cared about or connected to the organization’s mission, vision, values, and purpose. I could cite dozens of studies that clearly show that all three of these are strongly correlated to employee engagement.

Before Blaming Wages for Medical Staff Turnover

Ask yourself the following questions before blaming wages for turnover:

What culture are new employees joining?

  • You may say, “We’re a family,” but how are new employees welcomed? Is someone assigned to be their onboarding partner or preceptor? Are they invited to have lunch with others?
  • Does the leader check in multiple times in the first 2-4 weeks to identify concerns and what is going well? I routinely hear leaders do 30, 60, and 90-day checks, but waiting 30 days may be too late.
  • How are they introduced to staff and providers?
  • Is onboarding done in small bites or like sipping from a firehose? Spoiler alert: most people do better with small bites.

What is your orientation, onboarding & assimilation process?

  • There are major differences between the three above terms, and they are all vital in retention. How do you define each and measure results for each? A Starbucks barista has over 40 hours of training before preparing their first drink. Even then, they don’t fly solo. How do you compare?

How do you develop your new hire?

  • What skills do they want to acquire in their new role? Ask this question and create a development opportunity with support from you and other team members.
  • How do they learn best? One size does not fit all. Think human-centered approach.

When people feel valued, welcomed, and encouraged, they are far more likely to be loyal to your organization. Make it a culture they aren’t willing to leave for 50 cents more per hour.  

Interested in honing your process to onboard and engage your staff? Our 8-week leadership course, Be The Leader Nobody Wants to Leave, is enrolling now. Learn more here, or schedule a free 30-minute consultation here.

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