Rules of Engagement: New Survey Reveals Drivers of Physician Engagement and a Disconnect with Administration

Posted on January 8, 2015

Survey identifies what physicians believe is most important to their sense of engagement and gaps between their ideal and perceived reality

MINNEAPOLIS (Jan. 8, 2014) – A new Physician Wellness Services and Cejka Search survey on physician engagement released today confirms that not only is engagement very important to physicians, it also is a key driver of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their jobs and their organizations, and it clearly influences their decisions to accept or leave a job. The survey also reveals sizable gaps between what is important to physicians to feel engaged and what they perceive they are experiencing in their current practices.

“Physician engagement has become increasingly urgent for healthcare organizations, yet it is a term that is too broad to be meaningful,” said Mitchell Best, Physician Wellness Services CEO.  “The survey’s objective was to gain a better understanding of and quantify what physician engagement really means to physicians, what they are looking for and actually experiencing, and where there are gaps.  The survey results substantiate areas where healthcare organizations can and must take action to address physician engagement issues in order increase job satisfaction, improve retention and recruitment, and compete with leading healthcare organizations.”

A companion study of healthcare administrators found that theyessentially understand which specific elements are important to physicians’ feelings of engagement, but they tend to overstate how well their organizations provide what physicians want.

“When physicians do not feel engaged, they may leave their jobs or reject employment opportunities with organizations that don’t meet their expectations for engagement,” explained Lori Schutte, MBA, Cejka Search President.  “The resulting turnover and prolonged vacancies are key cost drivers that can run as high as $100,000 per month when all costs and lost revenue are considered.”


What is Important to Physicians?
Focusing on 15 elements of engagement that Physician Wellness Services and Cejka Search identified through research and their practice experience to be most meaningful to physicians, and that healthcare organizations can work to control, the survey examines:

  • How important the different elements are to making physicians feel engaged
  • The degree to which physicians feel their current practices embody or deliver upon those elements
  • Physicians’ sense of engagement with their work and their organization, how it has changed over time, and how it impacts their job satisfaction
  • The degree to which engagement has driven physicians’ decisions around joining an organization or leaving it

Physicians generally felt that all 15 of the elements of engagement were important, scoring them in the top quartile.  The top-ranked elements to physicians were:

  • Respect for my competency and skills
  • Feeling that my opinions and ideas are valued
  • Good relationships with my physician colleagues
  • Good work/life balance
  • A voice in how my time is structured and used

However, they gave universally lower marks for how well they felt these elements were true of their current practices. The largest gaps were seen with these elements:

  • Feeling that my opinions and ideas are valued
  • A voice in clinical operations and processes
  • A voice in how my time is structured and used
  • Fair compensation for my work
  • Good work/life balance

Overall, the largest gaps were between the ideal—a score of 10 based on a 10-point Likert scale—and physicians’ feelings around what their organizations actually provide.  These varied from 2.0 to 4.2 points, indicating considerable room for improvement for healthcare organizations to provide what physicians need to feel more engaged.


Engaged With Their Work, but Not With Their Organizations
Nearly two-thirds (64.2 percent) of respondents scored in the high range (8-10) regarding their feelings of engagement with their work, but less than half (41.5 percent) scored similarly for their sense of engagement with their organization.

Dr. Daniel J. Whitlock, MBA, a Physician Wellness Services consulting physician, notes, “Many physicians gain a sense of satisfaction from their individual encounters with patients and colleagues despite what the organization provides—or doesn’t provide—in other areas.  It’s possible for physicians to feel meaning and engagement without having a particular affection for the system.  Instead of grousing about physicians, administrators need to think creatively about how to engage these very physicians.  Otherwise, it is an opportunity wasted at a time when the physician shortage is looming.”

One survey respondent commented: “Many hospital administrators seem to think they can demand engagement.  In my experience it is a function of mutual respect, good communication and a mission that at its heart supports good patient care.  No substitutes exist.”

The survey showed that physicians’ feelings of engagement were not increasing at an appreciable rate compared to three years previously, with a lukewarm average score of 6.1 showing that the scale was barely tipping toward more engagement.

The survey results also showed that feelings of engagement—or a lack thereof—was a significant factor in well over half of physicians’ decisions around accepting a practice opportunity or leaving an existing practice.

Dr. Robert M. Stark, a consulting physician for Physician Wellness Services, commented, “Administrators need to understand that engagement is won, not demanded.  And, physician leaders need to join with administrators to create an attractive practice environment for physicians.”


About the Survey
The surveys were conducted in September 2013 using confidential online survey instruments.  The nationwide, multi-specialty survey sample of 1,666 physicians represented a 99 percent confidence level with a +/- 3 percent margin of error against the national active physician population.

For more information on the physician engagement study, please visit


About Physician Wellness Services
With providers in every major city and wide-ranging expertise in every aspect of behavioral health, Physician Wellness Services is the only company today that gives doctors and healthcare organizations easy access to the help they need, whenever, however and wherever they prefer. Their comprehensive, end-to-end solution includes: The Physician EAPPhysician Intervention Services, and Training & Consulting. For more information visit:

About Cejka Search
Cejka Search,, is a nationally recognized physician and allied health and healthcare executive search firm providing services exclusively to the healthcare industry for more than 30 years. Cejka Search recruits top healthcare talent for organizations nationwide through our team of experienced professionals, award-winning recruitment technology and commitment to service excellence. Cejka Search is a Cross Country Healthcare, Inc. (Nasdaq: CCRN) company, a leading provider of healthcare staffing services in the United States.