While money is the key driver for GPs leaving a job, lifestyle factors and the type of practice ownership also play significant roles, a recent Australian Doctor survey of over 500 GPs has found.
Like many people, GPs are seeking more income – more than a third of those surveyed said an increase in salary was the reason they changed jobs, and only 10% said they were “completely satisfied” with their remuneration package.
While “wanting an increase in pay / salary” was top of the list for both corporate and non-corporate practices, the need for a bigger wage was most keenly felt by those in corporate practice: over 40% cited remuneration as the key reason to change jobs.
Many GPs felt they were unrewarded for the amount of effort and responsibility that come with the job.
“I feel remuneration for doctors-in-training and GPs in general is far below its value, considering the study, sacrifices and training it takes to do a good job. Our salary is comparable to many other industries where the demands and responsibilities of the job are far less,” said one GP.
Percentages alone aren’t enough to entice some GPs. One GP from the Central Coast in NSW commented: “People get caught up in the percentage of income but coming to a job with an established patient list is the top priority, or joining a clinic that has a potential for establishing a patient list promptly is key. If I leave a job to get 5% more share of income, it’s irrelevant if I don’t have a patient base. Remember, 70% of 0 is 0. If a recruitment ad mentions a doctor leaving a practice due to retirement so I would inherit a full list, that’s appealing. There’s no guarantee that the existing patients will stay with you, but any practice that mentions its books are closed to new patients because they’re at capacity will be tempting.”
About 23% of those surveyed said they changed jobs because they relocated to a different area. Nearly a third said they changed jobs because the new role was in a better location, either closer to home or more convenient to transport.
Convenience of location was particularly important to younger doctors, with nearly 43% of those aged 25–34 citing location as a key reason to change jobs.
For the Central Coast GP, location is a critical factor in deciding to switch jobs: “If you move to an affluent area, where bulk billing isn’t necessarily expected, you could earn more and see fewer patients. So instead of working a 10-hour day, you could work a 5–6 hour day and earn the equivalent income. Of course, you have to factor in your own higher living costs – even if you’re earning more, higher housing costs or school fees might affect your overall profit.”
While doctors aged 55–64 were more focused on salary and other retirement-related factors, location and flexibility were more important for younger doctors.
Less than 8% of 55–64 year olds cited lack of flexibility as their reason to change jobs, compared with over 22% for those aged 25–34.
One GP said they were “looking for a job in a private billing centre where there is a balance between professional life and my lifestyle”.
More than 22% of respondents said a family-friendly approach enticed them to a new position. No on-call, after hours or weekend shifts were seen as attractive job perks, particularly for female GPs – more than a third of women GPs aged 25–34 wanted a family-friendly workplace.
For recruiters, putting flexibility in an ad is worthwhile but it’s also helpful to check what’s appealing to each candidate, say some GPs: “Some recruitment ads say ‘no on-call work’ or ‘no weekend work’ and for many people that would be a drawcard. But others may prefer to earn a higher percentage for working at the weekends or after hours. I don’t mind working on weekends because I only do private billing then, so I can earn more than I do during the week where the majority of patients are bulk-billed.”
4. Personal values
Aligning the workplace with personal values and receiving support and recognition were all much higher areas of concern for GPs in corporate-owned practices than non-corporates.
More than 23% of GPs in corporate practice said their key reason to change jobs was because “my personal values don’t align with those of the organisation” compared with just over 14% for those in privately owned practices.
More than 22% of GPs in corporates said they didn’t feel recognised for their contribution compared with just over 15% of GPs in non-corporate practices.
What’s less of an incentive?
1. Starting a new practice
Only about 10% of those surveyed said they left a current job to become a partner or start their own practice.
The Central Coast GP said: “Starting your own practice is currently high risk, and recruitment is a key concern with the loss of DPA status for most of the Central Coast. I took all the steps to start my own practice, right down to council approvals. Then I reconsidered and decided to stay put. The last thing I wanted was to start a four-person clinic and then be left on my own because I couldn’t recruit the other three GPs.”
2. Job security is not a concern
Job security was less of a concern than might be expected. Less than 5% said they moved because the organisation they were working for was struggling and may not survive, and only 0.8% had been made redundant from their previous job.
One GP said: “There is such a shortage of GPs that it’s an employee’s market. Practices face big problems filling vacancies, especially in rural areas.”
So when you’re crafting your next recruitment ad, remember to consider some key factors:
- What’s your remuneration package? Do you offer high a billing percentage or a guaranteed hourly rate?
- Is the role full-time or part-time?
- What’s great about your location?
- Can you offer an established patient list?
- What’s your approach to weekend, after-hours or on-call work?
- How flexible are you in helping employees balance work and life?
Reference: Annual Australian Doctor & AusDoc.JOBS Job Seeker Study, Feb–April 2021.