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Retention of doctors in emergency medicine: a scoping review of the academic literature

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/09/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Emergency Medicine Journal
Issue number9
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)663-672
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date3/06/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Introduction Workforce issues prevail across healthcare; in emergency medicine (EM), previous work improved retention, but the staffing problem changed rather than improved. More experienced doctors provide higher quality and more cost-effective care, and turnover of these physicians is expensive. Research focusing on staff retention is an urgent priority.

Methods This study is a scoping review of the academic literature relating to the retention of doctors in EM and describes current evidence about sustainable careers (focusing on factors influencing retention), as well as interventions to improve retention. The established and rigorous JBI scoping review methodology was followed. The data sources searched were MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane, HMIC and PsycINFO, with papers published up to April 2020 included. Broad eligibility criteria were used to identify papers about retention or related terms, including turnover, sustainability, exodus, intention to quit and attrition, whose population included emergency physicians within the setting of the ED. Papers which solely measured the rate of one of these concepts were excluded.

Results Eighteen papers met the inclusion criteria. Multiple factors were identified as linked with retention, including perceptions about teamwork, excessive workloads, working conditions, errors, teaching and education, portfolio careers, physical and emotional strain, stress, burnout, debt, income, work–life balance and antisocial working patterns. Definitions of key terms were used inconsistently. No factors clearly dominated; studies of correlation between factors were common. There were minimal research reporting interventions.

Conclusion Many factors have been linked to retention of doctors in EM, but the research lacks an appreciation of the complexity inherent in career decision-making. A broad approach, addressing multiple factors rather than focusing on single factors, may prove more informative.