Sign In




Remember me on this computer.
Forgot your password? Click here.

Recruitment and Retention Strategies for Mental Health Professionals

By some estimates, psychiatrist shortages are north of 40,000 physicians, more than currently practice in the United States. The shortage will be exacerbated by a flood of newly-insured patients through the ACA, the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and the aging of the psychiatrist population. Therefore, a strong recruitment and retention strategy is paramount to maintaining a stable mental health staff.

  1. Avoid burn out
    Studies have shown that physician burn out results in markedly lower patient satisfaction scores. Although the temptation may be to mitigate a mental health worker shortage by squeezing everything you can out of limited human resources, this can backfire in the long term. Make sure to leverage use of advanced practice professionals, temporary help and technology to keep your staff from overwork and burn out.
  2. Use temporary staff
    Temporary physicians and advanced practice professionals can help supplement a staff that is spread too thin, allowing them to take needed vacations or reducing their call hours or just filling a long-term vacancy. Temporary or locum tenens physicians and nurses are often accustomed to adjusting to a new job setting and hitting the ground running very quickly. Because the cost of malpractice insurance, payroll taxes, benefits, etc. are included in their daily rate, the cost of locum tenens physicians and nurses is comparable to permanent medical staff. Also, Medicare and many commercial insurers allow you to bill for services performed by temporary staff under the permanent physician's ID.
  3. Leverage technology
    Telepsychiatry has been around for decades, and it is gaining ground around the country. If you are having difficulty recruiting mental health workers to your location, you may benefit from offering telepsychiatry, allowing you to expand your search nationwide. A telepsychiatrist must be licensed in the state where your patients are located, but he or she can physically be located anywhere in the country or the world. Medicare and Medicaid allow billing for telemedicine services that would be covered if they were performed in person. Currently 14 states mandate that commercial insurers cover telemedicine.

    Telepsychiatry can allow you to more easily fill part-time positions, where a mental health professional may divide his or her time between two or more clinics or hospitals. When you can use telepsychiatry to stay staffed up, you will prevent burn out, increase staff satisfaction and ultimately improve your retention rate. Telepsychiatry can be seen as an important lifestyle benefit for mental health workers, who will appreciate the reduction in commute hours, the ability to work from their preferred city or state and the flexibility to travel without impacting their work load and productivity.
  4. Stay current on compensation benchmark data
    Make sure to stay current on what other inpatient and outpatient facilities are paying their mental health workers. Look not only at state and national trends but local ones as well. Keep tabs on what government employers are doing as well. The market rate for psychiatrists in California was unintentionally driven up significantly by government hiring, when a new law took effect mandating minimum staffing levels in prisons, causing a ripple effect across all sectors.

Although the mental health worker shortage is bad and getting worse, you can mitigate its effects with a strong recruitment and retention strategy.