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Open Access Research article

Predictors of early faculty attrition at one Academic Medical Center

Brenda A Bucklin1*, Morgan Valley2, Cheryl Welch3, Zung Vu Tran4 and Steven R Lowenstein5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Anesthesiology and Office of Undergraduate Medical Education, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado, USA

2 Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

3 Office of Faculty Affairs, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora, Colorado, USA

4 Department of Biostatistics and Informatics, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, Colorado, USA

5 Department of Emergency Medicine and Medicine, Office of Faculty Affairs, University of Colorado School of Medicine and Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, Colorado, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2014, 14:27  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-27

Published: 10 February 2014

Abstract

Background

Faculty turnover threatens the research, teaching and clinical missions of medical schools. We measured early attrition among newly-hired medical school faculty and identified personal and institutional factors associated with early attrition.

Methods

This retrospective cohort study identified faculty hired during the 2005–2006 academic year at one school. Three-year attrition rates were measured. A 40-question electronic survey measured demographics, career satisfaction, faculty responsibilities, institutional/departmental support, and reasons for resignation. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95 percent confidence intervals (95% CI) identified variables associated with early attrition.

Results

Of 139 faculty, 34% (95% CI = 26-42%) resigned within three years of hire. Attrition was associated with: perceived failure of the Department Chair to foster a climate of teaching, research, and service (OR = 6.03; 95% CI: 1.84, 19.69), inclusiveness, respect, and open communication (OR = 3.21; 95% CI: 1.04, 9.98). Lack of professional development of the faculty member (OR = 3.84; 95% CI: 1.25, 11.81); institutional recognition and support for excellence in teaching (OR = 2.96; 95% CI: 0.78, 11.19) and clinical care (OR = 3.87; 95% CI: 1.04, 14.41); and >50% of professional time devoted to patient care (OR = 3.93; 95% CI: 1.29, 11.93) predicted attrition. Gender, race, ethnicity, academic degree, department type and tenure status did not predict early attrition. Of still-active faculty, an additional 27 (48.2%, 95% CI: 35.8, 61.0) reported considering resignation within the 5 years.

Conclusions

In this pilot study, one-third of new faculty resigned within 3 years of hire. Greater awareness of predictors of early attrition may help schools identify threats to faculty career satisfaction and retention.