UMMS survey finds community health center physicians mission-driven

Aging workforce, retention are concerns

By Ellen Moran

UMass Medical School Communications

August 24, 2016

A UMass Medical School survey of primary care physicians at Massachusetts community health centers finds a workforce more prepared to practice in a health center through training while also citing concerns of an aging workforce, according to an article in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved.

“Massachusetts has often been in the forefront of advancing the importance of community health centers and their mission, while also leading health care reform,” the authors concluded. “The aging of this vital workforce and the 10-year retention estimates are concerning. This challenge, and the feedback from primary care physicians, underscores the need for support for medical schools and Community health centers to provide opportunities for medical students to learn from primary care physicians who are passionate and model the community health center mission; the continuation of training grants which favor curricular innovations aimed at caring for underserved populations; training for students, residents, and practitioners about interprofessional team-based care; and creative recruitment and retention programs.”

The article is co-authored by a team from Commonwealth Medicine, including Judith Savageau, MPH, research associate professor of family medicine & community health and research faculty in the Center for Health Policy and Research (CHPR); Linda Cragin, MS, instructor of family medicine & community health and director of the MassAHEC Network; Warren Ferguson, MD, professor of family medicine & community health and medical director of MassAHEC Network; and Laura Sefton, MPP, project analyst in the Research and Evaluation unit of CHPR. Joan Pernice, RN, MS, of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers also is an author.

The article compares the findings of a 2008 statewide survey, which was done shortly after Massachusetts implemented health care reform, and a follow-up survey in 2013 to determine the effect of reform on community health centers.

A third of the primary care physician workforce who responded to the survey have been at community health centers for fewer than five years, showing both growth in health centers as well as turnover. The authors found an increased importance on retention strategies such as work/life balance (94 percent), support staff and operational support (90 percent), informational technology (87 percent), and professional development (83 percent).