Purpose: In 1983, 43% of internal medicine residency program directors had held their positions for less than three years. The purposes of this study were to determine the job turnover rate for internal medicine program directors, and the characteristics of program directors and residency programs that are associated with job turnover.
Method: In October 1996, questionnaires were sent to all non-military internal medicine residency program directors in the continental United States listed by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The questionnaire covered demographics, program characteristics, and job satisfaction. In October 1999, an updated ACGME list was used to contact programs to verify changes in program directors and determine the dates of change.
Results: A total of 262 usable responses were received. At the beginning of the study, 49% of the respondents had been on the job for three years or less, and 74 (29%) were no longer program directors three years later. Overall job satisfaction was highly associated (p <.01) with turnover. Multivariate Cox regression modeling yielded four variables independently associated with turnover: low satisfaction with colleague relationships (hazard ratio = 3.2, 95% CI = 1.6-6.4), a high percentage of administrative work time (HR = 2.9, 95% CI = 1.4-6.2), perceiving the job as a "stepping stone" (HR = 1.8, 95% CI = 1.0-3.2), and having had formal training to deal with problem residents (HR = 0.6, 95% CI = 0.4-1.1). Respondents with burnout, with the titles of program director and chair or department chief, and with less than two years on the job had nonsignificant trends toward job turnover. Variables not associated with turnover included gender, rank, salary, and program size.
Conclusions: Yearly turnover for internal medicine residency program directors is substantial. The four independent predictors of turnover identified in this study should be of interest to institutions recruiting or retaining program directors and to aspiring program directors.