Recruitment and retention of health professionals across Europe: A literature review and multiple case study research

Health Policy. 2015 Dec;119(12):1517-28. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2015.08.003. Epub 2015 Aug 20.


Many European countries are faced with health workforce shortages and the need to develop effective recruitment and retention (R&R) strategies. Yet comparative studies on R&R in Europe are scarce. This paper provides an overview of the measures in place to improve the R&R of health professionals across Europe and offers further insight into the evidence base for R&R; the interaction between policy and organisational levels in driving R&R outcomes; the facilitators and barriers throughout these process; and good practices in the R&R of health professionals across Europe. The study adopted a multi-method approach combining an extensive literature review and multiple-case study research. 64 publications were included in the review and 34 R&R interventions from 20 European countries were included in the multiple-case study. We found a consistent lack of evidence about the effectiveness of R&R interventions. Most interventions are not explicitly part of a coherent package of measures but they tend to involve multiple actors from policy and organisational levels, sometimes in complex configurations. A list of good practices for R&R interventions was identified, including context-sensitivity when implementing and transferring interventions to different organisations and countries. While single R&R interventions on their own have little impact, bundles of interventions are more effective. Interventions backed by political and executive commitment benefit from a strong support base and involvement of relevant stakeholders.

Keywords: Europe; Health human resources; Health professionals; Literature review; Multiple case study; Recruitment and retention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research
  • Europe
  • Health Personnel / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Organizational Case Studies*
  • Personnel Loyalty*
  • Personnel Selection / organization & administration*