Nova Scotia

Only 3 exit interviews done with Nova Scotia doctors in first year of project

Since the Nova Scotia Health Authority announced in June 2016 that it would begin conducting exit interviews with doctors leaving their practices, three interviews have been completed.

Most doctors contacted either declined invitation or did not reply

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Orrell says doctors may be choosing not to complete exit interviews because "they just don't want to regurgitate all of the issues that they've tried to deal with." (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Since the Nova Scotia Health Authority announced in June 2016 that it would begin conducting exit interviews with doctors leaving their practices, three interviews have been completed.

Joanne MacKinnon heads recruitment for the province. She said it took a few months to design the interviews and roll out the pilot project in the authority's eastern zone, which covers Cape Breton, Guysborough and Antigonish counties.

An exit interview is typically done with an employee leaving an organization to discuss their reasons for leaving and their experience working with the organization. It's an opportunity to find areas for improvement.

As of May 2017, seven family doctors and 18 specialists in the eastern zone had left or retired.

Most doctors have declined interview

MacKinnon said local administrators provided the health authority with the names of 12 doctors to contact for exit interviews.

"Of that dozen, we had responses from four," she said. "Three opted to do the exit interview." 

The interviews are voluntary and it can be difficult to co-ordinate schedules with the physicians, said MacKinnon.

"They are very busy people." 

Dr. Kevin Orrell is an orthopedic surgeon who has practised in Cape Breton for 28 years. He believes there are other reasons doctors are not completing exit interviews. 

"They leave because they are dissatisfied and because they feel they haven't been supported professionally," he said. "They've made their decision to leave. They are unhappy and they just don't want to regurgitate all of the issues that they've tried to deal with."

Positive things to say

MacKinnon said the three doctors who completed exit interviews had positive things to say, indicating they would recommend the area to colleagues as a good place to practise. 

"The reasons for their departures varied but it was for the most part personal reasons and family reasons," she said.

She said there was one suggestion for improvement and that was to provide more information and better orientation for new doctors. That doctor also suggested that at the one-year mark, someone check in to see if there are any issues that need to be addressed.

More exit interviews planned

MacKinnon is currently organizing two exit interviews in other areas of the province. She said she is confident more doctors will agree to do the interviews once they know they have they option.

Orrell described the departure of doctors as "significant."

"When you lose someone and the system is weakened by their absence, it becomes very difficult to fill that gap and recruit people," he said.

Orrell wants to see the exit interview process expanded to include not only doctors who leave but also physicians who have considered coming to the area, but decided not to.

About the Author

Joan Weeks

Reporter

Joan Weeks has been a reporter with CBC in Sydney for over a decade. Many of her stories are investigative with a focus on government spending and accountability, as well as health and economic issues important to Cape Breton.