Hospital Doctor Retention and Motivation Project

We are conducting research on doctor emigration and retention

The Hospital Doctor Retention and Motivation project is a four-year research project (2018-2021) hosted by RCPI and funded by the Health Research Board (Emerging Investigator Award).

The Irish health system faces a medical workforce crisis as a result of weak retention and unchecked doctor emigration.

Health system responses to date have been focused on supply-side measures (training more doctors, recruiting doctors internationally), meaning that Ireland has been changing the doctors in the system, rather than changing the system itself.

The Hospital Doctor Retention and Motivation project will focus on hospital doctor retention and on doctor motivation.

Using qualitative and quantitative research methods and fieldwork in Ireland, Australia, and Canada, we will seek to generate information to inform and improve doctor retention policy and practice in the Irish health system.

COVID-HDRM: The experience of Hospital Doctors during COVID-19

Over a 4-week period in June and July 2020, the HDRM team conducted 48 qualitative interviews (via video-call and phone) with  hospital doctors of all grades to find out how they fared during COVID-19 and how the experience has  impacted on their future plans.

We would like to thank all of the hospital doctors who participated in the interviews who told us incredible stories about working through COVID-19 and who also outlined their hopes and fears for the Irish health system going forward.

Analysing the data

We will shortly begin analysing the data and we aim to use the research findings to help Irish policymakers better understand how COVID-19 impacted the working conditions, working lives and career plans of hospital doctors in Ireland.

Our initial findings are summarised in the cartoon on the right (by Eoin Kelleher). Initial interviews outlined how COVID-related innovation in the health system had given them hope that some of the underlying problems in the health system might be addressed... 

We look forward to sharing additional findings with you soon. Watch this site and follow the HDRM project on twitter @HDRM_Project for further updates!

View our publications:

Hospital Doctor Retention and Motivation: five study phases

The Hospital Doctor Retention and Motivation research project will have five study phases:

  • Phase 1: Interviews with Irish-trained doctors in Australia (2018)
  • Phase 2: National survey of hospital doctors (2019)
  • Phase 3: Irish Hospital Workplace Case Study (2020-21)
  • Phase 4: Action Research Project (2021)
  • Phase 5: Knowledge Exchange (2018-21)

PHASE 2: Survey of Hospital Doctors in Ireland (2019)

In late 2019, HDRM (with the assistance of the Medical Council) conducted a cross-sectional survey of hospital doctors in Ireland. 1070 doctors responded to the survey which focussed on their working conditions, work-life balance, and job satisfaction. The main survey findings were presented to senior policymakers at a HDRM policy dialogue held in RCPI on 27th February 2020. The HDRM team have spent the COVID lockdown analysing and writing up this data. The first journal papers from this phase of the project – focussed on work-life balance and work-life conflict, will be available in the coming weeks. Updates will be posted here and @HDRM_Project.

PHASE 1: Interviews with Irish-trained doctors in Australia (2018)

In 2018 we focused on Irish-trained doctors in Australia, as Australia was then the top destination country for emigrant Irish-trained doctors. This phase of the project involved interviewing 51 Irish doctors in Australia about their decision to migrate, experiences working in Ireland and in Australia, and their perspectives on return. This information was used to help Irish policymakers better understand the patterns of doctor migration flows from Ireland to Australia and the reasons for that migration. Initial findings were published in the Irish Times and presented to the Health Research Board. We have published two open access papers from this research. If you would like to access these, see links to papers 1 & 2 in our publications section above.

This research will seek to find out why our highly-trained hospital doctors are emigrating and how best to motivate them to either stay in Ireland or to return to practice medicine in Ireland. The project will contribute to our understanding of doctor emigration, retention and workplace morale, and seeks to inform national health workforce policy.

Niamh Humphries PhD

Reader in Health Systems Research

Meet the HDRM team

From left to right:

Dr Niamh Humphries (Reader in Health Systems Research),

Dr Jennifer Creese (Postdoctoral Researcher) and

Dr John-Paul Byrne (Postdoctoral Researcher) 

Contact us

Dr Niamh Humphries

Reader in Health Systems Research

Tel: +353 1 8639 693

Dr Niamh Humphries is a Reader in Health Systems Research who joined the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in April 2016. She holds a PhD in Sociology and has worked in health workforce research since 2006.  In 2017 she was awarded a prestigious HRB Emerging Investigator Award for a 4 year research project focussed on hospital doctor retention and motivation, which will involve fieldwork in Ireland and Australia. Her current research interests are health worker migration, health worker retention and the working lives of health workers.

Dr John-Paul Byrne

Postdoctoral Researcher

Tel: +353 1 8639 693

Dr John-Paul Byrne joined the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in February 2019 as Postdoctoral Researcher with the HDRM Project. He holds a PhD in Sociology from Maynooth University and has previously held research positions on projects studying working conditions in Ireland and Denmark, and the experience of patient-centred care in Ireland. John-Paul is a recipient of the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship from the Irish Research Council (2012). His current research interests are psychosocial work conditions, working lives, and the social structures of work in healthcare.

Dr Jennifer Creese

Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr Jennifer Creese joined the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in February 2020 as Postdoctoral Researcher with the HDRM Project. She holds a PhD in Social Science from The University of Queensland, Australia, specialising in social anthropology and ethnography. She has previously held research positions studying migration experiences, health care resilience, and dementia family care in Australia. Jennifer is the recipient of an Australian Federal Government Australian Postgraduate Award and Research Training Program scholarship 2015-2019. Her current research interests are migrant health worker experiences, health care organizational cultures and the working lives of health workers.