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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.

PHASE 2: National Survey of Hospital Doctors (2019)

In October 2019, we launched phase two of the HDRM project - a national survey of hospital doctors.

The retention of hospital doctors remains a critical issue for healthcare services in Ireland. Poor working conditions have been identified as a key driver of doctor emigration. In collaboration with the Medical Council, this survey will investigate the working conditions of hospital doctors. The findings will provide a deeper understanding of the organisational and workplace factors which shape their experience of work.

The survey will contribute to our understanding of doctor emigration, retention and workplace morale for hospital doctors in Ireland, providing an evidence base for the HDRM project to inform policy change, particularly in relation to retention.

Further updates to follow.

Hospital Doctor Retention and Motivation: five study phases

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

  • Phase 1: Australia Case Study (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)

In 2018 we focused on doctor migration from Ireland to Australia

The first phase of the project (2018) involved a focus on Irish-trained doctors in Australia, as Australia is now the top destination country for emigrant Irish-trained doctors. 

This phase of the project involved interviewing 51 Irish doctors in Australia in 2018 about their decision to migrate and their perspectives on return. Initial findings were published in the Irish Times and presented to the Health Research Board.

We will use this information to help Irish policy makers better understand the patterns of doctor migration flows from Ireland to Australia and the reasons for that migration. 

Our first paper on Irish doctor migration to Australia is published here.

Further updates to follow. 

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

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.