Masters Thesis

Recruitment and Retention of Mental Health Professionals in Kern County

The focus of this project is to explore how employers in Bakersfield experience recruitment and retention and to recommend the adoption of specific programs and activities that may improve the Kern County Mental Health Departments ability to attract and retain psychiatrists. The following four bodies of literature guided this study: the context of the county, mental health professional shortage area, how do people choose where they want to reside explained by Migration Theory, and the impact of health professional shortages on residents’ healthcare in Bakersfield. In the Spring of 2015 this researcher interviewed 11 people in professional positions in Kern County with experience in recruitment and retention using the research method of the long interview. Qualitative responses to open ended questions were reviewed from the 11 interviews, with 3 main themes emerging. These themes included: 1) “Finding a good match,” 2) “Aggressive strategies in recruitment and retention,” and 3) “A call to action.” The 5 sub-themes that emerged from the data included: 1) Recruitment of physicians, in particular psychiatrists, is a whole separate entity, 2) Lack of a qualified workforce in Bakersfield, 3) Very high turnover rate in Bakersfield, 4) Employees want to work for an organization that they feel valued in, and 5) An absence of tele-medicine in Kern County. Recommendations directed towards the Kern County Mental Health Department were made for this research project. Recommendation one included expanding financial incentive opportunities to new graduates. Four recommendations related to the theme of “Aggressive Recruitment and Retention Strategies” were also suggested. Three recommendations related to the theme of “A Call to Action” were suggested.

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