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Clinician Retention (and Recruitment!) in an Era of Workforce Shortages

Updated: Aug 16, 2021

Who knew? Part of the Neurofeedback Advocacy Project is a biweekly online meeting with supervisors and agency heads. In a recent meeting we discussed, “What is your greatest challenge?” I expected to hear common concerns like, “funding,” “long waiting lists for services,” or “dealing with Covid.” Instead, they all mentioned staff retention and recruitment. Again, who knew?

Each person said that too many staff were leaving and how difficult it was to recruit new clinicians, and the reasons were similar. Working with a mainly Medicaid population and/or typically hard-to-serve or underserved populations is hard work. Add the stress of Covid, high caseloads and clients who are even more stressed than usual all contributed to staff burnout.

They also mentioned that non-profit and some community agencies can’t pay competitive salaries, instead relying on the commitment on their employees to even things out. But now the private sector is bidding for clinicians and offering better salaries.

You can understand the clinician’s predicament, and yet if many leave, who is left to work with their clients? And here is where neurofeedback comes in. It turns out that every agency on the call said that doing neurofeedback in their agency was a tool to retain!

Why? They gave several reasons.

First, the clinicians enjoyed doing therapy that included neurofeedback. Honestly, it’s not as hard to interact with a client who for much of the session is watching the feedback and commenting on how they are feeling than it is to be engaged in a therapeutic conversation for a full hour.

Second, clients are excited to do it, so they come to the sessions eager to share what’s happening with them and the progress they’ve made. It’s not every session, but most, and it’s very gratifying to clinicians who entered the field because they wanted to help. Plus it moves the conversation to supporting and celebrating with clients rather than trying to empathize, persuade and educate.

Third, clinicians report they find doing neurofeedback interesting.

As a clinician you are constantly thinking about your client’s concerns, their history, their symptoms and how this fits with the way that is considered within the framework of a brain-based intervention. It's challenging but with a week’s training and our on-going supervision clinicians soon feel both comfortable in their ability and intrigued with the challenge. This is a mental space that is the antidote to burnout.

There is a final advantage that we would never have guessed. Agency leaders reported that clinician productivity was about a third higher! No, they weren’t telling their clinicians to see more clients, clinicians were doing that on their own. It seems the personal rewards of doing neurofeedback made them want to see more clients.

What about recruitment? Many agencies depend on clinicians who have completed their master’s but need the supervised hours for licensure. As more people coming into the field have heard about neurofeedback, offering access to training can be a promising inducement to join your team.

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