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Journal of Public Health Management and Practice




Background and Objectives:

Public health workforce recruitment and retention continue to challenge public health agencies. This study aims to describe the trends in intention to leave and retire and analyze factors associated with intentions to leave and intentions to stay.


Using national-level data from the 2017 and 2021 Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Surveys, bivariate analyses of intent to leave were conducted using a Rao-Scott adjusted chi-square and multivariate analysis using logistic regression models.


In 2021, 20% of employees planned to retire and 30% were considering leaving. In contrast, 23% of employees planned to retire and 28% considered leaving in 2017. The factors associated with intentions to leave included job dissatisfaction, with adjusted odds ratio (AOR) of 3.8 (95% CI, 3.52-4.22) for individuals who were very dissatisfied or dissatisfied. Odds of intending to leave were significantly high for employees with pay dissatisfaction (AOR = 1.83; 95% CI, 1.59-2.11), those younger than 36 years (AOR = 1.58; 95% CI, 1.44-1.73) or 65+ years of age (AOR = 2.80; 95% CI, 2.36-3.33), those with a graduate degree (AOR = 1.14; 95% CI, 1.03-1.26), those hired for COVID-19 response (AOR = 1.74; 95% CI, 1.49-2.03), and for the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) (vs White) staff (AOR = 1.07; 95% CI, 1.01-1.15). The leading reasons for employees' intention to stay included benefits such as retirement, job stability, flexibility (eg, flex hours/telework), and satisfaction with one's supervisor.


Given the cost of employee recruitment, training, and retention of competent employees, government public health agencies need to address factors such as job satisfaction, job skill development, and other predictors of employee retention and turnover.


Public health agencies may consider activities for improving retention by prioritizing improvements in the work environment, job and pay satisfaction, and understanding the needs of subgroups of employees such as those in younger and older age groups, those with cultural differences, and those with skills that are highly sought-after by other industries.


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.