Cochrane Review Brief: Exit Interviews to Reduce Turnover Amongst Healthcare Professionals

Review question:

Do employment exit interviews reduce healthcare professionals’ turnover?

Nursing Implications:

There is an international shortage of healthcare professionals and thus a need to find effective ways of retaining appropriate staff. Turnover rates (when staff resign from their current employment or transfer to other positions) have been reported to range from 10-50%. While annual turnover rates of between 15-20% can promote organisational development and productivity; high turnover is costly and can impact on the quality of patient care. Exit interviews (formal or informal interviews with a voluntarily resigning employee) can provide healthcare organisations with information about why the staff member is leaving and reconnaissance about the current work environment. Interviews can also be used to encourage employees to remain in post and to manage organisational image. Information gathered by the process can potentially inform future organisational quality improvements which may encourage workforce retention.

Nonetheless, the effectiveness of exit interviews is uncertain; employees may not reveal the true reasons for leaving their position and lack of interviewer skills or timely analysis of trends may mean that accurate information is not obtained. Consequently, there is a need to conduct a review to determine the effectiveness of exit interviews on professional staff turnover within healthcare organisations.

Review Characteristics:

This Cochrane systematic review considered any form of exit interview (face to face, telephone or survey) following a professional (e.g. medical, nursing or allied health) employee’s voluntary declaration of leaving post. Studies of interest included randomised controlled trials, controlled clinical trials, controlled before and after and interrupted time series. To be included in the review, an exit interview intervention needed to be compared against either a ‘no exit’ or a ‘different form of exit’ interview. The primary outcome was turnover. Organisational change, cost, absenteeism and job satisfaction were considered as secondary outcomes.

Summary of Key Evidence:

No studies meeting the review inclusion criteria were identified. The reviewers did find some unsubstantiated accounts that indicted that introduction of exit interviews had reduced healthcare professional turnover.

Best Practice Recommendations:

There is currently no evidence on the effectiveness of exit interviews in reducing healthcare professionals’ turnover. Nonetheless, they may be useful in informing managers about workforce issues that if addressed, could reduce turnover. In view of the current lack of evidence, research using quality controlled intervention studies should be conducted. Researchers should consider the following when designing their study: nature of the intervention (e.g. telephone or postal survey), types of comparison (e.g. exit interview against no interview) and different types of healthcare settings (e.g. acute, continuing care).

Summary Author

Janice Christie, PhD, MA, RN, RSCPHN
City University London
20 Bartholomew Close
London EC1A 7QN

A member of the Cochrane Nursing Care Field (CNCF)


Flint, A. Webster, J. Exit interviews to reduce turnover amongst healthcare professionals. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 3. Art No.: CD006620. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006620.pub3. Available at:

Citation: Christie, J., (July 22, 2014) "Cochrane Review Brief: Exit Interviews to Reduce Turnover Amongst Healthcare Professionals" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 19 No. 3.