Turnover, COVID-19, and Reasons for Leaving and Staying Within Governmental Public Health

Jonathon P. Leider, Gulzar H. Shah, Valerie A. Yeager, Jingjing Yin, Kusuma Madamala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


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. Design: 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. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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. Implications: 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S54-S63
JournalJournal of Public Health Management and Practice
Issue numberSupplement 1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.


  • intentions to leave
  • intentions to stay
  • job satisfaction
  • ongoing upskilling
  • pay satisfaction
  • public health workforce
  • retention

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Turnover, COVID-19, and Reasons for Leaving and Staying Within Governmental Public Health'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this