How to Retain Healthcare Workers

Being in the healthcare administration field, you should be aware that retaining healthcare workers is a serious issue facing healthcare facilities.

According to the American College of Healthcare Executives’ annual survey, personnel shortage has risen to the No. 3 concern among community hospital CEOs.

Increased demand for healthcare professionals may be a cause for a lack of qualified personnel in the field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected 20% growth through 2026 for medical and health services managers. The average pay for this role as of May 2017 was $111,680.

Another contributing factor to keeping healthcare workers may be burnout. According to NEJM Catalyst’s latest Insight Council Survey, 83% of respondents (clinicians, clinical leaders and healthcare executives) labeled burnout a moderate or serious problem in 2017.

The financial impact of burnout can be significant. The American Medical Association’s online burnout calculator determined that a healthcare organization employing 500 doctors may spend $12 million a year to replace them (based on a burnout rate of 54% on average), according to Medical Economics. But the impact is not limited to cost; other studies have examined the effects of burnout on patient satisfaction and quality of patient care.

The study found that burnout is prevalent among other healthcare workers, not just physicians:

  • Registered nurses – 78% cited burnout as a major concern
  • Advanced practice nurses – 64%
  • Clinical leaders – 56%
  • Healthcare executives – 42%

While physician burnout may grab headlines, a survey from healthcare staffing firm CompHealth found that four of five doctors early in their careers – physicians that completed a residency or fellowship in 2014, 2015 or 2016 – remain at their first positions. Almost two-thirds (65%) reported being satisfied with their work. Among those who left their first position, 84% reported satisfaction with their second job.

Ways to Keep People in Healthcare

Leading healthcare organizations have come together through the Collaborative for Healing in Medicine to create a charter of physician well-being that was recently published in JAMA. It encourages healthcare organizations to rework personnel policies to incorporate wellness and set up support systems for physicians dealing with stress, overwork and mental health issues.

Some healthcare institutions have taken it upon themselves to get at the cause of employee dissatisfaction as a means for fighting turnover.

One way is by requiring stay interviews – one-on-one discussions with employees and their managers to address job satisfaction, coworker relationships and the organization’s mission and values – that may bring to light any issues before an employee departs. Steve Marsh, CEO of The Medicus Firm, said during a webinar for the Medical Group Management Association that relying on exit interviews for feedback about a workplace is like focusing on autopsies to improve patient care.

Another is to have organizations avoid the word “burnout” and replace it with optimistic language, such as “joyfulness in work,” according to the NEJM Catalyst survey. It may not solve the issue by changing terminology, but the negativity of “burnout” can have a contagious effect.

One idea calls for using medical scribes or health facilitators to handle clerical tasks such so clinical workers can spend more time with their patients. Improving functionality and interactivity of electronic medical records and other information technology systems was indicated by 46% of respondents in the NEJM Catalyst survey as a potential solution as well.

Organizations can’t be solely responsible for minimizing burnout and increasing retention. Self-care is another solution that all healthcare workers should consider. The treatment plan should be individualized and may include meditating daily, using vacation days or regularly engaging in a hobby.

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