As the Covid-19 pandemic drags on, concern over the state of the US medical workforce remains an ongoing crisis for leaders in healthcare. Indeed, research overwhelmingly points to a challenging future for healthcare employment.
Source: McKinsey & Company, Surveyed nurses consider leaving direct patient care at elevated rates, February 17, 2022
A USA Today / Ipsos poll, conducted this February, found that almost a quarter (23 percent) of US healthcare workers were considering leaving their field in the near future. Almost half (47 percent) of US-based doctors and nurses plan to leave their current role in the next two to three years, according to Elsevier—a global leader in healthcare research. Earlier this year, McKinsey & Company published survey results that revealed almost a third (32 percent) of registered nurses in the United States expressed intention to leave their current position of providing direct patient care.
Given this, it’s no surprise that workforce retention has topped the priority lists for US hospitals and health systems in 2022. With medical workers jumping ship in record numbers, healthcare employers must adopt an employee-first culture by pivoting their worker retention strategy to one that focuses on the needs and wellbeing of their workforce. Healthcare employers need to hone in on workforce satisfaction by addressing issues of burnout and the physical and emotional demands of patient care while implementing strategies to make their workers feel supported. This article offers four key insights for employers looking to build workplaces that will motivate healthcare workers to stay.
Explore New Ways to Manage Workloads
Navigating issues of burnout amongst medical workers will require innovation. Where possible, employers should offer flexible shifts and work schedules to staff, as well as manage workload strains by limiting long shifts and mandatory overtime. Healthcare employers can also gain a competitive advantage by involving their workers in the decision-making process, encouraging them to indicate to their managers when they are overworked. Forward-thinking organizations have increasingly started to give employees a voice in planning their own schedules.
Additionally, employers can combat workload strains by redesigning workflows to optimize efficiency and in turn reduce burden on staff. Try researching software that can streamline roles, tasks, and workflows for healthcare services. Introducing state-of-the-art analytics tools to forecast patient demand is one option that can result in more predictable work schedules and help prevent last-minute changes. Investing in tech tools that automate repetitive administrative tasks within billing, patient scheduling, documentation, and so on, can also relive workloads while enabling workers to focus on the core duties of their roles.
Create Space for Workforce Mental Health
Supporting the mental wellbeing of employees has become an increasingly complex issue for healthcare employers since the onset of the pandemic. Faced by an overwhelming increase in workload despite staffing shortages, medical workers have watched their mental health, relationships, and interests outside of work suffer. Today, it is more important than ever for healthcare employers to acknowledge these sacrifices made and give back to their workers by investing in their wellbeing.
Start by leveraging the expertise of behavioral science specialists and wellness solution providers in the design of your health and wellness plan. Senior stakeholders will need to lead by example in reinforcing the importance of protecting the wellbeing of healthcare staff while working toward decreasing stigma associated with seeking help. Focus on building a workplace culture of transparency, empathy, and open dialogue. Distribute stress management resources across your organization, including wellness guides, self-care strategies, directories for professional mental health services, and more. Other interventions likely to have a positive impact include professional counseling, peer-support programs, and mindfulness exercises.
Lastly, find ways to support your employees outside of work. Encourage a healthier work-life balance by allowing telecommuting where possible, reconsidering vacation policies, dedicating time off to seek and receive care for mental health, providing generous parental leave, and offering subsidized childcare. Make sure to ask your employees for their views on what would help create a better work-life balance for them.
Integrate Virtual Ways of Working
A 2021 survey by McKinsey & Company found that approximately two-thirds of frontline nurses were interested in providing virtual care in the future. Integrating virtual models into workflows may alleviate workers of stress factors associated with the physical demands of in-person care. By coupling the use of telemedicine with in-person services, employees are able to fulfill their responsibilities from a more comfortable environment while reducing their exposure to contagious infections. Additionally, workers may be able to claim back a few extra hours in their week by reducing time spent on long commutes. In turn, this can encourage a healthier work-life balance, enabling workers to focus on personal obligations they may have outside of work.
Foster a Culture Around Career Development
Build a positive culture around career progression and development by providing employees with the resources they need to thrive in the workplace. Some employees may be interested in advancing in their current roles, or in taking on new or more challenging responsibilities. Others may want to broaden their skillsets or even explore a different department within the organization. It is crucial for healthcare managers to schedule frequent career check-ins with workers, during which they can take time to really understand each employee’s professional interests and goals. From creating clearly-defined paths to roles with higher salaries and funding formal training in new areas, to launching a career mentoring program, employers can incentive loyalty while building a highly skilled healthcare workforce.
Two years into the pandemic, what employees consider the ideal workplace has changed dramatically. As organizations across the country compete for qualified talent, healthcare employers in particular are struggling to hold on to their most talented staff. Today, it is in the best interest of hospitals and health systems to create rewarding workplaces and provide flexibility in a way that meets the individual needs and preferences of their workforce. They can start by seeking innovative ways to alleviate workloads, putting employee wellness front and center, and ensuring sufficient career development opportunities. By taking these steps, healthcare leaders are on their way to building skilled workforce that is motivated, focused, and highly loyal.