Keeping Healthcare Workers on the Job

Today’s post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute. Here she reviews recent research regarding healthcare perspectives on the future of work and how successful organizations are keeping healthcare workers on the job.

Think about your best encounters ever with the healthcare system. The maternity nurse who taught you how to bathe your baby. The physical therapist who gave you the confidence to leave the hospital after your hip surgery. The aides on the memory care unit who treated your Dad with patience and compassion.

These are my stories, but I bet you have a few of your own. What they have in common is those competent compassionate professionals who took the time to help us through big transitions in our lives. They are the backbone of any medical system and the front line of patient care.

Of course we all have our not so great healthcare stories as well. Too long wait times to get the services we need. Insufficient face time with the professionals whose help we need the most. A lack of coordination between providers that results in poor results for their patients. We know most healthcare providers want to do a great job. What gets in their way?

At the end of last year, we conducted a study with Regina Corso Consulting that examined the expectations about the future of their work from the perspective of three different groups – registered nurses (RN), human resources (HR), and IT professionals – to reveal how hospitals, health systems, and other care facilities can emerge as an employer of choice. We wanted to understand from these folks what matters most to them when they are evaluating their employment options and what prevents them from doing their best work while on the job. You can read the full results of the research here and here. Following are some of the highlights.

Frontline healthcare workers need more tools to help increase time with patients.

Three in 5 nurses (61%), HR executives (56%) and hospital IT staff (56%) agree it is “very important” to work for an employer of choice – however, only 41% of HR executives, 37% of hospital IT staff, and 34% of nurses feel strongly that their organization provides tools and resources that empower them to perform to their fullest potential.

By 2025, the majority of HR executives (93%), hospital IT staff (92%), and nurses (89%) expect the healthcare industry will have undergone substantive changes in how it is staffed. Today, however, just under half (49%) of large health organizations and one-third (33%) of small- and mid-size health organizations have invested in future of work initiatives. These include advanced scheduling tools and practices (17%); artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (14%); process-improvement technology, such as automation (14%); virtualization (12%); electronic medical records/EMR (10%); and modern approaches to training and development (10%), talent acquisition (8%), and employee engagement (6%).

IT (85%), HR (80%), and nurses (65%) would encourage their organization to invest in new technology because of its positive effect on workplace productivity, as well as its ability to improve security (IT: 74%), increase compliance (HR: 69%), and help their organization remain competitive (nurses: 61%). When an organization implements new technology in the workplace, two-fifths of HR executives (42%) and more than one-third of hospital IT staff (36%) and nurses (34%) say it helps them service patients better.

Everybody agrees that retaining top talent is critical – but how?

Nine out of 10 HR executives (91%) agree that retaining high performers is more valuable than hiring new staff . Seven in 10 hospital IT staff (71%) are satisfied by HR’s efforts to retain top performers within their department. Nurses, however, do not feel as confident as their IT colleagues: Fewer than 3 in 5 nurses (57%) believe their organization is doing all it can to retain good nurses, and HR executives themselves admit only 18% of employees in their organization are “very satisfied” in their overall careers, compared to 70% who are generally satisfied and 12% who are dissatisfied.

What can improve that satisfaction? Although good pay is the number 1 reason high performers join and stay at an organization, 9 out of 10 nurses say paid-time off is “very important” (91%), as is schedule flexibility (87%), competitive benefits (84%), and schedules that consider employee preferences (76%).

Healthcare workers also define an employer of choice as one that focuses on professional development and empowers clinical staff to positively impact patient care by working at the top of their license – both are “very important” to 7 in 10 nurses (71% and 70%, respectively). However, just 2 in 5 HR executives say their organization provides management mentoring (44%), career development in the form of job shadowing or mentorship (31%), or has redesigned roles to allow for greater growth potential (29%).

If you work in a healthcare environment, what are your biggest challenges when it comes to retaining your front line workers who make or break your patient care? How are you removing the obstacles in their way?

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