Job Satisfaction in Healthcare Workers: What Can Hospitals Do to Help?

GE Healthcare

Although they are primarily seen as places of healing and care, hospitals are also workplaces—big ones, in fact. The average hospital has about 987 employees,1 and each of them plays a vital role in keeping the hospital's ecosystem functioning well.

The size of this workforce as well as the industry's struggles with labor shortages2 highlight how important it is for hospital management to prioritize job satisfaction in healthcare workers. However, as COVID-19 exacerbates preexisting stressors and burnout risk among clinicians, this priority proves ever more challenging.

How can hospitals bolster job satisfaction in this changed environment when high patient volumes are a new constant? Put simply: by focusing on the factors within their control. Here are a few of them.

Competitive Wages

Wage increases have long been a common tactic to retain healthcare talent, but they're becoming even more prevalent as facilities compete for limited candidates amid COVID-19. Recently, McKinsey reported that higher compensation3 was the most common strategy used by hospitals to maintain a strong nursing workforce, beating out tactics such as expanded recruitment, bonuses, and professional development.

Many hospitals have expanded their wage offerings—across roles as diverse as hourly workers4 to full-time practicing clinicians—to be more competitive in the current market.

Expanded Benefits

When competition for healthcare workers wasn't so fierce, the highlights of a traditional benefits package may have been health and dental insurance and a retirement savings program. In this war for talent, however, workers want more5 from their benefits—paid leave, legal services, employee assistance plans (EAPs), and even financial wellness protection. Hospitals that build a robust benefits program, in addition to heightened compensation, will likely be more attractive than those that only offer the bare minimum.

Comprehensive Staff Scheduling

Stories detailing clinicians working 60-hour weeks or more6 are common as the pandemic continues to strain the healthcare system. While the perfect storm of labor shortages and high patient volumes have exacerbated this issue, facilities can preempt these bandwidth and work-life balance concerns with comprehensive staff scheduling and planning.

Contracting with travel nurses, while expensive, marks one possible strategy to relieve overworked staff. Similarly, organizations may choose to hire remote clinicians who can take over virtual aspects of the clinic, such as telemedicine for follow-up visits.

Mental Health Support

Mental health concerns among healthcare workers were already high before COVID-19, but the pandemic has intensified preexisting burnout and stress. Complicating these difficulties is a prevailing stigma around healthcare workers7 opening up about mental health concerns; clinicians may suffer in silence for fear of having their medical license taken away.

In response to these unfortunate realities, hospitals can invest in strategic programming designed to address mental health struggles. As authors in Frontiers in Public Health8 write, these initiatives should extend beyond temporary relief measures, such as offering free lunches or celebrations of "healthcare heroes." Instead, organizations should consider comprehensive offerings, such as mindfulness classes, stress management workshops, or EAPs that connect workers to professional support.

Effective Organizational Structure

The pandemic and many of its ripple effects may be out of a hospital's control, but effective leadership can make a difference. A 2021 survey by CHG Healthcare9 asked healthcare employees their top concerns and poor leadership was identified by 14 percent of respondents.

All told, clinicians feel stressed and burned out and therefore less to feel satisfied in their jobs. In turn, higher turnover rates.

Addressing organizational and workplace atmosphere issues is challenging but possible. Wolters Kluwer suggests aiming to solve workflow bottlenecks10 as well as approaching concerns systemically rather than individually—for instance, focusing on global IT improvements or diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

Quality Equipment and Resources

Providing healthcare workers with the right tools to do their job efficiently is essential. These tools may be automated solutions that speed up paperwork or other tedious tasks, or they may come in the form of parts and add-ons that help keep major, high-grade medical machinery functioning smoothly—and clinic operations on track.

While big-ticket investments can certainly add to job satisfaction, even "small," everyday items such as clinical accessories11 can help clinicians do their job faster, more effectively, and more comfortably.

Focus on What Is Possible

There are many factors to job satisfaction that are outside of a hospital's control. High patient caseloads, ongoing compassion fatigue, and exposure to traumas clinicians witness in the ICU and emergency department can all create unique obstacles.

However, facilities can, and should, take any available opportunity to mitigate those factors to promote job satisfaction in healthcare workers. By building a solid foundation of organizational excellence, hospitals can provide a more supportive environment for their staff in an effort to keep the chaos on the outside looking in.

REFERENCES

1 https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/employment/hospitals-united-states

2 https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/some-places-were-short-on-nurses-before-the-virus-the-pandemic-is-making-it-much-worse/2020/11/16/8d3755a0-25c4-11eb-a688-5298ad5d580a_story.html

3 https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare-systems-and-services/our-insights/increased-workforce-turnover-and-pressures-straining-provider-operations

4 https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/compensation-issues/6-health-systems-raising-minimum-wage.html

5 https://www.metlife.com/employee-benefit-trends/

6 https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/21/health/covid-nursing-shortage-delta.html

7 https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/5-reasons-physicians-are-less-likely-seek-support

8 https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2021.679397/full

9 https://chghealthcare.com/blog/survey-healthcare-career-satisfaction-drops-burnout-rises-amid-covid-19/

10 https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/expert-insights/calming-the-effects-of-chaotic-clinics

11 https://www.gehealthcare.com/products/clinical-accessories