Solving Workforce Core Challenge No. 1

Solving Workforce Core Challenge No. 1. A clinician in a lab coat, wearing a mask and gloves with a stethoscope are her neck forms a hear with her hands.

It’s no secret that most health care workers chose their profession because they are passionate about helping people restore or improve their health. But something changed for many of these workers during COVID-19.

The pandemic has been a wake-up call for many of health care’s most valued staff to realign priorities and explore new opportunities. Many have left their positions for new jobs inside and outside of health care. At this critical juncture, hospitals and health systems are reassessing how to meet short- and long-term workforce needs.

During this process, it’s essential for health care leaders to help clinicians reconnect to their purpose, notes the AHA’s 2023 Health Care Workforce Scan.

Why Purpose Matters

As part of efforts to recruit and retain a qualified, dedicated and diverse workforce, hospitals and health systems must create environments that consistently support meaningful work and nurture relationship-building with colleagues, patients and families.

Maximizing patient care time while minimizing administrative tasks is essential to inspiring physicians and nurses to rediscover the joy, satisfaction and meaning in the work they value so highly. Reconnecting workers with the reason they chose this field can be accomplished through onboarding, engagement and mission-driven culture and plays a key role in improving retention.

This is a critical issue as provider organizations deal with costly burnout-related turnover. Beyond the financial impact for hospitals, the negative consequences of burnout on workers’ emotional and physical well-being can affect the time, energy and compassion they need to devote to patient care.

5 Ways to Fortify Purpose

1 | Create a cultural model that reflects mission-driven values.

Meaningful work that makes a difference in people’s lives and health continues to be a powerful pull, underscoring the need to cultivate alignment between organizational mission and personal calling.

Key Takeaway

Consider a shared governance model, which demonstrates a commitment to a workplace culture of ownership.

2 | Find out what really matters to employees.

Research shows that 80% of employees leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. Consistently asking employees about their core needs — through onboarding, surveys, town hall meetings, rounding, team huddles or other avenues — offers the best path to providing recognition and a work environment they value.

Key Takeaway

Not feeling they are being heard or supported at work ranks right up there with insufficient staff, insufficient pay and a lack of emotional support as reasons nurses list for leaving. Recognize that different constituencies, whether generational or job roles, have different needs. Consider regular “stay” interviews to gain insights into what excites physicians, nurses and other employees when they come to work, what future they see for themselves at your organization and what changes they would like to see.

3 | Make strengthening satisfaction a key strategy.

Reduce burnout and increase retention by demonstrating commitment to workplace practices that strengthen satisfaction.

Key Takeaway

This can be addressed by providing:

  • Safe work environments and reporting structures.
  • Competitive compensation.
  • Better career guidance.
  • Appropriate staffing levels.
  • Employee support from supervisors and leaders.
  • Healthy work/life synergy.
  • Flexible scheduling.
  • Relevant upskilling and professional development.
  • Shared decision-making.

4 | Nurture a culture that embraces self-care.

Help clinicians realize that taking care of themselves is as important as taking care of their patients.

Key Takeaway

To overcome a reluctance to seek appropriate care for physical and mental health, encouragement must start at the top and cascade throughout all leadership levels. Acknowledge the pressure and stress that workers face. Develop educational programs, provide a menu of self-care resources that address a variety of needs and ensure practical, real-time access to support services.

5 | Contemplate these questions.

  • Do you provide frequent, regular opportunities for employees to express their concerns and identify needs, and then respond to these needs by investing in solutions?
  • How effectively — and publicly — do you express gratitude for your team members’ commitment to delivering high-quality care, and advocate for them in your community?
  • What steps can you take to expand autonomy and clinician empowerment?
  • How can you move to a shared governance model that welcomes diverse voices at the table?
  • Have you identified an accountable executive team leader to spearhead and measure well-being efforts?

AHA Center for Health Innovation logo