Physicians, advanced practice professionals, and registered nurses are facing unprecedented pressures in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. A study by Definitive Healthcare found that as many as 333,942 healthcare providers left the profession in 2021, and new student enrollment is declining. The growing shortage is putting more pressure on working providers than ever before, resulting in high rates of burnout and job dissatisfaction. A 2022 CHG Healthcare survey found that as many as 43% of physicians changed jobs during the pandemic, and another 42% said they are unlikely to stay in their current job beyond 2023. Better understanding of what healthcare providers want and need can help healthcare organizations address burnout, improve retention, and refine their recruitment strategies.
Mental health and wellness
A 2023 study by Medscape found that 53% of physicians are burned out and another 23% are depressed. Nurses aren’t faring any better. A study from the American Nurses Foundation found that 57% of nurses were exhausted and 43% burned out.
Dr. Rita Manfredi, associate clinical professor for the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington School of Medicine and co-author of Being Well in Emergency Medicine, ACEP’s Guide to Investing in Yourself, says healthcare organizations need to be more aggressive in focusing on wellness.
Healthcare leaders should look at burnout as a business problem, asserts Dr. Manfredi, and determine how much it’s costing — both financially and in terms of medical errors. But it should also be looked at morally and ethically.
“If you have a good wellness program, you increase patient safety, you increase family satisfaction,” Dr. Manfredi says. “All the metrics executives are interested in could be improved if they paid attention to wellness more.”
“What works for me personally is time away,” she says. “This means decreasing my hours at work. That has benefited my attitude and longevity in my career.”
Dr. Manfredi also recommends expanding wellness and employee assistance programs. “A lot of these solutions should be coming from leadership. Leaders have to be compassionate — maybe even take 30 minutes to see what it’s like in our shoes — listen to us. There’s lots of research that has found that what determines your well-being is what the organization does.”
Better work/life balance
A CHG Healthcare survey found that 85% of early career physicians said work/life balance was the most important factor in choosing their first job. Similarly, work/life balance was the number one reason physicians changed jobs during the pandemic.
Primary motivators for making career change
Heidi Baka, physician recruiter team lead at Marshfield Clinic, says they’re very cognizant of the importance of work/life balance when they’re recruiting and monitoring the well-being of their staff. During the pandemic, for example, rather than cutting staff to save money, their organization hired 40% more than in 2019.
Touting the advantages of rural living made it possible for them to successfully recruit physicians who were interested in a better work/life balance. “They can have a practice and be home in 10 minutes to be at their child’s soccer game,” Heidi says. “It’s the best of both worlds.”
A good culture fit
The pandemic changed the way many healthcare providers view their employers. More than a third (35%) of physicians responding to the CHG survey said they changed jobs due to dissatisfaction with their healthcare organization’s COVID-19 response. And a CHG survey conducted during the pandemic found that workplace culture was among the top-three (76%) of the most influential factors on their future career plans, ranking just below work/life balance (83%), and job stability (78%).
This finding is important not only for those employers trying to retain providers, but for organizations that are looking to recruit. There is a unique opportunity for healthcare organizations to attract new talent from a broader pool of candidates who are ready to make a move.
But it’s more important than ever to find physicians who are the right fit rather than hiring out of desperation, according to Steve Jacobs, manager of physician recruitment for Einstein Healthcare in Philadelphia. He believes culture fit is key in determining how likely they are to be happy and stay.
Jacobs says it’s important to analyze your organization’s culture as a whole and learn how to ask the right questions to get the right culture fit. That begins with asking the question, “Who are we?” Einstein’s mission and value statement is multifaceted, so they engineered questions for interviewees focused on keywords from their mission statement. One word is ‘humanity.’
“Our mission is a human mission, so we ask: ‘What would the way you practice or want to practice medicine say about your humanity? What does the word humanity mean to you as it applies to how you practice or want to practice?’ Other questions follow along the same path and probe areas of humility, honor, healing, etc.,” he says.
“If a candidate says, ‘I like to serve patients who are challenged, or I want to help solve health inequity, or I want to give back, or I have done mission work in other countries,’ then they are saying the right things,” Jacobs says. “That is what we want to hear from prospective candidates because that is what we do every day.”
Fostering a culture that supports provider wellness and work/life balance will increase provider retention and make your organization more attractive to the professionals you are looking to hire.
This article first appeared on CompHealth.com. CompHealth is a division of CHG Healthcare.
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