I recently joined Forrester as a senior analyst supporting the healthcare vertical, building on my experience as a nurse and healthcare product architect. To learn more about my background, check out my full bio here.
From an early age, it was apparent to me that my passion lies in providing care for patients. When I became a nurse, I learned that finding innovative ways to make care delivery more operationally efficient while reducing costs was a business imperative. Over the past 15 years, my journey of providing care and optimizing healthcare inefficiencies took on various forms, but it is my direct clinical experiences that remind me why these areas demand the highest attention, all within a rapidly changing landscape and the continuous quest for the Quadruple Aim.
The Undeniable Value Of Clinicians Finally Rears Its Head
As a practicing nurse providing acute care for cardiac surgical step-down patients on a per diem basis, I saw and felt firsthand the repercussions of overburdening and under-supporting clinicians. In the past few years, many nurses left their jobs or retired sooner than expected, leaving hospitals with soaring turnover costs averaging $40,000 per nurse and a less experienced staff. Throughout the US, staffing shortages, significant reported burnout levels, and little time for self-care among the healthcare workforce have contributed to the vulnerable state of clinician well-being and affected their ability to provide quality medical care. This was exacerbated by the persistent and pervasive effects of the pandemic, the high prevalence of chronic disease, and an aging population.
Yet, what’s been brought to light is the undeniable value clinicians bring to healthcare when they are rested, properly resourced, and feel supported. Value was captured when pay increased 4% in 2021 nationally for nurses, up from 3.3% in 2020, and 2.6% in 2019 because of amplified hospital recruitment, job-hopping, and intense competition among organizations. With developing insights into how to best care for our caregivers, we must ask, “Are healthcare organization leaders and government officials prepared to prioritize the needs of clinicians?”
The Key To Saving Healthcare Is Investing In Frontline Workers
Now is the time for healthcare organizations (HCOs) to restructure and optimize their healthcare workforce management strategies to acquire and retain their most vital assets. This will ultimately drive the shift to value-based care and position patient outcomes at the helm of what drives decisions. Here are a few steps for HCOs get started:
- Monitor and nurture relationships with clinicians to sustain well-being. Employee wellness and engagement cultivate the continuous delivery of high-quality care. Implement ongoing, proactive retention interviews, as opposed to reactive exit interviews, to screen the general sentiment and pinpoint distinctive issues that arise. Be preemptive in avoiding further deterioration of morale and burnout.
- Make career development a top priority. Career development has always been a sticking point for frontline workers. Organizations need to offer opportunities and support clinicians to grow professionally and enable them to perform at the top of their license.
- Maximize your employee benefits. Adjust benefits and offerings to reflect the support employees need. Extend benefits beyond paid sick leave, paid vacations, healthcare, and dental benefits. Roll out new self-care offerings. These can include treats to say thank-you, a quiet room to take a breath, virtual meditations, onsite yoga, or assistance with gym memberships or childcare.
- Incentivize your workforce. Clinicians need better pay in addition to more flexible shifts. HCOs have tight profit margins, and there is a national shortage to contend with; however, the current state of work is failing. Incentives are needed to reflect the value clinicians bring to keep workers engaged and sustain competition. Consider sign-on bonuses for select roles and incentive payments for applicants who accept prior to the deadline.
- Partner up to boost employee experience. Partnering with innovative groups, other HCOs, and health tech companies can help healthcare organizations get a fresh perspective on retention and create a more personalized and connected employee experience. This can include incorporating peer-to-peer support groups and reflective practice groups that allow providers to share their personal experiences and feelings. Offering computer-assisted resilience training, free access to teletherapy, and mental health apps can also help employees cope with stress and anxiety.