CHG Healthcare recently conducted a healthcare career satisfaction survey of more than 1,200 physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and registered nurses to find out how COVID-19 has affected their career planning, job satisfaction, and mental health. The results of the survey offer healthcare organizations a valuable look at the impacts of the pandemic on providers’ overall well-being, and provide insights into how organizations can address burnout, improve retention, and refine their recruitment strategies.

The toll of burnout

Pre-COVID-19, 80% of providers indicated they were experiencing some degree of burnout; since the pandemic, 64% said their burnout has gotten worse. The impact of the pandemic was felt more acutely by physicians working on the frontlines (75%) and in emergency medicine (72%). NPs and PAs in OB/GYN (75%) and nurses in frontline roles (77%) and emergency medicine (83%) were similarly impacted.

Dr. Rita Manfredi, associate clinical professor for the Department of Emergency Medicine at George Washington School of Medicine, says she’s spoken with physicians who have even been considering retirement because of COVID. “COVID is going to reduce our workforce; I think it already has.”

Focus on wellness

Dr. Manfredi is co-author of Being Well in Emergency Medicine, ACEP’s Guide to Investing in Yourself, and her work focuses on how healthcare organizations impact the wellness of the individual healthcare provider. She feels organizations need to be more proactive and says one possible remedy to burnout is increasing staffing levels so providers have lighter schedules. “We need time to process this grief, helplessness, and rage we’re all feeling. And ideally leadership can do this without pay cuts.”

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.”

Dr. Manfredi asserts that healthcare leaders should look at burnout as a business problem 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.”

The importance of work/life balance

An overwhelming majority of survey respondents (83%) said the most influential factor on their career plans is a healthy work/life balance. Job stability (78%), workplace culture (76%), and compensation (75%) weren’t far behind.

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.”

Hiring for culture fit

Nearly half (44%) of providers surveyed indicated they are at least somewhat interested in changing jobs due to their employer’s COVID-19 response. Of those who indicated they may change jobs, 49% said they’d do so once the pandemic’s impact lessens, and 37% said they’ll do so as soon as possible. And workplace culture is in the top-three (76%) of the most influential factors on providers’ career plans and decisions.

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 key words 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.”

Retention and hiring in a post-pandemic environment

Although the majority of CHG Healthcare’s survey respondents indicated they intend to remain in their current jobs, the survey underlines the importance of addressing provider concerns. 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.

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Source: CompHealth | May 14, 2021

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