Turnover RX: What’s Ailing Healthcare Workers

As a staffing company with a division devoted to the healthcare industry, we obviously have a vested interest in its employment forecast and all issues relating to it.  However, as one of the fastest growing and most dynamic industries, healthcare has captured the interest of people from all corners of the working world.  The recent developments within the industry have left many healthcare employers with an interesting dilemma: the aging of the Baby Boomer generation means that there will not be enough healthcare workers to fulfill the growing demand for healthcare services.  According to a CareerBuilder article, “This year alone, the first wave of more than 70 million baby boomers will turn 65, and 30 million more Americans will be insured, adding to the need for jobs like nurse practitioners.” 
With this growing need for healthcare workers, it is increasingly important for employers to understand the challenges people in healthcare positions are facing in order to maximize the retention rate of this “in demand” talent.  Below is a CareerBuilder “Hiring Site” article identifying precisely the top challenges for them in the workplace.

1. A lack of career advancement opportunities is the top challenge health care workers face in their current positions.
What’s most challenging for health care workers — a) the sometimes-stressful environment? b) The lack of time for lunch breaks? c) The scrubs they must wear? No — it’s d) none of the above. In reality, more than half (51 percent) of health care workers cited a lack of advancement opportunities as the top challenge they faced in their current job. As patients are workers’ first priority, and as work overload was second in line as far as challenges cited, with 40 percent saying it was their biggest challenge, workers need management to help them make career advancement a priority as well.
2.    Tenure rates for nurses are low across various health care organizations.
Analysis of CareerBuilder databases revealed that registered nurses have a median tenure of 1.4 years. This is much lower than the 4.4 years that wage and salary workers had had with their current employer (according to a 2010 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study). Offices of physicians see the lowest nurse turnover, with a median job tenure of 1.57 years, while nursing care facilities have the highest ,at .97 years tenure. Operators of certain health care facilities may have a harder time retaining employees because of the difficult nature of the work.
3. Nurses are more concerned with doing their job well in a good environment than with the amount of money they make.
Nurses are the segment of the workforce hardest to recruit and retain — and with a median 1.4-year tenure, what factors are nurses struggling with, that, if resolved, might make a difference in workplace satisfaction? When nurses were asked about their biggest workplace challenge, salary was not at the top of the heap — they put salary as fifth (35 percent) on their list of biggest workplace challenges. Topping their list, though, was a shortage of needed staff (49 percent) and, as many health care workers across the board stated, a lack of advancement opportunities (49 percent).
4.    A wide disconnect exists between benefits offered by employers and what employees say their organizations provide.
In the CareerBuilder survey, health care professionals were asked if their current or most recent employer offered a number of different programs to their health care employees. Of the 10 programs listed, in-house skills training was the only program said to be offered by more than 50 percent of the survey-takers. Below are the full results:
§ In-house skills training (57 percent)
§ Education reimbursement (43 percent)
§ Technology training (43 percent)
§ Flexible work schedules (42 percent)
§ Cross-training (40 percent)
§ Opportunity to mentor others (37 percent)
§ Autonomy in position (33 percent)
§ Opportunity for innovation (24 percent)
§ Performance-based incentives (22 percent)
§ Sign-on bonus (8 percent)
In addition to the somewhat alarming statistic that nine of the 10 factors were said to be offered by fewer than half of the respondents’ workplaces, there also appears to be a disconnect between what employers are offering and what employees believe they offer. For instance, more than half (57 percent) of health care employees said that in-house skill trainings were offered by their employer; however, an even higher number of employers (68 percent) indicate that they provided this type of perk — meaning a lot of employees left in the dark about the trainings their employer provides. This disconnect illustrates that while health care organizations may be offering valuable perks, these programs are not always being messaged effectively to employees.
5.    Patient to staff ratio is strained, leaving workers spread thin with little time for career development.
We’ve heard before about health care workers’ desire to be heard  — and survey data supports that idea. However, because workers are so tied down in managing their daily duties, there’s often little to no time left to focus on professional development. Nearly six in ten (57 percent) of health care workers said that the health care professional-per-patient ratio is getting worse, allowing less time for professional development and career advancement and requiring more time on day-to-day duties.

How can employers better support their employees?

It’s clear that money is not the only thing on health care workers’ minds — just like workers in many other professions, they seek opportunities for advancement in their careers, professional recognition, and benefits. They also need both the support of management and a robust enough staff to make this more easily attainable.
Although salary and benefits are important, lower-cost factors such as mentoring, career-path planning, training and support also greatly influence health care employees to apply to and stay at a job. With health care organizations battling for top talent and facing high demand for positions, it’s important for employers to take the temperature of their staff to best meet their needs, as well as keep a finger on the pulse of job seekers.

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