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Combatting burnout: 5 steps to improve employee satisfaction in a medical practice


Training, opportunities for career advancement and good work-life balance are key

Medical staff standing outside hospital ©Monkey


Health care providers and practice administrators continue to struggle with elevated levels of work-related stress, leading to high turnover rates that are detrimental to patient outcomes and the financial stability of private practices. According to a recent survey of current and future physicians conducted by the Physicians Foundation, six in ten physicians have reported feelings of burnout for three years in a row now—up from four in 10 in 2018.

Another industry report focused on physicians and nurses found that 63% of survey respondents said they experienced a moderate or great deal of burnout on the job. And the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) reported that nearly 30% of medical groups owners it surveyed had a physician leave the practice because of burnout.

The data are clear. Employee satisfaction among health care providers is suffering, creating untenable work environments across medical offices and hospital networks. If your practice is reeling from unhappy employees and high turnover rates, here are five steps you can take to improve the work environment and employee satisfaction.

#1: Show employees that you care about their careers

Employees who have access to career growth and development opportunities are less likely to leave. A study by McKinsey and Company revealed that the top reason employees left their jobs was a lack of career development and advancement opportunities. By providing training programs and investing in continuing education, professional certifications, and advanced training opportunities, you demonstrate that you care about your employees and their careers.

#2: Establish employee recognition programs that acknowledge and reward staff for their accomplishments

Employees want to be validated for their work and contributions to their place of employment. Recognition programs, awards, or even acknowledgment for a job well done can go a long way towards making an employee feel valued, especially for health care providers who spend so much of their time caring for others. Monthly or quarterly events to recognize high-performing staff members are a great way to build community and give back to your employees.

#3: Implement work-life balance programs and well-being initiatives

Work-life balance is a challenge across industries, but particularly for health care providers who must split their time between caring for patients and managing paperwork. Offering work-life balance programs and well-being initiatives can greatly improve employee morale and have a positive impact on their mental health. For example, providing access to behavioral health counselors, nutritional programs, and health club memberships or implementing flexible schedules that give your employees more autonomy over their workday can help reduce work-related stress and minimize staff turnover.

#4: Implement routine employee reviews and skills gap assessments and provide regular feedback on employee performance

MGMA asked medical group owners if they conduct skills gap assessments as part of their professional development programs and found only 16% did. That means a large majority of private practices do not have programs in place to determine whether employees need more support, training or resources to do their jobs. As one MGMA consultant makes clear, “Empowering your team begins with recognizing the gaps not as shortcomings but as opportunities for growth and leadership development." Even if you are not conducting skills gap assessments, employee reviews and regular feedback on work performance is integral to a dynamic work environment that prioritizes its staff.

#5: Give your staff the same level of consideration as you give to your patients

Never underestimate the power of checking in on your staff and letting them know how much you appreciate all that they do for the practice and its patients. By ensuring your employees that they are supported and have the resources they need to perform their jobs, you create a healthy work environment that vastly improves employee satisfaction and reduces turnover.

Conversely, unhappy employees can have a devastating effect on practices. The financial impact alone can be disastrous. Industry studies show that the average cost to replace a registered nurse is more than $50,000 and can take anywhere from two to four months. Physician turnover can cost a medical office as much as $500,000 to $1 million and it takes, on average, more than four months to find the right candidate—replacing a specialist can take up to 10 months, resulting in nearly a year of lost revenue.

And it’s not just the financial implications. Practices suffering from low employee satisfaction scores and high levels of work-related stress can have a negative impact on a practice’s reputation and create a vicious cycle: Burned out employees lead to high turnover rates which lead to staffing shortages which lead to more burnout across the practice.

Prioritizing your employees is the fastest way to foster a dynamic work environment. Give your employees the training and resources they need to advance their careers. Implement effective EHR, practice management, and patient engagement solutions that enable more efficiencies and productivity throughout the practice. And most importantly, make sure your employees know just how much you value their time and efforts.

Stephen Dart is vice president of engineering for AdvancedMD

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