Are Health Care Professionals Engaged, or Are They Merely Content?

Group portrait of young doctors in a meeting at hospital

Patient success—and organizational success—depends on engaged health care professionals.                                                                         

Carter Liebscher|
November 6, 2019

Employee engagement is a necessity for every organization, regardless of the industry or the size of the company. Engaged employees are happier, more productive, and more likely to stay on than those who are either actively disengaged or merely content. If there’s any industry where an organization’s success relies on engaged employees, it’s health care. 

It’s obvious why health care is one industry where having engaged employees is integral to success. Health care is the definitive consumer-oriented industry (although “patient-oriented” may be a more appropriate phrase). Positive patient outcomes rely on nurses, doctors, and administrators to do their jobs with empathy and care. Even a single disengaged employee within the health care hierarchy can throw a wrench into the industry’s ultimate goal of improving lives.

Of course, health care professionals are in high-stakes positions, meaning that to be engaged is to simply perform their job. However, as the industry’s business model is externally tweaked to fit changing policies and patient expectations, keeping employees, networks, and organizations engaged can be a challenge.

As it stands today, what are the changes in health care affecting employee engagement? How does employee engagement fare today in comparison to previous years? And how can your health care organization use the effects of engagement and disengagement to serve its purpose?

Stats from the past and the present day

In its 2012 global workforce study, risk management and consulting firm Willis Towers Watson discovered that only 44% of the U.S. hospital workforce was engaged. While these employees are still performing their duties, they’re done in a perfunctory manner. Whereas engaged care givers may listen and respond sincerely to a patient, a disengaged care giver may only respond with head nods. 

These small habits may carry over from innocuous scenarios to those with higher risks. In a 2005 study from Gallup, nurses’ engagement levels were directly correlated to patient mortality rates. A high engagement level among nurses translates to low mortality rates; a low engagement level, then, translates to a high mortality rate. Similarly, in a report from Quantum Workplace, health care workers ranked the lowest out of all surveyed industries. These are serious results of an organizations refusing to put in effective disengagement barriers in place, whether that means more manageable schedules, better benefits, or consistent engagement surveying. 

Do these dire statistics hold up today? Yes and no. Advances in medical technology have improved patient outcomes, with or without actual, human employees at the helm. Machine learning has made it so virtual nurses and chatbots can interact and diagnose patients quickly, discretely, and cheaply. In short, patients have a greater number of choices when it comes to the care they receive, some preferring virtual care to physically seeing a doctor.

The very fact that virtual care is becoming the preferred version of care says that organizations have to make it count when patients opt for the more traditional route. People are more likely to forgive software lacking soft skills than they are a nurse or a doctor.  

So long as health care remains a demanding career (it always will), employee engagement will be a challenge.

What these stats mean for your organization

Beyond the obvious answer—more engaged employees make for better patient outcomes—there are many organizational reasons to implement employee engagement safeguards. 

Put simply, better patient care translates to better hospital ratings and increased profits. Better care means better ratings, making it easier for organizations to receive buy-in from others able to improve in other areas concerning patient care. It’s a cycle of positive outcomes. 

After all, health care will always be a people-centric industry, and the people working within it must share those values. In order to engage your employees, you should exercise the same people-centric values they do when providing patient care.

Crowdsourcing ideas, opinions, and solutions from your workforce is one sure way that they’ll feel heard. Book a free demo with Ideawake to unlock your employees’ and your organization’s potential, all while engaging them in the process!

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