The Great Resignation
Health Centers have not been immune to the “The Great Resignation,” which has left many health care facilities struggling to fill vacant positions, trying to reduce burnout for current staff, and ensuring that paying overtime to current staff does not affect financial viability. Statistics have been staggering; one in five health care workers have quit their jobs since February 2022; of those that have stayed, 30% have considered leaving. Regardless of staffing circumstances, health centers still have the responsibility to provide high quality care to all, regardless of ability to pay. This has left many CEOs/Executive Directors wondering how they are able to combat staffing shortages.
While there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution, health center senior leaders can examine their organization to determine what can be done to mitigate resignations. The following are some things to consider as health centers navigate through challenging times.
- Evaluate current salary and benefit packages: Offering a “living wage” may not be possible for all health centers, but completing a market analysis of true living costs within the service area may be an eye opener to determine whether salaries are competitive, and whether an increase is warranted. While Executive Order 14026 (raising the minimum wage to $15 for Federal Contractors) may not apply to employees of Health Centers, health center leaders should evaluate the feasibility of having $15 as the starting wage.
Evaluation of fringe benefits may be another avenue to explore to help with staffing shortages. Offering “pizza parties” or food incentives does not count as additional fringe benefits. Surveying staff to determine how you can improve the work environment is a great way to evaluate what other benefits could be offered. Health Centers should have a deliberate and targeted approach to cater to employees and this can be accomplished by focusing on professional growth. Initiatives such as additional certifications, learning about/being provided with training on new technology programs, or giving employees the ability to advance their education and career may be a way to retain employees. Remember, the goal should be to acknowledge employees, lift them up, and provide the tools for them to be successful.
- Flexible working environments: One thing the pandemic has taught us is the ability to effectively complete work remotely by improving technology; providers and staff are able to work from home and perform tasks such as scheduling appointments, clinical staff providing telehealth services, and being able to monitor patients through remote monitoring equipment. While telehealth may not be ideal for certain visits, having a hybrid model (work from home and come to the office), or offering job sharing positions may be an innovative way to solve burnout. Flexible schedules are highly desirable and offering that option may be beneficial when recruiting and retaining employees.
- Revisit your health center’s culture: The term “culture of hospitality” has been exhausted. Sometimes, as senior leaders explore their health center’s culture, the intent of improving culture can be lost. Remember, work culture is the “belief and behaviors that make up the regular atmosphere in a work environment”. An employee’s attitude, work-life balance, growth opportunities and job satisfaction all depend on the culture of the health center. Now is the time for health centers to take a hard look at what their culture looks like. Instead of looking for employees to fit into the health center’s current culture, think about what value a new employee would add to the culture (culture add versus culture fit). A healthy work culture includes the following qualities:
While this is not an inclusive list, having honest conversations with employees may bring to light that your health center is missing or lacking in one or more of these health qualities. Once the conversations take place, and areas of opportunity to improve upon are recognized, it’s important to take action to improve the work environment.
It should not take “The Great Resignation” movement to evaluate the environmental challenges within health centers. Remembering that employees are a health center’s greatest asset will directly correlate to high quality patient care and improved clinical metrics.