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If I told you that workforce challenges is still the top issue confronting U.S. hospital CEOs, would you be surprised?

Probably not.

I wasn't either when I read the results of the American College of Healthcare Executives' 2023 survey of community hospital CEOs. Number two is financial challenges, followed by behavioral health/addiction issues. Patient health and safety and patient satisfaction were on down the list of 11 top issues identified.

Isn't it interesting that many hospital leaders are now more concerned with staff satisfaction than patient satisfaction?

That may be because they have made good strides in the past 10 years at improving patient satisfaction. Or because patients are always going to come to the hospital when they need care, but workers may not keep working at a hospital if they aren't happy.

And of course, there is the Covid factor.

Operational Strategies to Tackle Hospital Workforce Challenges

Most of what hospital leaders are doing to address workforce challenges are operational strategies aimed at staff recruitment, retention, and satisfaction. Things like:

  1. Investing in professional training and development to help employees enhance their skills and advance in their careers.
  2. Enhancing work-life balance with flexible scheduling options, telecommuting opportunities, and employee assistance programs.
  3. Improving compensation and benefits to offer competitive salaries, performance-based bonuses, and comprehensive benefits packages.
  4. Creating a positive work culture where employees feel valued, respected, and appreciated by recognizing achievements, promoting teamwork, and providing avenues for feedback and communication.
  5. Addressing burnout and mental health by providing access to counseling services, mindfulness programs, and stress management resources.

I'd like to think that nowadays many hospital leaders also understand the impact that the design of the physical environment has on staff recruitment, retention, and satisfaction. But it's never mentioned in any surveys conducted by the professional healthcare associations or related organizations, so there's no hard data to support that assumption.

Facility Design Strategies to Tackle Hospital Workforce Challenges

And yet, there's no doubt that the design of the physical environment directly contributes to the success of most of the operational strategies listed. Those who are ahead of the game are:

  1. Designing ergonomic workspaces that are well-lit, and equipped with necessary tools and resources to enhance staff comfort and efficiency.
  2. Incorporating collaborative spaces such as break rooms, lounges, and meeting areas to facilitate teamwork, communication, and social interaction among staff members.
  3. Providing designated quiet zones or relaxation areas where staff members can take breaks and recharge away from the hustle and bustle of clinical areas to promote stress relief and rejuvenation.
  4. Maximizing access to natural light and incorporating elements of nature to improve mood, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being.
  5. Offering amenities such as onsite cafeterias, fitness centers, and childcare facilities to make the workplace more convenient and appealing for staff.

Hospital leaders need to take a multifaceted approach to address workforce challenges. This means involving staff in their decisions, engaging their design teams, and collaborating with government agencies, educational institutions, professional associations, and other stakeholders to foster a supportive work environment.

It's a win-win for everyone because happier staff = better quality care = happier patients.

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Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at sara@saramarberry.com.

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