Playing For Keeps: The Built Environment's Role In Healthcare Staff Retention
It’s an era of healthcare worker shortages. From physicians getting out of primary care medicine to baby boomer nurses approaching retirement to newly insured individuals growing the overall patient population, there are all too many reasons to take notice.
With demand for skilled employees rising right alongside the stress levels of workers, it’s no surprise that a recent survey shows healthcare staffers are exploring their professional options.
According to CareerBuilder, of more than 500 healthcare workers surveyed, 34 percent plan to look for a new job this year, up from 24 percent in 2012, while almost 45 percent reported they plan to look for a new job over the next two years. And for those not actively seeking a job, 82 percent said they’d be open to a new position, if they came across the right opportunity.
With burnout the leading cause of staff losses, the more than 240 employers also surveyed reported their biggest challenge is lifting employee morale, followed next by retaining their top talent—in fact, more than one-third of employers said they currently have positions open that they can’t fill.
And while demands like higher pay and options for career advancement are a different animal, other employee wants and needs might be addressed by taking a new look at the built environment.
While amenities can’t always guarantee someone will get to clock out at 5 p.m. on the dot, they might make a difference in the overall work-life balance. For example, having a dry cleaner, daycare, fitness center, and nearby parking all on-site cut out plenty of stops in between work and home.
“If I’m arriving at 6 a.m. and I can get my breakfast, my life is easier. If I have a place where I can lock my stuff that’s closer to where I work, my life is easier,” says Jeffrey Brand, principal at Perkins Eastman (New York), who spoke to freelance writer Gwynneth Anderson for her piece on designing for staff that appears in the May/June 2013 issue of Healthcare Design.
Also, according to the CareerBuilding survey, at 57 percent, the most reported reason healthcare workers said they plan to stay at their jobs is that they find the work satisfying and rewarding. So what if design could actually enhance the work being done? Think collocation areas for different disciplines to collaborate, wireless workstations where employees can be untethered by technology, or quiet areas for reflection and concentration.
All of these elements can play a role in the big picture. But, as Brand says in Anderson’s article, it’s important to calculate return on investment. Any upgrades or added amenities should be thought of in terms of how they will increase productivity, ideally in a variety of areas, including clinical outcomes, patient satisfaction, communication, collaboration, etc.
Attracting and retaining staff will remain a challenge, and it’s a challenge not solved with design alone. But as we’ve seen the design of our healthcare spaces play a critical role for patients in reducing stress and increasing comfort, it may just be time to further explore what we can do for the staff in those environments, and how doing so just might pay off in spades.