How to Make Your Healthcare Organization a Great Place to Work
From clear new hire expectations to self-scheduling options, there are many tactics that can make a big difference in your providers’ day-to-day experience.
October 18, 2023
Creating a place where physicians want to work and stay is about more than just a remodeled lobby or the latest ultrasound scanners — it has a lot to do with your healthcare organization’s culture and values.
As the provider pipelines shrink and the marketplace becomes more competitive, it’s imperative to put actions behind your values. Building a supportive culture can help you reach your recruitment goals and set you apart from other health systems.
Boosting morale and making systemic changes to improve work culture has become essential in the face of widespread burnout. Compared to 27 other industries, healthcare ranked last in employee satisfaction, according to a 2023 Qualtrics report. It’s clear there is room to grow for the healthcare industry.
Turning your organization into a great place to work doesn’t mean you need to overhaul your entire infrastructure. Simply refocusing on decreasing inefficiencies and frustrations can make a huge difference in your providers’ day-to-day experiences.
Presbyterian Healthcare Services, a Provider Solutions & Development (PS&D) partner and healthcare system, operates nine hospitals and more than 80 clinics throughout New Mexico and is dedicated to making every facility a great place to work.
This commitment has paid off, with Presbyterian winning multiple awards, including Best Regional Hospital from 2015 to 2017 and most recently, four years running (2019 to 2022). It was named an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader and received Healthgrades’ America’s 100 Best Hospitals Award, placing it among the top 2% of all health systems.
Susan Camenisch, a recruiter for Presbyterian, says the organization’s success is grounded in a dedication to its mission: to improve the health of its communities.
“It’s why we exist, and you can feel that throughout every area of the organization, including how we treat our providers and the environment we work hard to create for all of our employees,” she says. “Our mission doesn’t get diluted with other objectives. We all know why we’re at Presbyterian and why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Stephanie Reynolds, PS&D recruiter, partners with Susan to help hire Presbyterian’s physicians and advanced practice clinicians. She says the organization’s success stems in large part from how well they support their employees and how thoughtful they are throughout the hiring process.
“I love working with Presbyterian, because we are so aligned on getting to know job candidates holistically. It starts from the moment we begin talking to them,” Stephanie says. “It’s important to both Susan and to me. It has to be the right match. I think they appreciate that about us as a partner, that at PS&D, we hire for fit, meticulously looking for providers who embody their values and can contribute wholeheartedly to their communities.”
~ Stephanie Reynolds, Physician Recruiter, PS&D
It's easy to say that values and culture must be paramount in your organization. But what does that actually mean? What values (and actions behind them) will make you stand out in the sea of health systems, medical groups and clinics vying for talent?
Based on PS&D’s decades of experience and breadth of partners both big and small across the country, we have found that there are five values every modern healthcare organization must embody: flexibility, empathy, transparency, empowerment and advocacy.
5 Values Every Modern Healthcare Organization Must Embody
1. Offer Flexibility
Whether you build it into scheduling or have leaders step up in moments of need, flexibility is an effective way to combat the stress, pace and unpredictability inherent particularly in the hospital setting. Flexible options show you trust your employees, leading to better employee engagement and stronger relationships.
Prior to becoming a recruiter at PS&D, Stephanie worked as a hospital human resources director. She’s seen the ways health systems can help providers feel supported — and she’s also got a keen eye for opportunities where organizations can do more. One way is to create scheduling that’s less rigid.
“When providers feel like they have some control over their own schedule, when they have options and flexibility with their shifts, it creates an environment where they’re happier, and they have a greater sense of trust between themselves and their employer,” Stephanie says. “I think flexible scheduling recognizes the many demands on doctors, both at work and at home, and it says, ‘We see you, and we care about making space for balance in your life.’”
Flexibility in Scheduling
Technological advancements like video conferencing, scheduling software and employee apps give organizations more opportunities to be creative with their benefits and workplace culture.
Leaning into software or other methods to create flexible scheduling can help your organization stand out during recruitment. These scheduling options can also boost morale and retention rates. Two examples are:
- Self-scheduling. Instead of assigning employees to time slots, shift managers define the week’s shifts, and employees select them. They also can trade them among co-workers to accommodate any obligations. Leftover shifts can be reassigned or incentivized. The benefits? Less no-shows, plus employees will enjoy having more control over their work-life balance.
- Job sharing. Two employees — job partners — split a full-time job and all the responsibilities. They make the call on how to divide work, along with balancing external events such as vacations or family emergencies. This fosters a positive working relationship and doubles up on strengths and synergy that comes from two people bringing their talents to the same job.
Building Flexibility Into Your Culture
Company culture — and improvement to it — starts at the top. Good leaders can provide extra support to maintain balance and well-being for their employees. In turn, when employees see leaders dedicated to flexibility, they give more back to the company culture.
Dr. John Pederson, children’s program medical director and a pediatric hospitalist at Presbyterian, says leadership at his organization has an all-hands-on-deck approach.
“During the pandemic, we had incredible shortages, especially within our emergency department,” he says. “Our chief operating officer picked up shifts in the emergency room so we could continue to function and serve the community and our patients.”
Embedding leadership can be a powerful practice in solidarity that can strengthen providers’ commitment to your organization. It also helps leaders empathize with the day-to-day struggles providers face, so you’re better equipped to address them.
2. Empathize With Your Providers
Empathy isn’t just for provider-patient relationships. When leaders understand and share the sentiments of their providers, the work relationships between them grow exponentially. It’s a top-down effect that can lead to better work environments and high-quality patient care.
“An empathetic company culture is a supportive one — and it’s one that recognizes humanness,” Stephanie says. “This goes back to Presbyterian operating in such a way that aligns with their mission. They are providing their caregivers with a stable environment and a built-in support system.”
Developing and supporting an empathetic company culture is key to a successful healthcare organization — and it’s smart healthcare management. By approaching your providers with empathy, you can better understand both them and the needs of the organization and its patients. Here are some ways you can implement more empathy in your organization.
Support the Physician as a Whole
Healthcare is an emotionally intense job. Providers deal with stress, trauma and sometimes death, making it critical to support them emotionally, build them up and hopefully retain them in the long run.
“As part of our benefits, everybody has the ability to take part in free counseling [through our employee assistance program],” Dr. Pederson says. “It’s something that I’ve utilized personally and something that I’ve encouraged so many of the people I work with in the children’s program to also take advantage of.”
Providing benefits such as counseling or wellness days can show you walk the talk when you empathize with providers’ professional hardships, care for them as people outside their job and allow them to return rested and revitalized.
There are also ways to show empathy on a smaller scale and meet your staff’s needs as individuals.
In addition to generous counseling benefits, healthcare organizations like PS&D partner Swedish Health offer an on-site gym and exercise classes to support the health and fitness of its employees, as well as their peace of mind. These on-site benefits go a long way in not only supporting your workforce’s mental and physical health, but also helping providers improve work-life balance and feel like their organization is investing in them — keys to improving recruitment and retention.
“A health system must have mechanisms in place to get feedback from its staff. You need a robust and anonymous way to see if your employees are feeling supported, and then you need to act on that information.”
~ Dr. John Pederson, Children’s Program Medical Director and Pediatric Hospitalist, Presbyterian Healthcare Services
Invest in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
In a recent study, Press Ganey found that healthcare workers who didn’t feel like their employer valued providers from different backgrounds were 4.3 times less likely to stay at their current healthcare organization for the next three years and 4.6 times less likely to intend to stay if offered a similar job elsewhere.
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) starts with recruitment. It is essential to prioritize hiring diverse providers. Hiring providers from different genders, races and sexual orientations can create a culture of richness and acceptance. It also creates well-rounded and better patient care for your organization.
After hiring, there’s more you can do for your staff. When you understand your staff as a whole, learn what unique backgrounds they bring to the table and celebrate them, you promote empathy outside the job itself. When you celebrate events like Hispanic Heritage Month or Coming Out Day, your providers will feel acknowledged and celebrated, which helps alleviate stresses surrounding their identity in the workplace.
Many organizations are looking inward through the lens of DEI, hosting training, forming DEI teams to hire and support equitably and creating employee resource groups (ERGs) so providers have safe spaces for their communities. Investments in DEI ultimately drive more equitable and higher-quality care, and they can enrich your staff and patient experiences.
3. Be Transparent in Your Communications
Communication is vital in healthcare, but it has to be a two-way street, with channels for everyone in your organization to get what they need and want. With meaningful engagement from leadership, your employees can feel heard and supported. Improvement comes in ways big and small, from org-wide employee feedback to consistent internal communications to clear job requirements on a provider’s first day.
Transparent Physician Expectations From the Start
From the moment you hire a provider, set honest expectations. Ensure they understand the full scope of their role, expected outcomes, daily routine, the company culture and its values. By defining expectations, your employees will grasp things quickly and have the opportunity to invest into your organization earlier.
Here’s how to set expectations up front:
- Arrange a meeting between the new hire and manager(s) the week they begin their new job to discuss expectations, workplace culture and goal setting.
- Provide the new hire with an accurate and up-to-date job description detailing their responsibilities.
- Provide them with actionable growth targets throughout their employment at your organization, at various benchmarks such as 30-day, 90-day, 1-year and so on.
- Follow up on these benchmark dates and discuss progress in meeting those expectations.
The goal is to set your physicians and APCs up for success. When you’re clear and deliberate about work expectations, for both the job and company culture, your providers have the opportunity to thrive in a job and an environment that are both well defined.
Improve Internal Communications
Your in-house communication channels are the fastest way you can improve transparency. While healthcare organizations tend to focus on provider-to-patient communication, internal communications can become a blind spot.
To deliver better internal communications, consider these tactics:
- Prioritize and filter. Give your employees clear, concise and necessary information. Be meticulous about what you deem valuable to send.
- Choose the right channels. Whether it’s email, text, in-person or internal communication apps, select one or multiple channels based on what employees check most and how urgent the communication is. (Hint: Millennials and Gen Z prefer texts!)
- Reach out to the right department(s). As a leader, learn and understand the differences between your departments, teams and groups. This way, you don’t overwhelm staff members with irrelevant communication, and you’ll get the most out of your outreach.
- Invest in the right tools. An app or software can streamline and centralize communication throughout your organization. Finding the tool that works best will pay dividends.
Clear Channels for Feedback
Just as top-down communication needs to be clear and transparent, your organization also needs clear and organized channels for staff feedback.
“A health system must have mechanisms in place to get feedback from its staff,” says Dr. Pederson. “You need a robust and anonymous way to see if your employees are feeling supported, and then you need to act on that information.”
He adds that it’s not just about listening, it’s about showing that you listened. Healthcare organizations need to visibly implement or recognize feedback, so employees see the value of their words, which builds trust and reciprocity into your work culture.
Improving these internal communications and feedback mechanisms is an effective form of transparency that you can build into your organization. Not only will it enhance day-to-day efficiency, but it can also save costs, improve the quality of care for patients and reduce provider burnout.
4. Empower Your Providers
Empowering your healthcare workforce not only creates more employee buy-in, it boosts the overall quality of work in your hospital. There are two main ways to empower your employees: recognizing your providers and helping them reach their full career potential.
Celebrate Your Hardest Workers
Your top physicians and APCs are giving everything they have to the profession and their patients. And while most people wouldn’t admit it, it feels great to be recognized and validated.
“Often, top performers feel unseen,” Stephanie says. “You need to call them out. You need to recognize them. Don’t stick with 3% to 5% raises. When I was a human resources director, I felt the ideal reward was a vacation with a travel voucher and some extra PTO days so they can get an actual mental health recharge.”
While this is creative and fun way to reward your hardest workers, it may not be attainable for some institutions. However, there are many ways you can think outside the box to recognize your staff, ranging from general achievement and service to awards unique to your mission.
Here are some types of recognition to consider:
- General Excellence Awards and Clinical Excellence Awards
- Years of Service Awards
- Leadership Awards
- Team Partnership Awards and other group awards
- Diseases Attacking the Immune System (DAISY) Awards
- Employee of the Month
- Special Thanks and Recognition (STAR) Awards
- Individual awards according to specialization
- Awards based on organization mission and values
While many are satisfied with a simple “thank you,” going the extra mile to publicly highlight your providers within your organization shows deeper gratitude, and that fosters appreciation and improves the work atmosphere.
Develop Your Providers
Perhaps nothing will empower your employees more than clear pathways for career development and advancement. Many providers are looking for more career mobility in leadership roles, according to Deloitte, but only 25% say they have the chance to do so.
Mentorship is a simple way to bring this to your organization. Mentorship focuses on career paths, plus it creates time for team bonding, individual skill building and internal support.
Stephanie says one of the main benefits she sees from mentorship programs is the resilience it creates in providers to weather the inevitable storms, ebbs and flows of life as a healthcare professional.
“If you have the discipline to keep up with regular check-ins and work on what your mentor teaches you, you’ll be so far ahead,” she says. “Even when it comes to burnout, if you’re able to have regular communication with someone who is above you and is more experienced than you, they can guide you and support you.
“It’s about having an open, supportive communication loop. We often hear people mention good managers and mentorship programs — or the lack thereof — during the hiring process and in exit interviews, and that really tells me mentorship is something that is wanted and needed.”
Done effectively, mentorship not only provides coaching for the next career opportunity, but it supports providers in their daily experience. Those relationships then have a ripple effect, flowing back into your company culture in rewarding ways.
Whether it’s recognizing who they are now or supporting who they can become, empowerment and mentorship play a key role in creating a buffering effect for providers through work’s inevitable ups and downs. It also contributes to a supportive company culture and fortifies retention efforts.
Beyond mentorship, there are other tangible ways to implement provider development:
- Train individuals or teams to build precise skills and/or get the certifications to perform new, innovative procedures.
- Invest in the latest technology and equipment to modernize their skillsets.
- Implement focused career development opportunities to prepare and lead providers to specific job positions.
5. Advocate for a Better Tomorrow
Unless words and promises are followed by action, they can do more harm than good. Providers want to work for organizations that stand up for them and are working to create systemic change. In advocating for your providers, you’re supporting them and bettering the industry, you’re setting your organization apart, and you’re creating a forward-thinking culture where people want to work.
Ways You Can Advocate for Your Staff
Healthcare providers often work at the expense of their mental health. Organizations can and should advocate for positive change on a broad scale.
Healthcare organizations can support their providers by offering or advocating for:
- Loan repayment relief. Medical school debt is steep, and repaying it is one of the most arduous and ongoing struggles providers face. Advocating for change here not only helps your current providers but will encourage potential healthcare workers to consider the profession in the future.
- Mental health crisis relief. 81% of healthcare providers identify feeling modest to high burnout, according to Deloitte. Compounded with the fact that accessing mental health services is a threat to their license, many providers avoid getting the proper care for themselves. By advocating against the stigma of providers seeking mental healthcare, you can support your providers and alleviate chronic fatigue in the industry.
- Better EHR. While meant to be more efficient, the electronic health record (EHR) is a bane for physicians. Advocating for better, more operable electronic health records is a way you can connect with the daily struggles of your providers.
- Physician/clinical autonomy. Physicians are trained to be critical thinkers as they investigate patient issues. Enforcing rigid care methods based on reimbursement policies goes against who doctors innately are. Health organizations can advocate for physician autonomy to help them regain control of their careers and instill pride in the profession and industry.
When you advocate for your staff, they’ll know you truly value their work, presence and well-being. And when you show that you’re in touch with and care about their current issues, you create a work atmosphere of understanding and allyship.
PS&D Recruits for Your Hospital and for Your Culture
Founded within Providence, the largest healthcare system in the western U.S., PS&D recruits and sources talent for Providence and more than 40 other health systems across the country.
As we do with Presbyterian Healthcare Services, PS&D hires for your company, your culture and your values. No matter where you are in making your organization a great place to work, we seek the right long-term fit for your open roles.
“What we do is very customized. If you want us to handle all of your recruiting, we can. If you have an in-house team or person already, we really get in there, learn how you recruit, offer our own expertise and become an extension of your team,” Stephanie says.
“We specialize in matching our partners with providers who align with their mission and culture. Health organizations are looking for that ideal candidate who will be happy long-term, and that starts the moment we make contact with a candidate. That’s where retention truly begins, and I think that’s where PS&D really shines.”
With more than 40 recruiters on our team and more than 1.3 million providers in our network, PS&D is a reliable partner for the healthcare organizations we work with. When you partner with us, you get one-on-one support and a dedicated team of recruiters who understand your organization’s mission, culture, values and goals. Partner with us to get personalized support in finding your next hire.
To discover our services and how we do what we do, learn more about PS&D.
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