Heavy patient loads, smaller staffs and higher stress levels may be causing burnout among healthcare workers, according to a new survey by recruiting firm CareerBuilder. Harris Interactive conducted the online survey for CareerBuilder between February 11 and March 6, 2013, among more than 500 U.S. healthcare workers and more than 240 U.S. healthcare employers.
A CareerBuilder spokesman said the data did not identify the type of healthcare worker responding – whether nurses and physicians giving direct care, or members of a health IT team, for example, providing a supportive role.
More than a third (34 percent) of healthcare workers plan to look for a new job in 2013, up from 24 percent last year. Nearly half (45 percent) plan to look for a new job over the next two years. Eighty-two percent said that while they are not actively looking for a job today, they would be open to a new position if they came across the right opportunity.
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“Not only are healthcare organizations dealing with a shortage of high skill workers, they are facing higher demand fueled by an aging population and more Americans having access to medical benefits,” Jason Lovelace, president of CareerBuilder Healthcare, said in a statement. “Nearly half – 46 percent – of healthcare organizations said they have seen a negative impact on their organizations due to extended job vacancies. Long hours and juggling multiple patient needs are taking their toll on morale and retention. The survey shows healthcare workers are seeking a more manageable work experience.”
Burnout and turnover
A tougher hiring situation can have a direct impact on patient care with current staff becoming more stressed as they cover positions open for extended periods of time. Sixty percent of healthcare workers say they are burned out on their jobs. Twenty-one percent always or often feel burned out. Of workers who feel always or often burned out, 67 percent plan to look for a new job this year.
Top staffing challenges
Given heightened stress levels and workloads, it’s not surprising, Lovelace said, that healthcare employers said their top staffing challenge for 2013 was lifting employee morale (34 percent), followed by retaining top talent (33 percent), finding skill workers (32 percent) and offering competitive compensation (30 percent).
More than one-third of healthcare employers (34 percent) said they currently have open positions for which they can’t find qualified candidates. Among healthcare organizations with more than 50 employees, that number is 43 percent.
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Looking at the key factors that can influence job satisfaction and retention, workers reported the following:
- Pay – Seventy-five percent of healthcare workers say they do not earn their desired salary – with 29 percent saying not anywhere near it. While 44 percent say they received a merit raise in 2012, 17 percent say they haven’t received one since before 2008. Four in ten health care workers (41 percent) say they have not received a cost-of-living increase since before 2008.
- Work/life balance – Eighteen percent of workers said they are dissatisfied with their work/life balance, and when asked what is preventing them from having that balance, the highest percentage cited a workload that is too heavy (44 percent), followed by their employer’s unwillingness to provide flexible work schedules (21 percent).
- Career advancement – Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of healthcare workers are not satisfied with their career progress. A lack of upward mobility was also one of the top reasons why healthcare workers decided to look for employment opportunities.
- Switching Industries – Nearly three in ten (29 percent) healthcare workers say they are currently trying to acquire skills in a new industry or field. Of these workers, 54 percent are going back to school, 18 percent are volunteering, and 7 percent are taking on temporary or contract work.
Why healthcare workers stay
The survey asked healthcare workers who planned to stay in their jobs what factors most compelled them not to leave their organizations. The number one factor healthcare workers pointed to was a sense of fulfillment.
- I find my work satisfying and rewarding – 57 percent
- I enjoy my colleagues – 54 percent
- Location is ideal – 53 percent
- Compensation, benefits and perks – 51 percent
Flexible work schedules – 44 percent