Out of the various industries, the Healthcare industry is extremely uncertain and includes array of policies and regulations. These include insurance, payments, admissions and medical rehabilitation which are quite complex compared to other industries.
To understand the complexities of this industry and how one can control and manage employee experience and behaviour in a trying environment, our Editor-in-chief, Ekta Capoor spoke to Neeraj Lal, Cluster Head and Vice President of Rainbow Children’s Hospitals- Bangalore. During this conversation, Neeraj Lal mentioned genuine and critical points regarding the Healthcare Industry and how the human capital needs to be managed differently from other industries.
He pointed out various important points regarding the healthcare industry and provided us with in-depth knowledge about it. The truth about the healthcare staff and what they go through on everyday basis was extremely important in-order to learn and understand how a workplace environment is important to a worker.
He also explained what employee engagement looks like in an intense working environment like this. The signs of employee engagement all over can be the same, such as job satisfaction, positive experience, replenishments and turnovers. However, the discussion focuses on how the healthcare staff manages to achieve it.
Key Hurdles faced in the Healthcare Industry-
- As healthcare is a very crucial aspect and no mistakes can be afforded regarding it. There is an immediate need of doctors and medical supervisors for the patients as no single second can be wasted. Healthcare staff are required 24-7 in the hospital for immediate supervision. Unlike others, in healthcare industry doctor’s physical assistance is required.
- A job like this requires great emotional and physical stability. In order to cure and assist the patients and their families, doctors need to make sure that they are at their best. Healthcare staff spend more than 18hr shifts in their jobs. They are called during odd hours due, time and energy are required for prior authorizations.
- The sheer number of patients a doctor needs to attend and with the duration of their working hours leads to a lack of personal attention and to their families. This not only disturbs the mental stability of the staff but also affects their families.
- In an immediate healthcare assistance industry like this, employees unfortunately are not provided with any relaxing activities as they do not receive any time to spare. With 18hr shifts and working even on national holidays, healthcare staff hardly receive time for any personal or relaxing activities.
Healthcare system today has increasing consumers day-by-day and comparatively very few doctors and nurses to attend to them. This results in an unmanageable situation as healthcare requires the most attention, health and wellness being the most important for a person. It is a high-pressure environment where several patients at a time are managed by a single doctor. A single doctor at a time is only able to provide 15 minutes to one patient in a day due to the imbalance between the number of patients and doctors.
The complexity increases as all the healthcare components are inter-related to each other and not one slight mistake can be afforded as it concerns one’s health/life. Nonetheless, studies have shown that by keeping employees engaged, healthcare staff observes an increase in patient safety and quality experience.
One of the most recognized ways is Employee Recognition. Employee recognition goes a long way in employee engagement. Communication between the manager or more powerful peers and the employees is important. Recognition has a significant impact on the productivity of the employees and brings about higher engagement in work. The superior can simply communicate with his employees and have a motivational debate with them. Being recognized by your superiors is extremely important and beneficial for employee engagement, especially in healthcare industry.
For example, as told by Neeraj Lal, in order to improve the relationship between the HR and the employees in Rainbow Hospital they organize an open house where they suggest new practices in improving and managing work. They also celebrate birthdays and other important days. Rainbow staff also practices a welcoming gesture for the new employees by presenting them with plant saplings instead of flowers and plant the same in the hospital premises with the new employee’s name on it.
Higher cost of risk
Healthcare Industry deals with rather bigger and more important agenda than loss of money or loss of goods, they deal with the health of a person and no mistakes can be afforded. A single miscalculation can put a life at stake and thus it increases pressure on the industry and especially on the doctors and supervisors attending the patient.
Hospitals have a series of departments that cater to the patients need directly and indirectly. These include:
- Consultation and Examination
- Accounting etc.
Each of these functions is important and critical to patient handling. And dealing with something this important also increases the pressure in handling it. Superiors can provide their staff with continuous feedback to let them know that they are being identified individually. This can be useful in mentoring them and instructing them positively, it helps them understand and learn on how their skills and work performance can be enhanced. A weekly one-to-one meeting is said to be an ideal time to have a meeting with your employees, it creates a culture of appreciation within the healthcare organization. It has been learnt that employees who receive constructive / positive feedback go out of their way to help the patients and their family members.
Rainbow Hospital conducts a project ‘Operation Synergy’, where HODs from different areas operate on a floor different from their area of work, this gives the staff the opportunity to adopt more flexibility and team building in their work. In the end, the best operated floor is awarded for their management skills. Awards and promotions are one way to enhance employee engagement.
The Emotional side
Being unwell can be hard and testing for the patients and their families. Nevertheless, there are also huge impacts on the healthcare service staff. Workplace stress can influence healthcare professionals’ physical and emotional well-being by allocating and assisting to the patients and families. Stress includes anxiety, depression, emotional withdrawal, gradual loss of empathy towards the patients.
The effects of stress on the staff can be time pressure, excessive workload and showing emotional care towards the patients. Doctors and supervisors are more prone to healthcare stress than other staff as they spend more time with patient and their families. Spending and working around a surrounding where exists a gradual situation of distress, loss of life, mourning, suffering, etc. can be highly stressful. Few doctors and nurses also connect with patients and their families on an emotional side which can make it even harder for them.
Employees often make mistakes. However, it is the job of the superior to correct them, correcting them should be in a way in which the employee doesn’t get offended or hold a grudge against the superior.
Corrective Feedback plays a huge role in this, it is a technique in which the superior provides the employee with a negative feedback along with a positive feedback. For example, “John, you have been a great asset to us since the time you’ve joined us. However, you’ve been arriving late to work for quite days. I really need to know why”. It softens the impact of criticism with a compliment and leaves no space for grudges, it helps build a positive relationship between the superior and the employee.
The hospital staff at Rainbow Hospital believes in building connection and friendship with the patients. The staff always arranges for some or the other fun activities. A baby shower and a fashion show is arranged by the hospital staff for soon-to-be mothers. This helps in increasing the comfort level of the soon to be mothers with the hospital staff. The winners of the event get a free upgrade to suite rooms at the hospital. Festivals are one of those days when staff members prepare food for other staff members. Such activities build a very strong bond between the staff. The staff also works on their team building with games and off-site training, including the doctors and other staff as well.
Creating a healthy positive work environment is extremely important in an industry like healthcare. Where the workload is already extreme, employee engagement activities should leave a positive impact. Staff appreciation and promotions are openly applauded and cheered. Communication gaps between peers have been specifically avoided in healthcare industry due to its importance of patient’s well-being and other sensitive information.