Fixing healthcare: Improve the work environment
Monday, January 08, 2018
Our healthcare system has no shortage of challenges. Yet the opportunity for the greatest impact and most positive change is something that starts on an individual level: creating better support systems for medical professionals.
Part 1 of this series discussed how the education and training environments fail providers and ways to start realigning these systems. This article reviews the unhealthy organizational culture in many medical facilities and the initial steps individual contributors can take to begin healing it.
Welcome to the jungle
As Hiyaguha Cohen noted in her article "Depression and Dissatisfaction Among Healthcare Workers," persistent demand for skilled professionals in most healthcare professions, strong salaries and clear career paths do not paint a clear picture of the industry.
Increased suicide rates, huge personal debt and high instances of depression are just a few of the challenges medical professionals face as they embark upon their careers. Providers across professions also face high levels of stress, burnout and low job satisfaction.
The traditional healthcare organizational culture does not help these issues. Long shifts combined with unsupportive, competitive environments undermine long-term provider success. In a recent interview, Nadine A. Kassity-Krich MBA, BSN, RN, an experienced instructor, coach and co-author of the book, "First, Heal Thyself" summarizes:
"It is fascinating in the world of medicine and hospital care how we/healthcare providers consider the recipients of the 'Doctor or Nurse of the Year Award.' We look at who spent the most time, doing the most shifts, took the most calls, was at the hospital on weekends and holidays ...
"The question becomes why do we revere this philosophy of work? These are the tenets that we tout, and frankly these people generally have little to no life balance, their family life suffers incredibly as well as their physical and mental health. Quite honestly, it makes you wonder if they can truly make good comprehensive decisions on little to no sleep and hours and hours of intense work. Yet we worship these professionals and reward them with special recognition.
"Why don't we reward those that have worked at having a more balanced quality of life and therefore are more mentally, physically and emotionally healthy — ready to make clearer decisions when it comes to critical patient care?"
The key is to make it easier for medical professionals to choose good habits. This starts with a dialogue acknowledging the systemic problems and looking for ways to support good habits. This requires eliminating the stigma attached to professionals who do not want to succeed at all costs.
Such change starts with one administrator, one team lead or one charge nurse changing her perspective and at least opening up to the possibility that the system she grew up in and has been supporting for so many years may not be the right one. Once she is ready to take that step, there is more than enough data available to support even the smallest change.
The bottom line is, in both education and training environments, individual instructors, team leads and administrators have the opportunity to create space for a more open, honest dialogue about the challenges medical professionals face and individual steps they can take to create healthy habits to counteract those challenges.
In Part 3, we will look at how these conversations make way for creative approaches that make it easier for professionals in the field to make better choices in support of their own health.
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