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Healthcare workforce planning

Engaging Your Emergency Room Staff: An Employee Satisfaction Lesson

This blog post excerpts an article by Bo Hansen, RN, MBA, Consultant, HealthStream, in the most recent issue of HealthStream's PX Alert, our quarterly e-newsletter featuring patient experience news, best practices, and learning opportunities.

According to research, four out of ten workers globally are disengaged. In the healthcare industry, the situation is worse. Nurses in the U.S. are overworked, stressed, and emotionally and physically exhausted, causing nearly 50% of staff to be either disengaged or just moderately engaged. This situation is not helpful to an industry that is seeking to increase its workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statics predicts that by 2020 the number of employed nurses needed will grow to 3.45 million, a 26 percent increase within this decade. Filling that need will be a challenge if leaders choose not to take the action necessary to engage their staff.

Staff Burnout and Disengagement

It is not news to anyone that nurses are stressed and frustrated with the increased demands on them to meet standards of performance in patient satisfaction, quality, and reduced readmissions while dealing with more acutely ill patients. Added to their burden is a worry about not having enough staff in their department to cover the workload on the current shift and the one following. Many times nurses work beyond their eight and twelve hour shifts to cover a colleague’s sick call or meet the demands of increased patient activity. Adding hours to an already stressful shift creates sleep deprivation and fatigue and increases the risk of adverse events. The risk to personal safety, physical injury, and emotional health is ever present. Sadly, one out of every five emergency room nurses meets the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can be brought on by continual exhaustion. PTSD is a strong factor in contributing to employees’ disengagement and burnout. Imagine how that affects the quality of the employees’ lives.

Adding Fuel to the Burnout Dilemma

Exacerbating the problem of burnout and disengagement is nurses’ perception that administrators do not care and do not understand staff’s needs or those of their departments. Feeling distanced by administrators, underappreciated and left without a voice adds to their feeling of being powerless, drained, and hopeless. Eventually, good employees leave the organization, and the ones that remain give the organization low scores on its efforts to keep good employees.

This article also includes:

  • Three survey items that emergency room employees score the lowest
  • What administrators should do to improve staff engagement in the ED
  • The importance of staff involvement

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