Skill at every level
The healthcare industry requires a large staff of highly skilled employees. A nurse requires at least a two year associate degree in order to become registered, and doctors require eight years of post-secondary education and three to seven years of interning and residency. Front desk staff have specialized knowledge about legal regulations for patient privacy and insurance requirements. In short, almost every person working in healthcare has unique skills that are not easily replaced.
In healthcare, things need to move smoothly. While turnover at a restaurant could result in a meal not meeting standards or patrons having to wait longer for their dinner, in healthcare the results can be more significant. Reducing the amount of turnover by increasing employee retention in healthcare is important for everyone that needs care.
A large problem
The healthcare industry experiences a high rate of turnover. For emergency medical technicians and paramedics, average turnover is around 25 percent. That means that there is, on average, a completely new group of EMTs and paramedics at any given facility every four years.
The numbers are lower for registered nursing staff, but are still significant. Every year, approximately one in five registered nurses will leave a given place of work. For emergency medicine physicians, the relocation or turnover rate is over one in eight.
Why turnover hurts
Every organization is unique, and every healthcare facility will have different layouts, procedures, and practices. In addition to the formal training that a healthcare worker receives outside of the workplace, there is a certain amount of institutional knowledge that will help make them more effective in their work. When a healthcare worker leaves their place of work, that on-the-job expertise goes with them.
Concretely, this amounts to many negative outcomes. For a healthcare provider, turnover is expensive. The interview process to replace a physician can cost a hospital over $30,000, which is more than one fifth of the average salary for a hospital physician.
For patients, healthcare facilities with higher rates of turnover generate more negative outcomes. Misadministration of medicine, lower levels of cleanliness, and higher rates of falls while at the hospital are just a few of the increased dangers for patients at high turnover facilities.
Retaining valuable medical professionals
Given the costs associated with employee turnover in the healthcare industry, finding ways to reduce or stop the loss of valuable professionals is a huge priority. Human resources departments have a number of tools at their disposal. Pay raises and promotions may seem like the most obvious options, but there are caveats.
Increasing the take-home pay an employee receives may not be as effective as other options available. Four out of five employees surveyed in a 2015 study reported having a preference for increased benefits. Whether that be increased vacation time, longer parental leave, or employer provided child care, the majority of people would prefer quality of life improvements over a larger paycheck.
Partnering with employees on their futures
One powerful option for healthcare organizations is for an employer to help an employee gain additional training in their field. An employee tuition assistance program can be structured so that an employer provides financial assistance for employees in exchange for an agreement that the employee will remain with the organization for a fixed period of time.
For the healthcare provider, an employer educational assistance program helps reduce turnover by contractually requiring a valued employee to remain with the organization. However, if the employer would like to increase the chances their newly trained worker remains with the company, they should follow the training with a promotion. An employee with more credentials should be promoted after they finish their contractual obligations in order to improve the chances of retaining them.
Another benefit that shows an employer cares about their workforce is a workplace financial wellness program. This may include debt counseling, student loan repayments, or financial education. When an employee knows that their employer is a partner for their own financial future, they show higher levels of job satisfaction.