The Top 10 Challenges Facing Healthcare Workers

Here are the top 10 challenges facing healthcare workers, according to Chicago-based Career Builder's Turnoverx: How to Cure the Retention Problems Ailing Your Health Care Organization. The top 10 challenges are based on the top responses to the question, "What are some of the challenges you face in your current position? If unemployed, what were some of the challenges you faced in your most recent healthcare position?"

1. Lack of advancement opportunities
. Fifty-one percent of healthcare workers said lack of advancement opportunities posed a significant challenge in their current or previous position. The number was slightly lower among nurses: 49 percent of nurses identified advancement opportunities as a challenge, compared to 52 percent of other healthcare professionals.

The CareerBuilder survey also asked healthcare professionals if their current or most recent employer offered a number of different employee development programs, including in-house skills training, education reimbursement, technology training and opportunity for innovation. Of the 10 programs listed, only one — in-house skills training — was answered "yes" by more than 50 percent of survey takers. Interestingly, employers felt differently: In response to the same question, more than 50 percent of employers said they offered in-house skills training, education reimbursement, flexible work schedules, cross-training and the opportunity to mentor others.

2. Work overload. According to the CareerBuilder survey, the provider shortage is hitting every healthcare organization in the country — especially when it comes to nurses. Forty percent of healthcare workers responded that they felt challenged by work overload at their jobs; the number jumped to 48 percent when the pool was limited to only nurses. The survey also identified a key turnover issue in healthcare workers taking on additional responsibilities above their comfort level. The provider shortage means fewer staff members must divide a significant workload, pushing some employees to the brink of exhaustion and decreasing job satisfaction considerably.  

3. Poor salary. Forty percent of healthcare employees believed poor salary was an issue at their jobs. CareerBuilder researchers found it interesting that salary was ranked so low; while 40 percent identified the problem as a major challenge, almost as many people (37 percent) said the poor culture of the organization was a challenge. While administrators might assume that salary is the number one driver behind employee retention, the results suggest otherwise: Creating a work environment where employees are encouraged to pursue goals is more important than providing competitive pay. For nurses, poor salary was less of an issue, with 35 percent of nurses citing salary as a problem compared to 42 percent of other healthcare workers.  

4. Too few staff.
The challenge of too few staff (cited by 38 percent of respondents) is unsurprising considering the provider shortage. CareerBuilder's labor pressure analysis rates shortages around a value of one, which indicates an equal number of job seekers to new postings. The average pressure ratio between Oct. 2009 and Oct. 2010 for registered nurses was 0.26, suggesting more positions exist than qualified candidates. To put the number in perspective, analysis pressures for the same time period were 0.71 for accountants and auditors, 2.12 for customer service representatives and 3.72 for secretaries. In addition, selected healthcare positions are expected to grow substantially from 2008-2018: Registered nurse positions are predicted to experience a 22 percent increase, physician assistants a 39 percent increase and LPNs a 21 percent increase.

5. Poor organizational culture.
Poor culture was cited as a challenge by 37 percent of respondents, with 41 percent of nurses calling it a problem compared to 34 percent of other healthcare professionals. Factors that contribute to culture — such as opportunity for innovation, autonomy in an employee's position and flexible work schedules — were listed as available by less than 50 percent of employees in all cases, and only one-quarter of healthcare workers thought opportunity for innovation was encouraged at their institutions. CareerBuilder concluded that offering such programs plays a huge role in recruitment and retention, as well as making employees aware of available opportunities. Based on the differences in perception about programs offered in the CareerBuilder survey, many healthcare workers are unaware their organizations offer development and incentive programs.

6. Lack of mentoring. Twenty-five percent of healthcare employees felt their organization offered too little mentoring. Only 37 percent of employees thought their organizations provided the opportunity to mentor others, compared to 59 percent of employers. This discrepancy suggests that mentoring opportunities are available but not well-publicized.

7. Poor personal fit with boss.
Almost one-quarter of healthcare workers felt they suffered from a poor personal fit with their boss. The number was far higher for supervisors than for co-workers; only 10 percent of employees cited a poor personal fit with their colleagues as a major challenge.

8. Limited or not enough access to technology.
As healthcare organizations struggle to implement technology while maintaining efficient operations, their workers may be suffering. Twenty-three percent of healthcare professionals felt they had insufficient access to technology; the number was slightly higher for registered nurses at 29 percent. Around half of all employees felt that their organization offered technology training; interestingly, the perception was more common among employees than employers. Only 38 percent of employers thought the facility offered technology training.

9. Lack of training.
Inadequate training can leave employees frustrated and confused about their job description. The CareerBuilder study concluded that nurses especially are "more concerned with doing their job well in a good environment than with the amount of money they make," suggesting training is essential to improving job performance and thereby satisfaction. In-house skills training was one of the most commonly available programs for workers, with 57 percent saying their facility offered such a program; cross-training was more limited, with only 40 percent of employees believing they could take advantage of training in other areas.

10. Not enough time with patients. Twenty percent of healthcare professionals felt challenged by an inadequate amount of time spent with patients, according to the survey. Based on another CareerBuilder poll, 57 percent of healthcare professionals said the number of providers per patient had gotten worse in the last 12 months (compared to 32 percent who said it had stayed the same, and 11 percent who thought it had improved). When nurses were asked the same question, 69 percent said the provider-patient ratio had gotten worse, and only 4 percent thought it had improved. The lack of time with patients may be exacerbated by an overload of administrative tasks or non-clinical assignments; 19 percent of workers felt challenged by too many administrative tasks, while 14 percent were frustrated by a lack of interesting assignments.

Read more on hospital and healthcare employment:

-Compensation Rose 8% in 2011 for Orthopedic Surgeons, Neurosurgeons

-Hospitals Add More Than 10K Jobs in March

-Bill to Overturn Ban on Physician Employment at Rural Hospitals Moves to Texas Senate

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