Hospital staff 'rusting out'

Hospitals have been focused on combating clinician and employee burnout after the stress of the pandemic and continued workforce shortages. But another challenge is popping up among healthcare workers that is just as challenging: rust-out.

"We talked a lot about burnout in healthcare and that's when we're over-utilizing people where we're running them into the ground. There's been so much demand for healthcare services with COVID that was a real need. But there's also on the flip side of the coin, the concept of rusting out," said Matt Lutz, COO of HCA Florida West Largo Hospital. "That's what happens with the underutilization of one's talents."

Employee rust-out leads to disengagement, dissatisfaction and uninspired work. In January, Gallup's global workplace report showed just 32% of people feel engaged in their jobs, and the remaining 68% are less productive and committed to their organizations than they could be. As a mission-driven field, healthcare should be able to avoid rust-out, but that isn't the case.

"For a while we were in such a staffing crisis in healthcare that we needed caregivers wherever we could put them. Now that we've navigated through that space in large measure, we know ultimately world-class care happens when the right staff with the right talents are in the right units, so it's our jobs as leaders to help match those caregivers with the right place where they can take care of patients the best," Mr. Lutz said.

There are many ways for leaders to re-engage a team member who is "rusting out," with the most effective being new responsibilities to challenge them, ignite creativity and align with their talents. Mr. Lutz shared an example during a recent Becker's Healthcare podcast of re-engaging a team member who had been a unit clerk in the emergency department for 15 years. Mr. Lutz had a conversation with the team member about his career and everything he'd done during his time at the hospital; the unit clerk wanted to build on what he learned and use it to help people in a different way.

"We were able to help connect him with the cardiovascular service line at North Florida hospital, and he is now working through the competencies and the training to become a cardiovascular technician," sais Mr. Lutz. "That's exactly what we're talking about, being able to help elevate people to where they feel like they can have the most impact on patient care, because that's when they're going to do their best job."

Leaders who always aim to help their team members grow and make sure they are fulfilled, and have emotional safety at work, will be able to navigate through rust-out and burn out, potentially even avoiding them both.

"We want people where they feel called to be and where they're passionate about what they do," said Mr. Lutz, adding, "Sometimes, whether we like it or not, that means them moving on to a role outside of our scope, but is better for them. That's a win as a leader."

Gallup recommended conducting a culture audit to re-engage employees and build a road map to a more highly productive culture. The firm also recommended flexibility with hybrid and remote work, and making sure managers hold a 15-30 minute weekly conversations with team mates to build high-performance relationships, provide clarity around expectations and quickly upskill when opportunities arise.


Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars