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Practice, hospital workplace culture needs flexibility, balance and better communication, physicians say

Flexible schedules and improved organizational communication were the top two issues listed in what would improve the practice culture.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

When it comes to workplace culture, work life balance and costly turnover, physicians responding to a survey from said current conditions leave a lot to be desired.

Of the 3,753 physicians surveyed, who came from a variety of specialties, their thoughts on work/life balance within their practice were at best split, with 29 percent saying they somewhat agreed their facility supported achieving work/life balance and only 12 percent saying they strongly agreed.

Meanwhile, 14 percent strongly disagreed that their practice or organization supported such a balance and 25 percent somewhat disagreed. The remaining third were neutral. In a related stat, 55 percent of responding physicians said their free-time had progressively dwindled since they started their careers in medicine either a lot or somewhat.

When it comes to what respondents felt would improve workplace culture, 62 percent cited having flexible schedules as the top driver and improved communication within the organization came in as the second most demanded driver with 46 percent.

Turnover can also feed a negative workplace culture, and respondents said unfortunately, there is no shortage of turnover in their organization, with 53 percent of respondents saying staff turnover, including physicians assistants, nurses, and technicians, is a "significant problem" at their practice. Another 46 percent said overall turnover is a significant problem, and 38 percent said physician turnover was big issue.

Also, it's no secret that EHRs have cause more than their fair share of "headaches" for doctors. Survey results prove physicians see them as much as a barrier to their work as an enabler or booster with 65 percent of respondents saying EHRs add unnecessary steps to their workload. 

With physician workload, burnout and mental health increasingly in the spotlight, it's hard to imagine physicians taking on even more work. But it seems many are doing just that, perhaps to their own detriment. Survey results showed 60 percent of physicians reported working a second job to supplement their income. Of those, almost half are doing it to pay down debt and 37 percent to support a preferred lifestyle. The third most popular reason was because their income had been cut.

The top job was moonlighting, working locum tenens positions and taking extra shifts or call. Some of the more interesting second jobs reported were ringside physician for combat sports and working as a DJ.

With physician shortages looming and demand for advanced clinicians rising, practice leaders would do well to take an in-depth look at the culture within their own practice or hospital and seek out every opportunity to boost morale, offer resources and perks, and be innovative in how to accommodate and encourage work/life balance. The volume and caliber of talent you attract could depend on it, and ultimately, the care your patients receive.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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