The Role (and Impact) of Care
Healthcare employees are an important part of the organization’s structure and function. Collectively, these individuals perform the duties that enable the organization to offer its products and services. Each role can also contribute to a smoother, more streamlined healthcare process.
The question is: how does your organization define care in the context of its employees? At Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA), we believe that care is an integral piece of the way we interact with each other. We’ll get into why but first, let’s look at how “employee” is defined.
What Is an Employee?
Different agencies have different opinions as to what an employee is. The U.S. Department of Labor shares that the definition of an employee is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and that this act defines an employee as “any individual employed by an employer,” adding that being employed includes “to suffer or permit to work.”1
The definition offered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) varies slightly, stating that, under common-law rules, an employee is “anyone who performs services for you” and you control what they’ll do and how they do it.2
Both of these definitions suggest that an employee is merely a person who is employed by an employer to perform services in a way that the employer wants. While this may technically be true, adding “care” to your organization’s approach to its employees may have some advantages in terms of attracting and retaining healthcare talent. To understand the role that care can play in each of these processes – which are two areas in which many healthcare organizations face challenges – we also define what care is.
Defining “Care” in the Context of Healthcare
The word “care” can be both a noun and a verb. As a noun, care is defined, in part, as “responsibility for or attention to health, well-being, and safety,” while as a verb, it is defined as “to be concerned about.”3
Based on these definitions, care as a noun is something that many healthcare employees offer patients. Allied healthcare employees might show responsibility for patients’ health by taking their vital signs, recording their health histories, and assisting with physical exams, for instance.
Healthcare workers may also perform care as a verb by being concerned about or taking actions to protect patient safety. One example is a pharmacy technician who ensures that patients’ prescriptions are allocated in the prescribed dosages, reducing the risk that patients will get more of the drug than prescribed. Another example is the medical biller and coder who reviews patient medical records for accuracy, ensuring that the information has been coded correctly – a factor that can improve the quality of health services provided.
The Role of Care in Employee Attraction and Retention
While healthcare employers may expect their employees provide care to and care about patients, the employers may not think as explicitly about the care being shown for the employees themselves. Adding this lens means paying attention to and feeling some responsibility for your team members’ health, well-being, and safety. Taking this approach may make you a more desirable employer both in the short and long term.
In a 2020 study involving 20,947 healthcare workers, 49% of those surveyed reported that they had burnout.4 Additionally, stress was highest in individuals working in nursing assistant, medical assistant, and social worker roles.
At a minimum, experiencing work-related burnout can cause healthcare employees to reduce work effort, even for up to 24 months.5 If the feelings of burnout aren’t relieved, it may lead the employee to look for other work.
High burnout rates can also affect your ability to draw new talent. If your organization has a reputation for overworking your employees, for example, prospects may think twice before applying. Additionally, if given the choice between an employer that has programs in place to combat burnout and one that does nothing, they may be more inclined to choose the former.
One way that healthcare employers can look after their employees’ health and well-being, thereby exhibiting care for employees, is by implementing policies, procedures, and programs designed to reduce burnout and/or ease its effects. Offering flexible work hours, giving adequate sick days, and increasing workplace support are all options to consider.
Other actions healthcare employers can take to increase the focus on employees’ health and well-being include offering a variety of health insurance benefits (both mental and physical), developing a workplace wellness initiative, and providing access to healthy living programs. Examples of the latter include programs to help employees quit smoking, reduce their stress, start exercising, or follow a healthy diet.
Redefining Your Healthcare Employee to Include Care
Imagine that you recently graduated from a healthcare program and are looking for work or that you’re currently working in a healthcare work but, for whatever reason, you don’t feel satisfied in your position.
When going through the job posts, you see one listing after another that talks about the qualifications and experience needed. Most might also go over the general job duties and responsibilities, maybe even providing other bits of information that you want or need to know before you apply.
Now, picture how you’d feel if you came across an employer that clearly shows care for its employees. You read its job posts and it’s clear that employee health, well-being, and safety are all priorities. How does this type of post make you feel?
Showing your healthcare employees care can be compelling to both current and prospective staff. It can help establish your organization as one that prioritizes putting employees first.
Creating a Culture of Care
One of UMA’s goals is to care for our students so they can better care for others. Creating a culture of care within your healthcare organization may have the same type of effect – where caring for your employees can help them better care for the patients or individuals you serve.
Research suggests that five processes can help healthcare organizations foster a culture of care:6
- Building caring relationships among team members
- Developing an ownership mentality
- Providing employees with constructive feedback
- Focusing on a strength-based work environment
- Establishing the organization as a first and last line of defense
If you’d like to brainstorm other ideas or want to know more about what we do at UMA to build a culture of care, give us a call. We’re happy to share what we know to help you create and grow your own culture of care.
1 U.S. Department of Labor. Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor: Are My Workers Employees? https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/whd/flsa/scope/er13.asp
2 IRS. Employee (Common-Law Employee). https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/employee-common-law-employee
3 Merriam-Webster. Care. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/care
4 Prasad K, et al. Prevalence and Correlates of Stress and Burnout Among U.S. Healthcare Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Cross-Sectional Survey Study. eClinicalMedicine.
5 Dyrbye L, et al. Characterization of Nonphysician Health Care Workers’ Burnout and Subsequent Changes in Work Effort. JAMA Network Open. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/article-abstract/2783264
6 Wei H, et al. A Culture of Caring: The Essence of Healthcare Interprofessional Collaboration. Journal of Interprofessional Care. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13561820.2019.1641476