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Five Tips for Building Organization Culture in Healthcare

For the last 15 years, ‘culture’ has been all the buzz in industries ranging from tech and finance to manufacturing and sales. But nowhere does organizational culture have more importance than it does in healthcare.

What is Organizational Culture?

Organizational culture refers to the shared beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors, and practices that characterize an organization. It encompasses the unwritten rules, norms, and social patterns that guide the behavior and interactions of individuals within the organization.

Organization culture has two broad focuses in healthcare organizations: an internal focus and an external focus. The internal focus prioritizes empowering physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants in their roles, successfully onboarding new hires, and building resilience. The external focus prioritizes patients and the patient experience. Sometimes the two focuses overlap. For example, continuing education both drives professional confidence and can improve patients’ experience and outcomes.

Organizational Culture in Healthcare is Dynamic and Variable

Additionally, it’s vital to understand that organizational cultures are dynamic. They’re constantly shifting in response to external and internal changes. Therefore, healthcare professionals and leaders can’t take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to their organizational culture.

Why Does Organizational Culture Matter in Healthcare?

Organizational culture matters because it influences employees’ perception of their work environment, shapes their attitudes and behaviors, and ultimately impacts the overall functioning and success of the organization. Simply put, organizational culture in healthcare represents an organization’s collective identity, shared purpose, and character.

When organizational culture is compromised or weak, it can negatively impact every aspect of the business. In fact, organizational culture is as important to healthcare as load-bearing walls are to homes. Its state influences every aspect of the organization. Let’s take a closer look at those influences.

1. Employee Wellbeing, Engagement, and Happiness

Physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants have some of the most stressful professional roles. They can be intense on a daily basis, both physically and emotionally. A strong organizational culture can be the best defense against the stress that leads to burnout for so many healthcare professionals.

2. Retention and Recruitment

As we mentioned, healthcare professionals face a great deal of stress. When an organizational culture is weak, healthcare organizations face two major challenges: retention and recruitment.

Losing a healthcare professional to burnout or a toxic culture has a measurable impact on your bottom line. It’s also not an isolated cost. Healthcare organizations that lose staff also struggle to recruit replacements. 56% of professionals claim that an organization’s culture is equally important or more important than compensation. If your organization’s culture is driving employees away, it’s most likely struggling to attract new ones too.

3. Patient Outcomes

Organizational culture in healthcare also bears significance to your key stakeholders: patients. Cultures that don’t engage medical care clinicians could potentially pose a risk to their patients as well. Lower rates of engagement can lead to an increase in medical errors, solidifying the fact that a weak culture is literally a liability for healthcare organizations.

4. The Bottom Line

The healthcare industry is extremely competitive, and healthcare organizations’ bottom lines are always under pressure. The three previous examples of a culture’s influence all have direct impacts on a healthcare organization’s bottom line:

  • Losing an employee means remaining staff are under more pressure. Not only does this inevitably lead to lower productivity, but it can also lead to burnout. If culture isn’t addressed, it can create a negative cycle.
  • According to an article from Gallup, the cost to replace a specialized employee like a physician or nurse practitioner can be as much as two times their annual salary. And with the physician shortage, recruitment isn’t getting any easier—or affordable.
  • Over the last three decades, the average cost of a malpractice claim has sat around $200,000, and continues to rise each year.

5 Tips for Building an Organizational Culture in Healthcare

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals, primary care offices, and healthcare organizations of all kinds realized that culture was no longer a nice-to-have. It’s essential. Culture can be built at all levels. To get started, keep these five tips in mind.

1. Understand Culture Varies Throughout an Organization

Organizational culture in healthcare isn’t constant throughout the organization. Culture between nurse practitioners, physicians, physician assistants, and administrators can be vastly different. This both poses risks and opportunities to healthcare organizations.

Assuming that certain initiatives will shift an organization’s culture overall can risk further alienating certain stakeholders, while assessing the strengths of various organizational subcultures can highlight weaknesses in other areas.

2. Build Culture From Before Day One

As we’ve established, culture is essential for retention. If your culture doesn’t engage staff by their first day, you may struggle to get buy-in from them further down the road, and you might even see them leave within the first 90 days of their role.

You can’t wait to start building culture with new hires. Begin welcoming them aboard and making them feel like a member of the team immediately after they accept a job offer. Continue to extend that through your onboarding program and throughout their first year.

Then, continue building culture and giving your staff a reason to stay and love what they do. Offering travel CME and other continuing education opportunities is a great way to give your clinicians a break from the daily grind, while also improving their clinical competence and reminding them how valuable their work is.

3. Create a System for Recognition

Recognition is a successful organizational culture’s secret weapon. It boosts engagement, retention, and increases productivity. Unfortunately, many organizations get recognition wrong. Recognition should be:

  • Easy to give: Use tools to make giving praise as simple as typing a few words of thanks.
  • Shared with the team: When staff see their teammates being recognized, they’ll be incentivized to work harder too.
  • Regular: Recognition can help with engagement and retention, but it needs to occur regularly. Quarterly recognition isn’t impactful enough.

4. Implement a Mentorship Program

A mentorship program can help healthcare professionals early in their careers learn and grow faster.

Additionally, it can also promote greater collaboration between veteran staff and early-career staff. This can also lead to more communication and understanding between providers and leadership.

5. Entrench Communication in Your Culture

Healthcare is known for using communication methods such as the SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation) and STICC (Situation, Task, Intent, Concern, ad Calibrate) models. This is for good reason, and your organization should make these types of communication a standard operating procedure.

Keeping each other informed can reduce stress on the job, increase collaboration, and improve job satisfaction and patient outcomes.

Organizational Culture is the Key to Recruitment and a Healthy Bottom Line

Organizational culture in healthcare is one of the most important things healthcare professionals can focus on. It influences everything from patient outcomes to employee retention and the organization’s bottom line.

Building culture isn’t easy, but when you need to recruit staff, you’ll be glad you put in the work. Recruiting staff in healthcare isn’t easy either, but with a strong culture and the right strategy, you can see results. One important part of your strategy is to ensure that your job postings are getting in front of qualified candidates.

Using platforms like Continuing Education Company’s Career Center ensures just that. With CEC’s Career Center, your job listing can be delivered directly to the inbox of qualified candidates, highlighted in job search results, and efficiently distributed to over 1,000 other niche job boards throughout the country. As a result, you could see over a 500% increase in applicants and ultimately reduce the cost of physician recruitment! The career center offers several different ways for recruiters to post their jobs. To learn more, check out our job listing products today or call 1-800-327-4502.

To learn more, check out our job listing products today!

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