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Healthcare Staff Engagement Improves Patient Experience

New study links staff morale to patient care

By Bisk on April 24, 2014
New Study Links Staff Morale to Quality of Patient Care

A new study in the U.K. suggests a strong link between healthcare staff morale and patient wellbeing.

“There is evidence that the way staff feel – about their jobs, their colleagues and the organizations they work in – has a demonstrable impact on the quality of patient care and on efficiency and financial performance,” according to a report by the Point of Care Foundation.

The London-based foundation says efforts must be made to bridge the divide between conceptual debates about culture and staff engagement and the reality of daily life in hospitals and clinics. It emphasizes the need for organizations to make “supporting staff a central driver of strategies” to increase healthcare performance while lowering costs.

Several surveys cited in the report revealed healthcare staffs have anemic attitudes about how they are being treated and engaged by management in the workplace.

For example, just 55% said they would recommend their organization as a place to work. The same percentage said they get clear feedback from managers, meaning nearly half do not share the same view.

Likewise, a third of those surveyed were unsatisfied with the support they get from management, and only 35% said communication between staff and management is effective.

The surveys also found that 38% of the employees reported feeling unwell as a result of work-related stress in 2013. The figure climbed to 55% among nurses.

Jill Maben, director of the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London and a member of the report’s advisory panel, says nurses are under tremendous pressure. “At times like that it’s even more important staff feel valued and listened to, otherwise more people end up burnt out and stressed and then leave, leaving you with unfilled vacancies and making things worse,” she told

Pulling from a body of existing research and analysis, the study says that healthcare system mortality rates could be reduced by improving team models and human resource services for staff. Nonfatal patient outcomes also would improve.

High levels of unsatisfied staff mean lower levels of patient satisfaction, and vice versa, the research suggests. “Individual staff wellbeing is best seen as an antecedent rather than as a consequence of patient care performance,” the report says.

Happier, healthier staffs have lower absenteeism, which can increase health provider payrolls by up to 10%. Turnover rates, which also add to organizational costs, also tend to decline.

The report says “there is no simple prescription” for improving staff engagement and moral. But it does make several recommendations. These include:

  • Providing well-structured appraisals, and ongoing training and support for personal and career development
  • Developing well-defined teams that regularly review how they are doing and get to know each other
  • Creating space for staff to reflect on patient care challenges
  • Setting coherent goals for quality and safety
  • Acting on staff feedback and letting staff make the improvements they identify

The report suggests “it is not only necessary to encourage bottom-up change but also possible to accelerate it.”

Category: Healthcare