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In a study published Jan. 25 involving nearly 630 nurses nationwide from June through August of 2020, researchers found more than half of the nurses reported insomnia and anxiety contributing to poor health and burnout.
Many of the nurses reported of not being allowed to take vacation time, or even a sick day, during follow-up qualitative interviews. NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing Assistant Professor and lead author Amy Witkoski Stimpfel said those findings have likely only continued and gotten worse with the latest surge of cases. But she also sees healthcare employers looking at burnout and retention more seriously.
"There's definitely more emphasis on actually looking at the evidence on interventions to promote the health and well-being of our workforce … but (at this point) some groups of workers are way beyond the point where (a week of vacation) would really provide a meaningful incentive to stay with their employer," Witoski Stimpfel said.
Vacation, for instance, has been shown to only have a modest and short-term impact on worker well-being. Where hospitals can make a meaningful difference in retention are in problems workers have faced long before the pandemic started: reasonable work hours and scheduling.
"You have to begin engaging your workers, to make sure your supervisors know what the issues are, and you have to try to make them part of the solution, and not part of the problem," said Ivan Smith, a labor and employment law attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. "Some of it's not only money, but it's trying to look at your staff and figuring out how to maximize your staffing and trying to alleviate the shortage as much as possible."
Not doing so can result in employees deciding to unionize, which Smith said can exacerbate tensions with workers.
"If there is a give and take, there's less likelihood that (workers) believe they need a third party to come in, like a union," Smith said, who advises employers on how to mitigate unions from forming. "The more (workers) feel a responsibility to the institution, the better chance you have in staving off unionization."
Novant Health, which is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is expected to spend $40 million on the additional benefits to employees.
"We recognize that we must care for our team members first so that they are able to care for others, and I am proud we are able to extend this surprise reward to them," said Novant President and CEO Carl Armato in a news release.