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Opinion: How to put an end to ‘quiet quitting’

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On this side of the pandemic, it seems health care is faced with a perpetual trifecta: financial limitations, little availability of a skilled workforce and the implementation of modern technology. Begs the question, is your staff “quiet quitting?”

Quiet quitting has been going on for decades, but it’s been heightened lately by viral posts on TikTok, and other media reports are joining in the dialogue. In short, it describes less focused employees, those who want to do as little as possible – often responding to a felt lack of appreciation or burnout, according to Jim Harter, a Gallup scientist researching the topic.

Back to the health industry, quiet quitting factors into the larger piece of why caregivers are resigning at alarming rates. Health care workers and physicians are burned out and need a new way of thinking supported by senior leadership.

According to a survey by Elsevier Health, a publisher of health sciences books and journals, 75% of health care workers are leaving their profession by 2025. The global report is dubbed “Clinician of the Future.” Furthermore, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts there will be a shortage of 139,000 physicians by 2033.

So, what are health care systems to do to retain key talent? Here are four thoughts to take down that path.

  1. Give them a reason to stay. Many health care systems are paying for nursing education for those who are looking for paid opportunity in hopes of retaining key talent. Those on both sides of the health care hiring equation must clearly articulate what they want and what they can offer. Ask your employees, “What do you need to feel valued at work? What development are you looking for, so you will be happy at work?”
  2. The nursing shortage is being questioned. Nurses are waiting for their licenses. Almost 1 in 10 nurses who were issued new licenses last year waited six months or longer, according to an NPR analysis of licensing records from 32 states. More than a third of these 226,000 registered nurses and licensed practical nurses waited at least three months. Medical systems must work with their states to reduce the time it takes for nurses to get their licenses. As this aging population is living longer, we will need more nurses to navigate the increase in telehealth and other levels of care throughout the system.
  3. Invest in consultants who can help address the mindset of quiet quitting. Senior leaders must wake up, take a different approach and think differently. To overcome post-pandemic effects, the world has changed. The old, antiquated leadership thinking will not work in today’s hyper-vigilant social media driven workforce and where patients are managing their own health challenges by watching TikTok and other social media channels. Health care physicians and staff do not have time to keep up with the social media information, telehealth demands and the loss of personal face to face visits. Have forums that can pinpoint the greatest challenges driving the mindset of quiet quitting.
  4. Create diagnostic thinking groups. Forming small groups of people who are at similar places in their careers – physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, nurse aids, environmental services professionals, administrative staff – within the organization can spur a sense of belonging, a way to reduce frustrations by finding new strategies for overcoming old problems. Senior leaders must be intentional to give groups time, perhaps two hours per month, on company time, to discuss how to solve the narratives that are causing quiet quitting. Having a facilitator to assist with this process who is outside of the system lends psychological safety and reduces fear from getting fired over how they think or feel about situations, challenges and personal needs.

Back to No. 1: Give people reasons to stay.

Dina Readinger is CEO of Diagnostic Thinking and creator of a leadership system to develop executives, particularly in employee retention and diversity, equity and inclusion. She can be reached at dina@acecoachingco.com.

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