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Employee and physician experience 2023: A year to reset and renew

As we enter 2023, healthcare organizations still face many of the same challenges they struggled with over the last two years. But there’s reason for optimism. Press Ganey’s national data indicates that many of these challenges are starting to stabilize. Shifts in our data, across multiple areas of experience, are much less severe than those we experienced moving into 2022.

This stabilization gives healthcare organizations an opportunity to reset and renew their best practices—as well as jump-start new initiatives to drive positive momentum in provider experiences. It's also a time to reinforce successful strategies, support leaders in spurring change forward, and zero in on improvement efforts. While this blog will review the high-level trends we’ve recently observed, we will continue to highlight deeper dives into our database over the coming weeks, months, and throughout the year.

Employee and physician engagement continues its downward trend

Our employee and physician annual surveys capture the voices of over 1.52 million healthcare employees and nearly 116,000 physicians. In our 2023 database (CY 2021 and 2022), we see a downward trend in healthcare employee and physician engagement (-0.02 and -0.03, respectively). While overall scores in our database declined, they did not decline as sharply as we saw entering 2022. There are even bright spots in the data. For example, of Press Ganey’s client partners who conducted an annual provider experience survey in both 2021 and 2022, 57% remained stable or saw improvements in employee and physician engagement.

Graph showing national employee and physician engagement trends between 2018 and 2023

Supporting workforce resilience remains a huge opportunity

With resilience, we’re seeing opposite trends for employee populations and physician populations. Among employees, resilience and decompression improved slightly, indicating organizations are starting to reap the benefits of resilience-focused initiatives. While finally trending positively, employees’ ability to decompress has still not yet rebounded to pre-2021 levels—leaving room for improvement.

However, the physician database is moving in the other direction, as resilience and decompression have continued to decline. Digging deeper into the data, more physicians are reporting work-related burnout than in our 2022 database, making physician decompression and well-being a continued priority in 2023.

Action item: Pulse surveys can be an excellent and strategic way to understand resilience. Pulsing on decompression can also help you spot trends throughout the year, and show you whether or not your improvement efforts are working.

Safety culture perceptions seem to be stabilizing

Much like engagement, safety has begun to plateau across surveyed groups. This is encouraging news, compared to the sharp decline that healthcare experienced moving into 2022. Notably, perceptions of staffing from the employee perspective have stabilized as well—though they remain near an all-time low. Conversely, items around pride and reputation of the organization have decreased, which could be lingering holdovers from the pandemic. Physicians are seeing similar trends around pride and reputation of their organization; however, feeling adequately staffed has continued to decline.

Action item: Examine your safety data by unit, department, or specialty to identify your greatest risks for safety events. A deeper look at each group’s culture around prevention and reporting can help your organization understand more about psychological safety and error prevention behaviors.

Looking toward the future of employee and physician engagement: Areas of focus

Since overall employee and physician engagement metrics are largely holding steady, organizations can now begin to pivot from keeping the ship afloat, to strategically targeting key areas of opportunity.

As we look across the National Healthcare Database for employees, the largest item-level declines were around satisfaction with benefits and financial well-being. This is unsurprising, given the current economic climate here in the U.S. Physicians continue to struggle with burnout, operational friction on the patient's end (like scheduling and registration) as well as its impact on their work, and the ability to effectively do their jobs, including handoffs, available beds, and staffing. 

Action item: While your organization may see similar trends, it’s important to understand specific areas where your organization has declined—or where it’s largely underperforming the national benchmark—to inform your improvement priorities.

A call to action

Organizations that double down on workforce listening can glean insights on improving employee and physician experience.

  • Evaluate your provider experience survey strategy. Continue to conduct large listening events like annual workforce surveys to get robust data and drive predictive analytics. In between annual surveys, strategically conduct smaller surveys (pulse) on specific population subsets, to gauge improvement efforts, or gather information on special topics. Use crowdsourcing to gather and evaluate ideas to drive change.
  • Segment your workforce data. Dig in deeper to understand gaps within your organization and compare your results to national performance to provide insight if the trends and change you are seeing is atypical.
  • Equip, develop, and support leaders. Provide coaching and development programs to nurture and empower the next generation of leadership. Support leaders with their own resilience through leader rounding and check-ins. Provide an opportunity to hear from leaders on what they and their teams need to feel supported.

Drive consistency with best practices. Define—and hold team members accountable for—team and patient related behavioral standards. Consistently conduct leader and staff rounding to hear concerns, support team members, and close the loop. Identify best practices within your own organization that can be replicated.

Keep an eye out for more content in the near future. We’ll be diving into trends and insights around topics like nursing, key drivers of retention, and top-performer differentiators.

To learn more about Press Ganey’s employee experience and workforce engagement solutions, reach out to our team

About the author

As the Director of Workforce Analytics, Milissa leads people and processes aimed at analyzing workforce data and providing improvement insights to healthcare organizations. She drives strategy in analytics, data displays, and linking workforce data to important cross-domain healthcare outcomes, such as safety, quality, and patient experience. Milissa collaborates with teams and leaders across Press Ganey to leverage data to inform and support organizations in reducing caregiver and patient suffering.

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