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Employee Engagement: Where Do Hospitals Begin? Part II

by Rick Blizzard, D.B.A.
Health and Healthcare Editor

The second article in a multipart series on healthcare job categories

The average satisfaction and engagement levels of healthcare employees vary significantly by job category. Support personnel (such as dietary and housekeeping workers) have the highest levels of satisfaction and engagement, followed by professionals (pharmacists and physical therapists), and administrative/clerical workers. Licensed technical employees -- such as licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and radiology technologists -- and registered nurses (RNs) display the lowest levels of satisfaction and engagement. (See "Employee Engagement: Where Do Hospitals Begin?" in Related Items.)

But the various job categories also differ with regard to the drivers of workers' satisfaction and engagement -- or lack thereof. An analysis of results for each of the items in Gallup's Q12 survey shows that each category faces challenges specific to the type of work involved, as reflected by widely varying scores on the Q12 question items.

Greatest Areas of Strength for Each Category

Interestingly, the job categories most far-removed from direct clinical care -- administrative/clerical and support -- are most likely to agree that they "have the materials and equipment to do their jobs right." That finding seems to run counter to the common perception that hospitals tend to cut funding to non-clinical areas first, in order to free up resources for rising clinical supply and equipment costs.

Licensed technical personnel make up the group most likely to agree with the item at the base of Gallup's engagement hierarchy: "I know what is expected of me at work." High scores on this item indicate that those who manage these staff members are clearly communicating with them and setting well-defined expectations.

RNs give the highest ratings to the following item: "This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow." This finding may actually be cause for concern among managers. Why? Overall engagement scores are low among RNs, and turnover is high. High scores on the "learn and grow" item, coupled with low scores on items that address basic needs (such as "materials and equipment") suggest that hospitals may be investing considerable resources in training nurses, only to lose them when they go to work for a competitor.

Problem Areas

The biggest problem areas for each category are as diverse as their areas of strength.

RNs score lowest on the "materials and equipment" item, which is no surprise considering the nursing shortage. Nurses often tend to associate a lack of materials and equipment with a lack of sufficient staffing. These ratings are especially worrisome given that Gallup research has shown that this item represents one of the most basic needs for employee engagement, and contributes to the high levels of nurse turnover.

Although Gallup data show that licensed technical professionals are likely to say they know what is expected of them at work, they are unlikely to feel they receive sufficient "recognition or praise" when they meet or exceed those expectations.

Administrative/clerical employees, while feeling that they have the materials and equipment that they need, seem to feel that no one listens to them -- giving low scores on the item, "At work, my opinions seem to count." And those in the "professional" category, despite believing that their associates are committed to quality, do not necessarily feel that they are part of a close-knit team -- they give low scores to the item, "I have a best friend at work."

The Q12 items are protected by copyright of The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ, 1992-1999.

The third part of this series will take a closer look at the workplace challenges that licensed technical employees face.


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