Stress, Focus Buoy Healthcare Leaders

John Commins, January 4, 2012

This article appears in the December 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

In our 2011 Industry Survey, 32% of leaders said they are very satisfied in their job, which is down from 42% in 2009 and 38% in 2010. While the overall satisfaction rate (combining satisfied and very satisfied) remains greater than 80% (it was 81% in 2011, 86% in 2010, and 87% in 2009), what do you think accounts for this lessening in intensity of satisfaction, and do you expect that to continue?   

J. Scott Graham,
CEO, Coulee Medical Center, Grand Coulee, WA

I have been in this position just over a year, and I’d be in that 32% who are very satisfied. But I think I understand why it is on the wane. A lot of it has to do with the external pressures out there that have continued to mount over the past several years. We are one of the most highly regulated industries out there, and that makes it extremely challenging to stay on top of all of that.

So people want the greatest amount of service for the least expense and, like in any industry, that is going to put on some pressure to be more competitive and efficient, and that is going to increase the stress levels.

Jeffrey E. Thompson, MD
CEO, Gundersen Lutheran, La Crosse, WI

“I am not terribly surprised by it. I believe there are a lot of stressors going on in healthcare in general and in the environment around us. Stress brings out the good and the bad. If your organization is struggling, it will make it look worse. If your organization is really functioning well, the stress tends to allow your organization to shine.

A problem that I see a number of people having is they get paralyzed because of the huge uncertainty in the government, the insurance environment, and in the community. There are so many things up in the air. You need to look past all the things that could go in a different direction and ask, “What are the things we need to accomplish, and what are the precious few things that we really need to execute that are going to be good in all of those environments?” Regardless of whether fee-for-service hangs around or ACOs rally and charge down the road in the next year or two, an organization that can prove its quality, that has palpably better service and lower cost than its competitors, is going to do well.

People get nervous, and with good reason, because it is not clear where it is going to go. But that should not paralyze you into inaction. You can still make a plan for it.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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