3 Ways to Prevent Operating Room Staff Turnover

With the operating room (OR) generating up to 70% of a hospital’s revenue and with even one minute of OR downtime costing over $100, the stakes are higher than usual when it comes to maintaining efficiency. For the past few years, one of the leading solutions to this issue in healthcare has been keeping key talent engaged with their work to prevent high turnover rates. 

Between the aptly named “Great Resignation,” unprecedented rates of staff burnout, and other factors, healthcare facilities have quickly realized that low staff retention has negatively impacted the bottom line and patient outcomes. The constant cycle of attracting talent, hiring, and training becomes a drain, and in no place is this drain felt more than in the OR.

Here we’ll go over some of the best ways to prevent operating room staff turnover, so key talent stays with you for the long haul.

1. Implement Creative Benefits

One of the key aspects of the new generation of workers is that they value work/life balance, and crave career growth. By implementing a benefits structure that caters to these needs, your organization is more likely to attract and maintain talent for the long haul. 

Here are a few creative ideas to consider:

  • Allow staff to feel in control of their day by minimizing schedule volatility and ensuring cases happen as planned.
  • Provide sabbaticals for non-work related matters after exceptional performance or a particularly grueling period of work. This shows that you’re thankful for their contribution and care about their mental health.
  • Reward staff for meeting specific goals. This could mean encouraging more time off, allowing them to leave early on Fridays (assuming this is possible for your OR), or making time for building meaningful interpersonal connections between staff.
  • Minimize the call and overtime burden by ensuring coverage and demand are in sync
  • Implement rewards and benefits for retained staff. This includes monetary compensation, time off, travel stipends, etc. For example, your organization could implement tiered rewards for team members that stay with the company for 1, 2, and 5 years, etc. Each reward should be increasingly meaningful and impactful.

The fact of the matter is unprecedented rates of burnout have shown that the new generation of workers doesn’t feel particularly loyal to organizations that do not reciprocate that loyalty. By taking steps to show appreciation and catering to priorities that provide personal fulfillment, you’re more likely to nurture a loyal workforce.

2. Rethink Scheduling

It may also be time to rethink how your OR does its scheduling. For younger OR staff, four nights of call per week and however many weekends per month doesn’t facilitate a good work-life balance. On top of employee dissatisfaction, unoptimized scheduling systems often lead to inefficient ORs and, thus, lost revenue.

One of the more significant changes that Sullivan often recommends to its clients, with exceptional results, is to consider a comprehensive  block scheduling model in the OR. Block scheduling minimizes how frequently surgeons and support staff need to switch gears throughout the day by segmenting it into time blocks reserved for specific procedures and activities.  Where most hospitals fail with block scheduling is the management and governance of the model to ensure high utilization and days that are filled but end when expected

With this slight reframing in how ORs plan their days, weeks, and months, the OR can better track and prioritize procedures, and maintain flexibility for patient volume changes. It allows surgeons and support staff to understand better what to expect throughout the day and better comply with work schedules.

3. Retain Quality Perioperative Leaders and Prepare the Next Generation

Company culture comes from the top down. Surveys have shown that up to 71% of employees are willing to take a pay cut if a positive company culture, benefits, and growth opportunities exist. If perioperative leaders create a toxic workplace environment or drive their staff too hard without bonus incentives, chances are that OR will see higher turnover rates. 

In the same line of thinking, OR leaders need to understand their staff’s needs on a more fundamental level — and what better way to achieve this than by mentoring or sponsoring young talent and developing their leadership skills for the future? Those “in the trenches” will now understand pain points more intimately and be able to address them more effectively once they reach a leadership position. It’s no secret that healthcare staffing shortages have become a focus for the entire industry, particularly regarding qualified leadership. 

Growing talent from within is one key way to shield your organization from such concerns.

Sullivan Healthcare Consulting Can Optimize Operations to Prevent Turnover

As experts in perioperative services and having lifelong careers in the space, our consultants have helped thousands of ORs optimize their operations in order to increase efficiency, maximize revenue, and retain key OR talent during labor shortages. We know just how much impact the OR has on a facility and we take great care to ensure its integrity is not compromised.

By assessing and benchmarking all perioperative services and their interdependencies, identifying what isn’t working, building consensus for a best-practice-based solution, and helping all stakeholders work together to correct it, Sullivan is your #1 resource for OR optimizations and more.
Get started on improving your OR by getting in touch today!

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