ByÂ Dr Bhavna Mittal:
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’– that’s exactly how the current status of the healthcare Industry in India will be described in the decades to come. There has been such an upheaval in the methods of healthcare delivery to one and all, that, hospitals have transformed from mere mortar and brick buildings where miracles seldom occurred and lives were lost more often than not, to health care hubs that offer hope infused holistic care. While this is certainly a call for celebration, the prevalence of perils cannot be ignored. If chronic illnesses have been a boon to the healthcare industry, other chronic problems of a certain kind are taking a toll on the management. The infesting diseases range from high attrition rate of nurses and paramedics in particular to the low satisfaction among all the employees in general. While numerous theories have been proposed, if one scratches the surface the reality is there for all to see; these problems have arisen due to the disturbed mental makeup of the employees.
The condition though not as dramatic as it sounds, still presents us with a paradox. How can an industry that functions for the people be unable to take care of its own people? Doesn’t the vision of promoting overall well being of the public apply to them? Doctors are considered next to God, they are expected to be at their best- come night or day. There is no room for error, period. One can only imagine the level of stress they function under but it becomes the responsibility of the HR department to acknowledge this, process it, and duly act upon it. Patient satisfaction levels are continuously scrutinized; corporate hospitals give much importance to the emotional and psychological well being of the patient during his stay but one doesn’t often hear of internal surveys within hospitals gauging the doctors’ point of view.
With the prevalent concept of dual authority in hospitals, doctors are still able to get their way to some extent at least as far as professional privileges are concerned but the same cannot be said about the nurses and the paramedic staff. Most of them are over-worked and underpaid. Nurses in India mostly come from conservative lower middle class families and also majority of nurses working in the metros originally hail from Kerala thereby adding cultural and language differences to their list of woes. Employees in a healthcare setting are expected to care for the overall well being of the patient and, hence, the HR department should take care of their emotional well being. Firstly, they have to be looked upon as not mere providers of health care but as normal human beings. Assessment of their satisfaction levels becomes imperative. Questions posed to them must include:-
HR in healthcare is not given its due and that’s exactly where the crux of the problem and the solution lies. The HR department in a hospital must not remain an inconspicuous office located in the basement. It’s up to the HR personnel to make their presence felt; the hospitals are full of posters serving as IEC initiatives for the patients, hence, a little attention to the employees will only benefit the hospital and the patients in the long run. Organizing informal get-togethers or workshops in which doctors, nurses and paramedic staff can work together can also facilitate equality and bridge the gap created due to degrees and qualifications. It is essential to rope in the top management in such measures also, in order to make them more effective.
In departments like Oncology, the Emperor of all Maladies — cancer has been seen to have the capability to not only alter the lives of those affected but also of those who treat them. Apart from Oncologists, it’s also not uncommon to witness deterioration of the mental sanctity of Psychiatrists and psychologists. Here too, the HR personnel can contribute by arranging for counseling initiatives for practitioners. Yes, practitioners aren’t perfect and should not be expected to be.
Internal audits gauging clinical performance must be routinely conducted and giving due recognition to all level of employees can also go a long way in contributing to their overall well-being. For nurses and paramedic staff job rotations can break the monotony and humdrum of routine nursing care which too can be emotionally taxing. Moving on from the individual level, management of their emotional being at a collective level is also very crucial because healthcare delivery to every patient involves work by an entire team and not just a star surgeon or physician. Quite often atmosphere in the Emergency room is tense and varied levels of emotions are palpable. Corporate workshops on team work and mutual respect can aid in this direction.
The Human Resource department must concentrate on retaining the peace of mind of the employees, retention then won’t be that big of a problem. And if their overall well being, with special attention to emotions remains the top most priority of the HR personnel, job satisfaction is bound to be guaranteed.