Only 9% of women who work in the healthcare industry are very satisfied with their work/life balance, according to a recent study by the Studer Group. On average, "women said one time per week that they have to make a decision where they feel they are deciding between their family and their job," says Quint Studer, founder and CEO of the Gulf Breeze, FL organization. "That is a sobering statistic."
More than 80% of the people who work in healthcare are female—roughly 10.7 million women. The percentage of female applicants at medical schools has increased from 32.7% in 1982 to 1983 to 49% in 2007 to 2008. And roughly 70% of people enrolled in an MHA program or undergraduate program in healthcare are women, says Studer. "It is time to better understand the unique and delicate issues of professional/personal blend facing the women who work in healthcare."
Nearly 8,000 women took the survey, including nurses (23%), administrators (22%), physicians (2%), and other healthcare positions like therapists and lab personnel (53%). Studer says the top three things that impacted work/life balance were:
As a working mother, I can relate to some of the survey findings. For instance, 46% of the women surveyed reported that they tend to their own needs only a few times per year. It can be tough to find time to treat yourself to something nice. Still, it's hard for me to fathom feeling every week that I had to make a decision that would be detrimental to either my family or my job. Healthcare is a nonstop 24-hour industry that holds people's lives in the balance. If an emergency arises like a sick or injured child, I can leave my desk. But the same cannot be said for an ICU nurse who knows there aren't enough critical-care nurses to cover her patients if she left.
Nevertheless, healthcare leaders must find ways to improve their employees' work/life balance—not just because it can lower turnover rates and improve employee satisfaction, but because it can improve patient care. A study by VHA's Consulting Services shows that in healthcare organizations with turnover rates exceeding 22%, the severity-adjusted average length of stay was 1.2 days longer than those organizations with the lower turnover rates (less than 12%).
Of course, improving the work/life balance for women is no doubt a puzzle for many male-dominated executive teams. But the solutions don't have to be complex—there are steps organizations can take right now. Here are six:
Now, I think it's time to treat myself to something nice.