Seeds of Dissatisfaction

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , December 13, 2012
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Terrence Deis President and CEO
Parma (Ohio) Community General Hospital

Part of it is the general uncertainty. No one likes that. There is a certain lack of control and autonomy as more hospitals have become systematized. If tomorrow we were purchased by an outside organization I am guessing you would still call me a "health leader," but now I've gone from running an organization to becoming a cog in a wheel. I have the same title but now I report to another healthcare guy, probably a COO or lower. I don't report to a board. I don't have the autonomy I once had.

These jobs are difficult, pressure-packed positions. These pressures as far as I can tell are going to continue to trend upward. I don't think the landscape is going to change. To some degree the people will have to change and the attitude with have to change. Maybe it will attract people who are happier in that environment.

Jeff Thompson, MD CEO
La Crosse (Wis.) Gundersen Health System

On what's driving the dissatisfaction: Although there may be a trend of people less satisfied with their jobs I am not sure that is the same thing as engagement. I think people are still engaged. They're still working hard. But there are several issues at play. One is the complexity of the healthcare business, which is only getting more complex. And the pace of change is accelerating. Then you have external factors that we struggle to control: the lingering effects of the economic downturn and the proliferation of insurance company and government regulations. I believe it is not too surprising that more leaders are feeling stressed than they were before.

On the new measures for success: There is increasing demand and an expectation for measurable performance. So whether it is quality, service, financial performance, or community connection, those organizations that have not been measuring for a long time may feel under a great deal of pressure asthere is a move toward more transparency and clarity. It isn't reputation and billboards that win the day anymore. It's outcomes.

On reversing the trend:  It can be reversed but it is going to take a behavior on the part of boards to not only select people but to assist people in being successful in this new world of greater complexity, fast change, and more transparency. It starts with the board and who they select and how they evaluate them, but senior leadership has to be clear about where the organizations need to go.

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This article appears in the December 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.




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