Rachel Lovins, MD, SFHM, CPE, is the chief of hospital medicine and vice chair of the Department of Medicine at Middlesex Hospital in Middletown, Conn. In 2015, she read about the Hospitalist Engagement Benchmarking Service, a new offering from SHM that assesses the engagement level of approximately 1,500 hospitalists nationwide. Soon thereafter, she enrolled her hospital medicine group.
The service provides a snapshot and benchmark comparison of physician attitudes toward a wide range of aspects, including organizational climate, care quality, effective motivation, burnout risk, and more.
Dr. Lovins recently shared her thoughts on the survey with The Hospitalist and explained how she and her team are using the results of the survey to improve the engagement of their hospitalist group. More than 80% of survey respondents indicated they will utilize the service again and plan to recommend the service to a colleague. Learn more and join the second cohort at www.hospitalmedicine.org/pmad3.
Question: How did you become aware of the Hospitalist Engagement Benchmarking Service?
Answer: Last year, I read a blog post written by practice management expert Leslie Flores, MHA, SFHM, about happiness. In the post, she shared information about the country of Bhutan and its Gross National Happiness Index. She proceeded to relate it to practice management, stressing the importance of “paying deliberate attention to hospitalist personal and professional well-being” to ensure sustainability in our field.
As she reflected on the implications of Bhutan’s happiness index and its relation to hospital medicine, she suggested having hospital medicine groups complete SHM’s Hospitalist Engagement Benchmarking Survey to know where they stood with their own happiness indices. As the chief of hospital medicine in my hospital, it truly resonated with me. (As an aside, I often joke that I do whatever Leslie says—because she is pretty much always right!)
Q: What factors inspired you to enroll your group in the service?
A: I’m a total believer in the philosophy of Leslie and her consulting partner, John Nelson, MD, MHM, that a healthy hospital medicine group needs a culture of ownership. If members don’t feel engaged, burnout and isolation are not far behind. Hospitalist work is not easy, and the hours can be long. If you don’t feel empowered, safe, and engaged, it’s going to be unhappy work and an unhappy group.
The leadership team in my program sincerely wants our members to feel satisfied professionally and personally at work. In addition to having a high-performing group, we want people to feel like they belong and that they have some control over what goes on in their daily practice.
Q: How would you describe your experience throughout the survey, including findings and follow-up?
A: I found the survey very easy. I supplied the emails of the participating hospitalists to SHM, and their team took care of the rest, including consistent follow-up. A few months after our group completed the survey, I received the results, which were extremely helpful. It was particularly interesting to see where we scored compared to other hospitalist groups.
Q: What were the main findings upon completion for your team at Middlesex Hospital? How did you implement the takeaways/changes following the service? What were/are the results?
A: I was happy to see that our group felt like they made a difference to our patients and the hospital and that the leadership provided good support. I was, however, discouraged that there were issues with perceived fairness in patient distribution and that our percentages for folks looking forward to and being excited by their jobs were somewhat low.
These two issues—and risk for burnout specifically—are part of our strategic plan moving forward. We need to find ways to make patient distribution more transparent and make people feel happier about coming to work, partially through quarterly “think tanks,” which we just started this year. Because of the results of this survey and another hospital survey, we created an anonymous internal survey to get more specific information. Through that, I was able to target some very specific issues and to reach out to members of the group to try and resolve them.
This is an ongoing process, and we have to keep working on it. It’s like a marriage; you can’t just sit back and assume a relationship will work out on its own. You have to constantly reassess your partner’s needs and be concerned about their happiness as well as your own. We certainly don’t do a perfect job meeting everyone’s needs, but we strive to do so. Having a tool that is validated and easy to use is extremely beneficial to us, and I will definitely use it again. I’d recommend it to anyone who manages a hospitalist group. TH
Brett Radler is SHM’s communications coordinator.