The notion of happiness in the workplace has been a popular topic, especially in the healthcare field. However, recently, a direct relationship between the happiness of healthcare personnel and the quality of their service has been established, with an increase in the quality of the care provided observed as the staff enjoys better working conditions.
At a closer glance, it makes sense, as a person who has to work shifts of more than 12 hours, and tend to (sometimes) hundreds of patients at one time can’t possibly stretch the quality of their service to accommodate everyone. Those who are worn out from excessive work are more likely to make mistakes in the job, and sometimes these mistakes can be serious and lead to fatal consequences.
Regardless of poor working conditions, new studies have surfaced recently prove that happier nurses lead to happier patients, as the quality of care will increase as the service provider feels more comfortable in the workplace.
Here, we will go over several key findings that serve to shed light on why happier nurses have a positive impact on the quality of the service toward patients.
Longer shifts can have negative consequences
In healthcare centers and public hospitals, especially those that are understaffed, it’s not uncommon for nurses to get tasked with double shifts, which often span for at least 24 hours. In these facilities where the shifts are long and the assignments are ruthless, the quality of patient care may begin to wane as the nursing staff becomes progressively fatigued. In a study conducted by the National Institute of Nursing Research, it was shown that, as the nursing shifts spanned upwards of 13 hours, the patients’ dissatisfaction with their care also increased. This detriment had nothing to do with the nurses’ ability to provide care, rather than with their disposition at the time, which was evidently less than stellar, given that they were excessively fatigued.
On top of sub-par service, nurses who regularly worked for at least 12.5 hours were more likely to report workplace dissatisfaction, as well as symptoms of burnout. Also, medical and nursing personnel are known for seldom performing self-care, so these symptoms slowly build up until reaching the breaking point. In most cases, the resulting stress will lead to high turnover rates, as the hospitals and healthcare staff must find replacement personnel to fill the spots while the afflicted staff recuperates from their workplace stress.
Fewer nurses leads to higher patient mortality rates
Another key element of the study was the effect that being understaffed had on the mortality rates of any given healthcare center. According to research performed at the University of Pennsylvania, as the number of patients assigned to each nurse increases so does the possibility of fatal consequences on account of possible mistakes committed by healthcare personnel.
The study considered over 550 hospitals in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida, including 25 California Kaiser Permanente Hospital and several Magnet hospitals.
There are large differences in how Magnet hospitals are administered in relation to regular hospitals; the former is much better administered, and are usually appropriately staffed, their nurses working regular shifts and their turnover rates are kept low as a result. The studies also included surveys on nurses, such as education level, workplace satisfaction, the number of patients they tend to on a daily basis, and the mortality rates of the hospitals. The results showed large differences in the mortality rates of both groups of hospitals, which are directly related to the happiness and satisfaction of their nursing staff.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that higher satisfaction in the workplace leads directly to better patient care, including less mortality rates, and increased patient satisfaction. By using data from the American Nurses Association’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators, an increase of only 25 percent in nurse happiness leads to an improvement of around 20 to 25 percent in quality of patient satisfaction.
In a good work environment, fewer mistakes are made
In an effort to shed light on the issues that were affecting a group of 70 military hospitals, which were causing a great turnover in their nursing staff, a global management consulting firm was hired. McKinsey, the consulting firm discovered an important relationship between staff happiness & satisfaction, and the quality of patient care as they discovered that most of the nursing staff was dissatisfied with their current working conditions, as well as unmotivated due to the lack of career advancement opportunities offered in the workplace.
The firm was then entrusted with the administration and overseeing of several strategies aimed at addressing the heart of the matter. After some time, the improvements in these areas helped not only to improve the working conditions of the staff but also indirectly increased patient satisfaction in the process. These strategies were aimed at improving certain areas of the care process, such as nurse-patient communication, as well as other quality-of-life indicators. Productivity saw a tremendous increase as well, considering that standard pain reassessment procedures increased in completion from 90 to 99 percent after the firm’s work was completed. Lastly, and most importantly, medication-administration errors decreased by a generous 1.2 per full-time employee, per 100 patient days.
Nurse happiness is a key element in patient satisfactions
While none of these results seem particularly groundbreaking, it’s important to consider that a single patient whose experience is improved and satisfaction increased is cause for rejoicing. This study helps to prove what specialists around the world already suspect; nurse happiness is a crucial element of the healthcare process, and nurturing the elements that serve to drive said satisfaction is of great importance in order to ensure that all nurses are able to perform optimally without compromising their personal health in the process.