What nurses, support staff crave from employers today

Alan Condon -  

Nurses and support staff are a critical part of any spine surgeon's practice, but recruiting and retaining top-tier talent is becoming increasingly challenging in the healthcare labor market.

Four spine surgeons identified the key things nurses and support staff crave from their employers today. 

Ask Spine Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to spine surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting spine care. Becker's invites all spine surgeon and specialist responses.

Next week's question: How can spine practices set themselves up for success and stand out in an increasingly consumerized market? 

Please send responses to Alan Condon at acondon@beckershealthcare.com by 5 p.m. CDT Wednesday, Aug. 10.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What are the top three things nurses and support staff crave from their employers today?

Christian Zimmerman, MD. St. Alphonsus Medical Group and SAHS Neuroscience Institute (Boise, Idaho): After taking an informal survey in both the operating room and neurosurgical floors, the representative sample of this question was posed (usually in clusters) to about 80 full-time nursing and 30 support staff members. Also included were managers and directors who provided more information about support staffing and the ongoing tribulations with this issue. The main OR, which has 25 operating rooms (four of which are exclusively for neurosurgery), where most were questioned rendered the following block of responses by priority: 

1. Pay 

2. Consistency with schedule

3. Adequate staffing

4. Appreciation

By and large, the single most notable complaint among staff was the ongoing multifaceted fatigue, either from longer hours or erratic patient behaviors. This information was readily discussed and fully disclosed prior to its reporting. 

Brian Gantwerker, MD. The Craniospinal Center of Los Angeles: The best thing to do is to ask them. But, what I have found is the top three things needed by nurses and support staff are:

1) Acknowledgement. Talk to them, interface, get to know them and their stories. You will find your relationships will improve and suddenly things run more smoothly for you — like your add-on case going at 4 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.

2) Responsiveness. Always respond to pages, phone calls and interrogatives — patient care is incredibly good when nurses get the information or answers they need

3) Respect. Although the physician's decision is often the final call, listen to and think about the suggestions nurses and support staff make to do better by the patient and to keep the workplace going smoothly and with mutual approbation.

Brian Fiani, DO. Weill Cornell Medicine/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (New York City): From the perspective of a spine surgeon, the top three things that nurses and support staff crave from their employers today are: 1) a sense of camaraderie; 2) a sense of fair treatment; 3) a sense of feeling supported. 

1. The surgical specialty is one of a team effort. Teamwork makes for better outcomes, and ultimately, a superior and more productive work environment. When people feel like they are part of a team, they feel like they have the ability to contribute and have a sense of accomplishment. This makes nursing and support staff feel welcome to engage in patient care and that the performance at their job matters and a feeling of gratification comes from their work-related efforts. Ultimately, camaraderie leads to accountability, which is very important for patient care. 

2. A sense of fair treatment is important for nursing and support staff so they feel like they are not being unjustly scrutinized, criticized or discriminated against. Fair treatment leads to good morale and ultimately a positive working environment.

3. A sense of feeling supported means that the spine surgeons and employers advocate for their nurses and support staff. Due to the hierarchical system ingrained in the medical and surgical specialties, there is a power dynamic. As best said by the "Spiderman" movies, "With great power comes great responsibility." Advocating for nurses and support staff means listening to their needs and trying to find resolution as challenges arise.

Chester Donnally, MD. Texas Spine Consultants (Addison): Good pay and a sense of camaraderie. They want to be shown financially they are important and they want you to acknowledge their importance.

A few years ago, I submitted papers about online reviews and what influences them. In my initial submission, I indicated that negative reviews were based on the staff, not the physician, so physicians aren't to blame. But the reviewers astutely pointed out that the physicians control the staff and they are a direct representation of us. So, any reviews that talk about our staff but not the physicians are definitely a representation of us and something the physicians also control. It's a series of comments that has stuck with me. Of course I updated the discussion of the papers to reflect that mentality and this is one that we preach in our own group.

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