In today’s rapidly evolving world, the healthcare industry is constantly growing and changing in significant ways. While many of these changes are beneficial, constant alterations in the workplace can take a toll on employees and, sometimes, negatively impact work culture.

Understanding the different work culture challenges in the healthcare space and having some guidance around how to navigate them can make crafting an enjoyable and sustainable work culture easier and less intimidating.

Here are some of the most significant work culture challenges in the healthcare industry and ways to navigate them.

Staff Shortages

The current healthcare landscape is one that is wrought with worker shortages. In fact, shortages of nurses is one of the biggest nursing challenges healthcare is facing right now. As a result of this, many healthcare professionals are forced to work even harder in order to make up for a lack of trained personnel.

When it comes to work culture, staffing shortages are a recipe for disaster. In the midst of challenging shifts in which one feels like they are being overworked, putting effort into cultivating a specific type of work culture is the last thing on anyone’s mind.

Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate the disastrous impact that staffing shortages can have on healthcare work culture. Though healthcare leaders don’t necessarily have the power to reduce their employees’ workloads, they can participate in practices that make them feel more valued and happier in their workplace.

One particular employee engagement strategy that healthcare leaders can utilize is the practice of rewarding and recognizing the efforts of employees. Though healthcare professionals may be working in a stressful, understaffed environment, they’ll feel more up to the task as a result of feeling like their contributions are valued.

Though rewarding employees won’t fix the staffing shortage problems that healthcare is facing, it can have a significantly positive impact on work culture in healthcare environments. As such, any healthcare leader whose work culture is suffering as a result of staffing shortages can mitigate the impact by making an effort to consistently recognize and reward employees.

Lack of Diversity and Communication Barriers

When it comes to diversity in healthcare, the industry still has a long way to go. At this point in time, more than half of all physicians in the U.S. are white, making it apparent that not all patients are seeing themselves represented in the healthcare institutions where they receive care.

Though this lack of diversity can cause friction between patients and healthcare professionals, it can also cause friction within healthcare teams. This friction within teams stems from the fact that individuals from certain backgrounds or marginalized groups may feel isolated and separated from their teams.

When employees feel isolated and underrepresented in their field and organization, this can have an incredibly harmful effect on work culture. Rather than feeling a sense of kinship and unity with one’s co-workers and leaders, one will instead likely feel like an outsider. These attitudes can make one dislike going to work and can affect how one interacts with others and the quality of work that one produces.

Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent the issue of a lack of diversity and communication barriers in healthcare and, as a result, improve workplace culture. One incredibly potent method that healthcare leaders can take advantage of is that of culture training.

Culture training in the workplace has the power to drastically change how healthcare workers interact with both patients and co-workers, making it an easy solution to take advantage of. In these training sessions, employees are taught about various cultures and effective ways to communicate with people from various backgrounds.

What these training sessions will result in is a healthcare team that is better at communicating and making everyone — patients and employees alike — feel more welcome and accepted. Workplace settings that strive to be inclusive spaces that encourage people to communicate effectively can make for an amazing work culture that people enjoy being a part of.

Long Shifts

Within healthcare, it is typical for many different healthcare professionals to work shifts that are extremely long when compared to typical eight-hour work days. For example, it is common for various types of nurses to work twelve-hour shifts in their professional lives.

While these shifts do have the potential to free up some time outside of work and potentially contribute to a better sense of work-life balance, they can also be gruelling, stressful, and exhausting. These long shifts being common in healthcare institutions can cause healthcare professionals to develop a negative association with work that’s characterized by feelings of exhaustion which can have an overwhelmingly negative effect on work culture.

Unfortunately, many healthcare leaders don’t have the power to completely alter industry standards and significantly change how long healthcare professional shifts are. However, some things can be done to lessen the harm that these shifts have on rates of employee satisfaction and work culture.

One method that can be incredibly effective when combating the negative effects of long shifts is creating an open space for communication. This way, if employees are having a problem or are feeling like they are too exhausted, they can go to their leaders and vent their grievances.

In this way, the amount of burnout healthcare professionals experience can be lessened, and work culture can be improved in various healthcare institutions.

Work Culture Can Be Improved in Healthcare

Though healthcare is a field that can be difficult for professionals to work in, there are ways to improve employee satisfaction and work culture. By examining current issues harming work culture and working to engage in some effective solutions, healthcare leaders have the power to drastically improve work culture in healthcare settings.

Though healthcare is far from perfect today, there is hope that teams engaging in effective solutions can improve work environments in healthcare and find respite in their jobs.