Authors: Mitchell Gold, Andy Richards, William Yaeger, Rani Collins
Literature has shown that a strong safety climate in a healthcare setting leads to strong patient and worker safety outcomes. The Joint Commission's 2012 report1 on patient and worker safety demonstrated a variety of benefits that a holistic and comprehensive approach to worker and patient safety has on employees and patients.
Further, improvement in workers' compensation safety practices can result in large savings for employers while reducing or eliminating employee accidents in support of overall organizational wellbeing. Eliminating a single lost-time workers' compensation claim can save an average of more than $41,000.2
A more recent study in 2019 by the Insurance Information Institute highlighted that, of the top 10 private industry occupations with the largest number of injuries and illnesses, healthcare occupations — including nursing assistants and registered nurses — occupy two of the 10 spots.3 Moreover, causes including falls, intentional injuries by others, contact with objects/equipment and exposure to harmful substances or environments comprised nearly two-thirds (65%) of workplace deaths and injuries.
Gallagher study reveals employee health and safety concerns
In 2020, Gallagher conducted a comprehensive study with one of its multisite healthcare clients, XYZ Healthcare. We surveyed 259 employees across five XYZ Healthcare locations to gauge a number of employee engagement and experience factors. Those factors included perceptions of senior and departmental leadership, career growth, teamwork, quality, wellbeing and safety. We analyzed this data by position/function to see how these perceptions differed by leadership level; professional, licensed or technical personnel; registered nurses; and service and other personnel.
Gallagher's findings showed that of the key engagement drivers (see Table 1), safety and wellbeing items underperformed when compared to our normative or expected scores from a database of similar healthcare employees. Table 1 illustrates that XYZ Healthcare's results indicated positive employee attitudes in regard to strong communication, teamwork and providing a high-quality care experience. However, XYZ Healthcare's scores fell far below the expected normative percentile of 50% for key elements driving perceptions of wellbeing and safety.
Given the key role that nurses play in an acute care setting and the difficulty in filling these critical positions, our study highlights the importance of addressing the needs of nursing staff related to working conditions, workload, staffing and safety.