Last week, I had a conversation with my sister about her job as a home health nurse in an inner-city ZIP code. The neighborhoods are rough, poor, and for her, feel unsafe. But she won’t quit. When I asked her why, she said, “My patients need me. If I leave, I’ll let them down. If I leave, I let my team down. We’re so short-staffed already, I couldn’t do that to them or my boss.”

Does she have the tools and resources to do her job safely? No. But this is the lifeblood of American healthcare—nurses dedicated to something beyond themselves. They’re putting their own personal welfare second to the care of the people who need it most: Patients. But there must be a better way, a win-win, don’t you think?

It all reminded me of a quote my mother, who was also a nurse, would say at least once per month:

“I love my work but hate my job!”

She would talk about the leadership politics relating to her job in a state-run facility. The patient was definitely her purpose, but she didn’t seem to have the tools and resources do her job. And when she became a leader of others, the employee complaints weighed on her heavily.

My point is, even before COVID-19, there was a serious problem with burnout, unhappiness, and even fear among healthcare workers and their direct management—an epidemic before the pandemic, so to speak.

And here we are, dumping even more demands and expectations on an already burned out staff. Many are quitting or demanding better compensation and benefits because they simply CAN due to staffing shortages. But that still doesn’t fix the original problem.

If you want to hire and maintain staff that have a real desire to continue the work they were originally called to do, then it’s far past time to take the first step and start LISTENING to their challenges and frustrations. My wife sometimes has to remind me when she needs to vent, “I don’t need you to fix this. Just listen.”

You’re not going to fix the decades-old issues with our healthcare system in one meeting. It’s going to take years of hard work and recovery. But you can start by listening, so that the changes you do focus on are the right ones.

Written by Jake Poore, President & Chief Experience Officer, Integrated Loyalty Systems.

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