Hospitalists are unsatisfied with their schedules, and potentially their careers


Today’s Hospitalist 2019 Career & Compensation Survey: Burnout, hospitalist scheduling key sources of dissatisfaction

Every year, Today’s Hospitalist commissions research to gain a better understanding of the field of hospital medicine. The survey asks hospitalists questions about everything from compensation to scheduling and career satisfaction. So, what really stood out to us in this year’s report? Poor hospitalist scheduling is one of the top 5 reasons hospitalists are dissatisfied with their careers.

The survey showed that 31% of hospitalists cite scheduling as a major source of dissatisfaction with their careers. Additionally, 52% of those surveyed indicated they were less satisfied with their careers than when they first began practicing. Other top concerns for hospitalists: too many patient encounters per shift and—number one on the list—physician burnout.

Why is hospitalist scheduling causing dissatisfaction?

In the survey, hospitalists identified a number of reasons they were unsatisfied with scheduling. Issues included lack of flexibility, working hours without compensation, covering too many weekends and nights, and an inability to use vacation time. However, one of the main reasons for the lack of satisfaction may be block scheduling.

Block scheduling currently makes up 60% of hospitalist schedules, up from 53% in 2018. Despite wide adoption rates of block scheduling across hospital medicine, hospitalists have long debated whether this type of schedule is best for the longevity of the profession.

In fact, at the 2019 Annual Conference of the Society of Hospital Medicine, Henry Michtalik, MD, MPH, MHS and assistant professor of general internal medicine at Johns Hopkins, led a workshop on schedules. The result? Many don’t find the practice sustainable or healthy and, instead, propose changes to structure, communication, and scheduling to improve resilience and retention of hospitalists.

Feeling overworked: too many patient encounters per shift.

In addition to scheduling concerns, 41% of those hospitalists surveyed felt they saw too many patients per shift. The data supports this; the number of patient encounters for a daytime hospitalist increased from 16.1 patients in 2018 to 17 in 2019. Risks of an overwhelming caseload include burnout, high turnover and reduced quality of patient care. With such high stakes, why aren’t more hospitals and health systems addressing the issue?

The answer is complex. It’s pretty obvious the healthcare industry is facing a serious supply and demand crisis. As a result, some practices struggle to attract more hospitalists to their team to meet patient demand. However, another major contributor is that most healthcare organizations simply lack visibility into their staffing needs. What’s more, when overstaffing or understaffing occurs, they lack the ability to make fast, real-time adjustments to their scheduling.

The unpredictability of healthcare in any setting—but particularly in a hospitalist group—means it’s incredibly difficult for an organization to calculate what patient demand may be on any given day. Ultimately, this lack of insight means many practices misalign clinician supply and patient demand. In the process, they end up flooding their physicians to meet unanticipated demand. In short, providers are seeing more and more patients at the cost of patient care.

Connecting it to our mission—using AI-powered scheduling to fight burnout

A huge part of Lightning Bolt’s mission is to deliver AI-optimized scheduling that curbs the growing physician burnout crisis by scheduling physicians fairly and providing them more control over their schedule. We understand there’s a clear connection between physician burnout, poor scheduling practices and failing to meet patient supply with adequate staffing.

The cycle goes something like this: organizations lack insight into patient demand, schedule physicians ineffectively, and most often leave their providers overwhelmed with too many patients per shift. This leads to distrust in the scheduling process and ultimately higher rates of burnout and turnover. The root problem: hospitals and health systems don’t have the data and tools necessary to schedule their workforce as efficiently as possible.

How Lightning Bolt can help

Thankfully, Lightning Bolt is here to help. Our physician scheduling solution uses rule-based scheduling technology to ensure physicians are scheduled fairly. This includes things like evenly distributing weekend and night coverage across a team—key complaints from many hospitalists in the survey—and providing physicians with more flexibility. Lightning Bolt makes it simple for providers to request time off or swap shifts in a matter of seconds from their mobile phones, alleviating administrative hassles and empowering them to use more of their vacation days.

Plus, Lightning Bolt helps organizations tackle the root of the problem by using prescriptive analytics to gain a clearer picture of their patient demand and better align it with clinician supply. With more optimized scheduling, hospitals and other organizations can shift their focus away from scrambling to fix inadequate scheduling and instead use advanced analytics to evaluate schedule performance and test out new optimizations—bringing more efficiency to their teams.

All this, of course, leads to better physician satisfaction and decreases burnout, the number one source of dissatisfaction for hospitalists. It’s simple, really: if providers have better visibility and control over their scheduling process, they are more satisfied at work.

Want to learn how Lightning Bolt can optimize scheduling for your hospitalist group? Speak to an expert today or see the results for yourself by learning how we helped transform University of Kentucky HealthCare’s hospitalist scheduling.

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