I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “physician engagement.” It’s quickly becoming one of the most important factors in a healthcare organization’s journey to excellence. Better engagement means better outcomes, better physician retention, and better patient ratings. So, what is physician engagement, and how can we invite it into our hospitals? Understanding engagement is the first step to developing an actionable plan to improve engagement.
What is Physician Engagement?
There is no standard definition for physician engagement. It is a concept that encompasses several factors, from job satisfaction to personal fulfillment and organizational cohesion. Here are a few common definitions for engagement:
- Gallup defines engaged employees as “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.”
- An article written by Kevin Kruse for Forbes takes a different approach: “Engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”
- Additionally, Custom Insight offers yet another definition: “Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.”
It’s a Commitment
In all three of the definitions above you will see the word ‘commitment.’ It’s important to note that engagement is not synonymous with happiness or satisfaction – engagement requires an element of intent. It is that commitment that produces such desired effects in the workplace.
Physician Engagement is a Relatively New Concept
The modern concept of engagement as it pertains to employees is a relatively new idea, first published in a 1990 article in the Academy of Management Journal by William A. Kahn. This article examined the psychological factors involved in workplace engagement (or disengagement). As the economy shifted toward more mobile employees, engagement and loyalty took on a new meaning for employers. It became a new initiative to understand and motivate employees based on the concepts of engagement.
Physician Engagement is Different
Engagement among physicians tends to be lower and more difficult to impact than employees from other industries. There is not one singular answer to why physician engagement is harder to achieve, but the unique atmosphere of a healthcare organization introduces several challenges. The particular stresses of the physician’s job, the complexity of the organizational structure, and the hassle factors created by data management and Medicare and insurance paperwork all negatively impact engagement among physicians.
Engagement (or Disengagement) Can Be Contagious
We are social and emotional creatures, and we instinctively respond to the emotional and psychological landscape of our environments. Just as a smile from a neighbor can impact your mood, so can a physician’s engagement level impact coworkers. Engaged employees tend to be better at communicating and present a better attitude overall. That attitude can be contagious, and engagement (or disengagement) can spread through contact. It’s important to understand the compound effects of engagement in the organization to make the most of your engagement strategies. Also, this contagion doesn’t only impact physicians, don’t overlook the difference that an engaged physician may have on a patient’s experience.
Just as each organization is different, each journey toward engagement is going to be unique. The first steps are to understand your current position in your engagement journey. Once you have identified your place in your “engagement roadmap” you can begin to take steps to move forward on that journey.