Creative recruitment and retention strategies

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Hospitals and health-care providers across Canada face numerous challenges as we begin 2009, but we also foresee many opportunities.

Our challenges include increasing demands on the health system, patients and clients with more complex needs – particularly among our aging population, and fewer resources with which to meet those needs. Although much of the public discussion on hospital operations in Ontario last year centered on budgets; recruiting and retaining health professionals and support staff can be just as challenging as balancing the books.

It is our opportunity to address the recruitment challenge with progressive and creative action, so we continue to attract the best and most innovative physicians and staff to our team. It is our focus on work-life balance, professional development and cultivating a culture that supports research and inter-professional collaboration that gives us our competitive edge.

To put it simply, we are committed to ensuring Providence Care continues to be a great place to work. Work-life balance is an important part of our strategy to support and retain staff and physicians at Providence Care’s long-term care home, hospital sites and community programs. Through staff surveys, focus groups and other forms of feedback, we know our staff want to achieve a better balance.

I’m proud to say it is our staff who take the lead to bring about positive change in many different ways. Our Occupational Health department is developing walking-path maps for inside and outside of our Mental Health Services site, which is located on the shore of Lake Ontario. The maps will provide an option for easy exercise on breaks and before and after work. The department also hopes to soon be able to offer cholesterol screening to staff, and implement other “wellness” recommendations that come directly from our front-line staff.

At our St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital site staff have come together to implement an initiative called “C.A.R.E.” (Communications, Attitude, Respect, Environment), which identifies expectations for how we treat our co-workers and is built on a foundation of mutual respect and compassion.

These examples of staff-led workplace wellness initiatives, plus other activities including a range of fitness classes and health-focused groups, demonstrate our commitment to providing an exceptional work environment, and – I hope – add to incentives for new employees to join our team.

One of our corporate priorities at Providence Care is to build our leadership capacity throughout our organization. We’ve done this by establishing a dynamic curriculum of in-house learning and training opportunities. Our Training and Organizational Development department offers learning and educational programs and courses throughout the year, ranging from How to write a good briefing note to Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and Optimizing performance by reducing stress to Consumer health and information resources.

Included in our learning calendar is Providence Care’s home-grown Leadership Development Program. This program includes six full-day sessions over a two-month period, and gives participants the opportunity to develop and grow their own leadership skills – and then apply those skills within their job.

In addition to the learning offerings through the year, since 2007 we have also organized and hosted an annual leadership conference for staff and our community partners. The theme of last year’s event was “Leading with Intention”, and included a keynote presentation from Rev. Mpho Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Desmund Tutu. The feedback we had after the conference was impressive – our staff participants were inspired.

For many health professionals the opportunity to participate in research studies, innovative projects and new models of care plays a deciding factor in choosing an employer. Showcasing these opportunities and sharing stories of successful ventures is a vital part of our recruitment, retention and great place to work strategy.

As a teaching health-care organization, Providence Care is affiliated with the internationally acclaimed Queen’s University. Current research studies include clinical drug trials, studies on stroke rehabilitation, spinal cord injuries, geriatric medicine, and studies examining new treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress. Providence Care is also trialing new practices around inter-professional education, the role of technology in care and new models of patient care.

Our relationship with Queen’s goes beyond research. A recent example of our partnership with the medical school at Queen’s University is a new residency program in place at our long-term care home, Providence Manor. Since last summer, new doctors studying to become family physicians have been able to do a portion of their required residency at the Manor.

These kinds of opportunities attract staff to our organization. Many of our clinicians hold joint-appointments with Queen’s, and some of the programs and services we offer exist because of our teaching status. The accomplishments that come from our research and our partnership with the university and other post-secondary institutions strengthen our reputation as a leader in health care, and demonstrate the profound impact Providence Care has on the communities we serve – and that is something every staff member can be proud of.

Recruiting and retaining staff is becoming more and more important, and in some cases, increasingly challenging. That is why, since I became President and CEO at Providence Care a year ago, building on our organization’s reputation as a “great place to work” has been and will continue to be one of my top priorities.