5 Helpful Tips To Efficiently Manage A Hospital

Hospitals and healthcare have been front and center during the pandemic. 

Suddenly, the news headlines were filled with the things a hospital manager deals with almost daily. Patient census, healthcare labor shortages, and facility capability became a concern for people outside of the healthcare system.

Hospital management is the magician behind the curtain, dealing with these things non-stop whether there’s a pandemic or not. From the hospital building itself, to staffing and legal compliance, hospital management makes sure that everything is running smoothly. When management gets it right, patients have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes.

But making that happen takes a lot of work, and hospital managers are facing more challenges than ever during the COVID era.

By understanding the most common hospital management challenges, and providing a few tips to help smooth the bumpiest aspects of the job, we’ll show you how you can make your hospital management easier, even in this time of increased difficulty.

Common hospital management challenges

So what is hospital management? How do you run a hospital, anyway? 

Quick answer: Hospital management is the process of overseeing every aspect of the facility, from both high above and down in the trenches.

What we mean is that managing a hospital requires taking a big picture view so you can see changes and challenges ahead. You have to know what’s coming that will affect your hospital before the impact is felt. You have to be able to analyze what’s happening so you know what it means and can make decisions accordingly.

Then, moving from the big picture to a smaller view (which isn’t easy to do), hospital management has to maintain all of the functioning parts that make a hospital work. That includes facilities. Staff. Operations. Budget. Patients. Compliance. Seasonal changes. All intertwined, all with seemingly opposing needs, and all running smoothly together.

The most common challenges when running a hospital can be broken down into a few categories:

  • Communication. Understanding the communication needs, and how they differ between staff that includes doctors, nurses, custodians, and dietary workers, among others, takes a purposeful effort.
  • Compliance. Federal and state laws for healthcare are constantly changing, as are insurance regulations. Knowing those laws, and being in compliance with all of them for every part of the hospital, is almost a full-time job on its own.
  • Flexibility. You have to be flexible on both a daily level in how you manage your meetings and tasks, and on a broader level in the management of the entire hospital organization. Flexible and agile organizations can quickly adapt to change, which is what a hospital needs to be able to do. That means managing in a way that builds flexibility into the system. Being able to think analytically (and have the data on hand to do that) helps you be more agile and flexible while running a hospital.
  • Crisis. The “normality” of a crisis in the healthcare setting is one way hospital management is different from any other kind of management. A hospital crisis can be sudden, come after a slow build, be short-lived, or settle in long-term to the point that you have to figure out a way to manage effectively despite its presence. Consider the current growing labor shortage directly affecting hospital staffing levels, paired with an increased demand for medical services. Less staff, more demand…crisis.

How to effectively manage a hospital

There’s no one way to manage or run a hospital. Your management style may differ from another. But there are a few basic tips that should help anyone in hospital management.

Tip #1: Watch for burnout

75% of employees experience burnout

Yikes. 

And even worse, it’s likely higher in a frenzied short-staffed hospital setting, where burnout directly impacts patient care.

While it’s valuable to know the warning signs that an employee is about to quit, it’s even more valuable to keep them from getting to that point in the first place.

Some of the ways you can help avoid employee burnout are to pay attention to mental health and make it a top priority that you communicate to your staff. You should also avoid knee-jerk punitive responses, and, when it comes to scheduling, stop letting the bottom line override your employee’s need for a good work-life balance.

Granted, when it comes to scheduling, some compliance laws make it difficult in your hospital. Other industries have more freedom on how well-staffed shifts are while hospitals don’t always have that kind of leeway. Using flexible scheduling is a win-win solution, keeping your shifts full while still giving employees more control over their lives.

But don’t forget to hold up a mirror.

We know you might not have all of the resources you need to do your job as well as you could, and that you’re having to make do with less than ideal solutions. While the right tools are important, so is avoiding burnout in your own life. 

It’s not just nurses and other hospital staff who get hit with burnout. Managers do, too. You carry a lot of responsibility for so many people, sometimes more than you ought to for what should be a team effort.

Pay attention to your own weariness, mental health, and need for a break. Don’t skip breaks, time off, or personal time away from the job because there’s so much to do. 

Tip #2: Understand patient expectation

Patients are changing. Oh, they still have the same medical needs, but their expectation of what happens at the hospital changes.

  • More comfortable facilities. 
  • A more relational experience and interaction with your staff. 
  • Availability and access to specialist doctors. 
  • Being more human and less a number and a chart.

Understandably, you’re working within the limitations of your budget and what administration allows. But listening to patients, and the staff who work with them, will help you understand their experience better. They may be able to offer suggestions for improvement within the scope of what you can work with or have on hand. Patient surveys or feedback on what could be improved is valuable.

Tip #3: Make training a priority

The healthcare industry is constantly changing. If training your staff isn’t a priority, they aren’t keeping pace with that change.

When new staff is hired, you train them according to what they need to know to do their job. But what about providing communication or managerial training, even if it’s not directly or obviously linked to their job? Or training them on what being patient-centric looks like? Wouldn’t everyone benefit with an understanding of those processes? 

You’ll often see recommendations to create a communication strategy, a patient-centric strategy, or something similar. Yet you can’t develop a functioning communications strategy if the people it affects haven’t been trained how to do it. You can’t expect all staff to be naturally patient-centric if they aren’t trained to know what that looks like.

Training is how you prepare your staff to meet expectations. It’s hard to strategically plan and manage your team to hit those expectations if your staff doesn’t know how to get there. Whether it’s in-house or online training, frequently revisit what your staff needs to know. 

Don’t expect more of your staff than what they’ve been trained to do.

Tip #4: Use technology to your advantage

The right tools can seriously lighten your management load while running a hospital, particularly with communications and scheduling. The healthcare industry has gotten more complex, more digitized, and more flexible. Are your management tools keeping up?

Scheduling for healthcare staff is notoriously challenging, and tools like When I Work can really help out. It can help you mesh full-time, part-time, and PRN pool workers. Plus, payroll integrations, the ability to use any device as an employee time clock, and providing a better work-life balance for your employees are only just a part of what the right tool has to offer. You’re also getting real-time data that helps you spot trends and make strategic decisions.

Tip #5: Build in accountability

Creating a system where you can hold all staff accountable for the things they are assigned to do is important to successful management. Creating a management plan that your team doesn’t follow is an exercise in futility (and a waste of your time).

An accountability system should help you spot poor performance. Employees who are underperforming are likely contributing to burnout in others trying to make up for them. Or it can help you see employees who are doing too much and heading for burnout. 

That kind of accountability reaches far.

It overlaps with communication. It identifies problem areas, or vulnerabilities, in your system before a crisis hits. It keeps information on staff, rules, and expectations updated and available.

Accountability isn’t a punitive thing. It’s about communicating expectations and helping your whole team meet those expectations together.

Hospital management, in the COVID era, is more difficult yet more important than ever before. While your organization is unique, providing the best patient care starts by caring for your staff first and giving them every tool to be effective. 

In what seems to be an out-of-control world, giving employees control over their own work-life balance is incredibly important and, with tools like When I Work, much easier than you think. Contact us today and see how we can help you manage your team to optimal effectiveness.