This definition leaves lots of room for interpretation, however. While toxicity is a know-it-when-you-see-it sort of thing to some degree, there are a few definite signs that should point you to greener, more flexible pastures, such as a career in locum tenens.
Why is the Medical Field Toxic?
Most data suggests that toxic workplace culture is a problem that is not unique to the medical field. Three out of five (64%) of all US workers (medical or not) say they’ve worked in a toxic culture. And one out of five say it’s had significant ramifications on their mental health. However, experts say certain elements commonly found in healthcare work environments — stress, long work hours, and well-established hierarchies — can exacerbate the impact of a difficult work environment.
For example, 65 percent of physician assistants (PAs) report being burned out and/or depressed. Forty-three percent of those PAs said lack of respect from colleagues and staff was a leading contributor. Too many bureaucratic tasks (57%) was the most-cited reason.
5 Signs of a Toxic Hospital Culture
1. Problems Are a “Perfect Storm”
Through bad decision-making or just bad luck, the worst workplaces tend to accumulate problems with a high degree of comorbidity. Though it’s more common among RNs and LPNs, figures on verbal abuse in nursing at Medscape illustrate this. When nurses are verbally abused, they’re more likely to call in sick, report low job satisfaction, and look for other work, all of which have a direct effect on a business’s overall productivity and job satisfaction.
One major problem is solvable, but multiple problems feeding into a larger stream are a lot harder to hack through. If you don’t feel like you can wait it out or it doesn’t seem like it’s improving, consider looking into your options with locum tenens.
2. The Culture Is Bureaucratic or Unpleasant
A toxic hospital culture touches every part of a person’s job experience, as well as the business’s productivity. It’s been proven that happier workplaces are, unsurprisingly, better places to work and more productive as a result; workplaces that fixate on rules and procedure, on the other hand, are usually on the decline.
Though standards and procedure are critical in healthcare, those that focus on employee behavior rather than patient care can lead to negative hospital politics, which contribute to stress, burnout, and toxicity. Most people can tell when rules are created for the right reasons and when they’re being used to further personal agendas, so don’t be afraid to take your career elsewhere if you see a lot of the latter.
3. Supervisory Issues Abound
Unlike most other issues, toxic leadership traits can single-handedly reduce a strong team to a group of people plagued by stress and burnout. This is of concern in medicine, where poor supervision of physicians, PAs, and NPs can have a ripple effect.
Quality of care and job satisfaction alike can decline when a bad leader’s decisions “trickle down,” according to the U.S. Library of Medicine, making trustworthy and competent management an absolute must for a healthy career.
4. Employees Have Responsibility, but Little Autonomy
High-level medical employees have a lot of responsibility, and they largely enjoy at least some autonomy in their care and professional duties. Toxic healthcare workplaces can take that away from them. In fact, roles with high responsibility and low control are generally regarded among the worst in terms of job satisfaction and potential negative health effects.
To expand on point No. 3, micromanagers, bullies, and other power-grabbing management personalities contribute negatively to the careers and lives of the medical professionals they supervise. If you work under someone who takes decisions out of your hands, fear not: This isn’t the norm, and you can improve your quality of life by making a change.
5. The Structure Encourages Bad Behavior
The link between unethical behavior and professional stress isn’t fully understood, but it’s a nasty combination of factors. Being forced into unethical behavior in any profession can be a major detriment to employee well-being, and worse, excessive stress may push employees to make unethical decisions they wouldn’t consider otherwise.
Most healthcare professionals don’t commonly find themselves facing major ethical dilemmas, but jobs with rules or structural flaws that encourage smaller indiscretions (e.g., fudging paperwork to meet certain metrics or to soften a steep bill) can be stressful over a long period. If you feel pressure to cheat based on unreasonable, unrealistic, or unfair company rules, you may be in a toxic workplace, and it may be time to consider employment that gives you more power over where and when you work.
Simply being able to make a move when you need to is a big comfort when you’ve experienced a toxic workplace. Locum tenens is a career path that takes it a step further by giving you a contact person to help mediate if issues arise at the facility at which you work. Along with other benefits, this might be the perfect cure for toxicity-induced job dissatisfaction.
How Locum Tenens Work Helps With Burnout
If your work environment is leading to burnout, you may want to consider locum tenens work. Many locum providers say that Increased flexibility, the ability to travel, and a change of scenery significantly improve their quality of life.
Locum tenens professionals are 37% less likely to cite burnout than their perm counterparts. Improving flexibility and avoiding burnout is also the number one reason nurse practitioners choose locum tenens work over perm work.