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Work absenteeism is one of the biggest challenges which face service provision in health care facilities. There has been an increase in the number of staff or health care practitioners who are absent from work and this affects health care delivery in such facilities. Work absenteeism may occur due to legitimate reasons or illegitimate reasons. Legitimate reason for work absenteeism include sickness, family issues and baby sitting while illegitimate reasons include missing work due to false pretences (Beach, 2007). In health care facilities, work absenteeism is a very serious issue since it adversely affects health care provision. Health care provision is a sensitive issue since it may lead to fatality of patients or deterioration of patients’ health if enough health care staff is not present to cater to their needs.
It is therefore important to assess the issue of work absenteeism in the health care industry in more detail. This paper will assess work absenteeism in health care and will specifically focus on hospital and nursing home settings. The various causes of work absenteeism and adverse effects to health care institutions will be discussed in detail. The solutions to work absenteeism in the health care industry will also be given. The discussed issues will be summarized at the end.
Causes of work absenteeism
There are various causes of work absenteeism in the health care industry. These will be discussed below;
This is one of the most common causes of work absenteeism in the health care industry. Many employees who call in sick are genuinely unwell and unable to discharge their duties effectively. This causal factor can be linked to the high cost of health care delivery in the United States and the world in general. The increase in health care costs and insurance has made many people be unable to afford health care services (Kotlikoff, 2007). Such people seek low quality health care service providers, home solutions or Internet remedies for diseases. These are ineffective in dealing with illnesses and health care employees who seek these solutions due to the inability to access health care services are likely to be absent from work for longer periods than those who seek effective treatment interventions. It is important to offer affordable and high quality health care services to both health care employees and the public in general in order to reduce the problem of work absenteeism.
There are various family issues which may make employees in the health care industry be away from work. These family issues include domestic violence, divorce proceedings, family conflicts and others. Family issues are important to address and this is the reason that many health care employees who face these issues are likely to be absent from work in order to deal with them. It is difficult for any employee to be productive at the workplace when dealing with unresolved family issues. Many employees opt to deal with such issues before resuming work in order to be productive. Employers should give employees sufficient time to deal with family issues since such issues are likely to lower employee motivation if not dealt with in a timely manner.
Due to the effects of the global economic crunch, many families have had their disposable income lowered. Such families are struggling to pay their bills and expenses with the little income earned. As a result, many families are unable to pay for babysitters for their babies especially due to the hard economic times. In such circumstances, some employees in health care institutions may be forced to stay away from work as they baby sit their babies. This on the other hand adversely affects health care service provision since there may be inadequate staff to deal with patients. It is thus important to find a solution to this issue.
Low employee motivation
Employee motivation is very important for organizations in any industry. Employees are the most valuable resource and it is important to motivate them and increase their output in order for organizations to achieve their objectives (Mugisho, 2007). Employee motivation enables employees to look forward to going to their places of work, in this case hospitals and other health care facilities. However, when employees have low motivation levels, most prefer missing work and undertaking other activities which may be more rewarding to them. Low employee motivation is arguably the major reason that employees are absent from work in cases of illegitimate reasons. It is important to address the issue of employee motivation if cases of workplace absenteeism are to be reduced in health care institutions.
Stress related issues
Stress is a major causality of low employee productivity and work absenteeism in health care facilities. Employees in health care facilities are exposed to working under pressure in order to meet the targets set. Such employees see injuries and fatalities almost on a daily basis and this would cause psychological effects to any human being. Student interns are exposed to working for very long hours with little rest and this is stressful to them. When such employees are not provided for with an effective mechanism to deal with such stress, they are likely to be absent from work as a result of stress effects. This in turn adversely affects service provision in health care facilities. Employees should be provided for with mechanisms for dealing with stress if they are to reduce cases of absenteeism from the workplace.
Nurse staffing ratio
There is a major problem in many health care service facilities due to the inadequate number of health care professionals, especially nurses. There is an inadequate number of nurses in these facilities and this exerts pressure on nurses to work harder and for longer hours in order to meet the needs of patients (Phelps, 2002). This causes a strain to them as they are forced to work under tremendous pressure. In most cases, the increased workload does not translate into higher pay and this further frustrates them. In such working environments, nurses lose motivation to work and they begin being absent from work for illegitimate reasons. The problem of nurse staffing ration should therefore be addressed to reduce cases of work absenteeism.
Disadvantages of work absenteeism
There are various adverse effects which are associated with work absenteeism in health care facilities. These will be discussed below;
Quality of health care service provision
Work absenteeism in health care service delivery facilities adversely affects health care provision amongst patients. When health care professionals are absent from work, there may be inadequate health care professionals to deal with the needs of patients. This may affect the quality of health care received by patients. It may also lead to further complications for patients or even fatalities due to inadequate care given to patients. This is very dangerous for the nation at large since the health of the population may be compromised as a result of work absenteeism by health care workers. It is thus important to address this issue immediately to preserve the lives of patients.
Poor performance by health care facilities
Many health care facilities, especially those set up by the private sector are usually developed with profit making objective as a major goal. Although helping the sick is a major objective of many hospitals, many are formed to make profit out of charging for health care services provided. When employees are absent from work, just like in any other organization, productivity reduces. Reduction in productivity over time may lead to losses by the health care institutions. It may also lead to the inability to attain the set organizational goals. It is therefore necessary to ensure that employees in health care facilities are not absent from work since this may be an obstacle to the attaining of organizational objectives.
Solution to problems
There are several solutions which should be implemented in order to deal with the problems which were earlier discussed in the paper. These solutions will be discussed on the basis of the individual problems discussed earlier.
It has been discussed that sickness is one of the major problems which contribute to work absenteeism. When employees are sick, they are unable to discharge their duties effectively. Employees who seek low quality health care services are more likely to be absent for longer periods than those who seek high quality services. In order to deal with this issue, the government and health care providers should take immediate steps. The government should reduce the costs of health care services and insurance through allocating more funds to cater for the same. Health care facilities should offer health care cover to all employees in order to ensure that they have access to high quality health care services. This will reduce the number of hours employees are absent due to sickness or other health complications.
There are various family issues which health care professionals experience, as is experienced with the rest of society. It is important to develop mechanisms which can enable health care professionals deal with family issues without affecting their workplace objectives. Employees in health care facilities should have access to counselors who will enable them solve family issues which they face. This will prevent such issues from affecting their work environment and causing work absenteeism in health care facilities.
It has been discussed that babysitting is a causal factor of work absenteeism since many employees are unable to afford babysitters due to harsh economic times. It is important to empower employees, especially those with babies, to be financially stable and to be in a position to cater for all the baby’s needs. Health care service institutions should take two steps to resolve this problem. The first is to increase employee remuneration in order to ensure that employees, especially those with children, are able to access salaries and benefits which are adequate in catering for the children’s welfare. The second step is creating a nursery within the health care facility and allowing parents to bring their young ones in such environments. This strategy has proven to be very effective in increasing the productivity of working mother since they have peace of mind whenever they work in environments where their children are within reach. These two strategies should be implemented depending on the policies of the organization in order to ensure that work absenteeism is minimized.
Low employee motivation
Low employee motivation is caused by several factors including poor leadership, organizational culture, low remuneration and others. Low motivation reduces employee productivity and it is likely to cause work absenteeism due to lack of morale by employees. In order to improve employee motivation, several factors should be taken into account by the management. The management should employ the democratic leadership style which allows employees to participate in decision making (Bratton et. al., 2004). The management should also ensure that there is a conducive organizational culture which features communication, teamwork, conflict resolution mechanisms and participative decision making. In addition, the management should use both financial and non-financial motivation forms when remunerating employees. This will lead to an increase in employee productivity, organizational performance and lower cases of work absenteeism.
Stress related issues
As previously discussed, nurses are prone to stress due to the nature of the environment they work in. Nurses work in an environment where they experience injuries and fatalities by patients every day. Some patients come with serious injuries and they may survive or not. Nurses care for such patients and in cases where patients succumb to injuries, nurses suffer psychological trauma. Nurses also work under tremendous pressure and this may make them experience stress. In order to deal with stress, the management should ensure that nurses have access to counselors and therapies needed to enable them overcome workplace stress. This will enable them to work more effectively and will reduce cases where nurses are absent from work due to stress.
Nurse staffing ratio
Nursing staff ratio is a major cause of work absenteeism in health care institutions due to the pressure exerted on nurses. The inadequate number of nurses forces them to work harder and for longer time durations. This de-motivates them and makes some opt to be absent from work. In order to deal with this issue, the government and health care providers have a responsibility to ensure that there are adequate nurses in every health care facility. This can be achieved through dialog between all health care stakeholders and development of strategies which will ensure that adequate nurses are trained and posted to health care institutions around the country (Murray, 2005). This will reduce the burden to nurses and ensure that they work with relative ease. Such an action will reduce the number of nurses who are absent from work.
Summary and conclusion
Various issues which relate to work absenteeism in health care facilities have been discussed in detail. Employees have been seen to abstain from work for a variety of reasons and these include low morale, family issues, stress, sickness, nurse staffing ratio and babysitting among other causes. This has been seen to adversely affect health care service delivery to patients. It has also been seen to lower the performance of health care providers. In order to deal with these issues, a number of recommendations have been made and these include allowing children to work, ensuring employees are adequately remunerated, ensuring employees have access to counselors, increasing nurse staffing ratio and improving health care services to employees who work for hospitals and nursing homes. This will reduce instances where employees are absent from work and it will ensure that all objectives of health care organization are met.
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