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Building a Healthy Organizational Culture in Healthcare

It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic created a seismic shift in how employees view the workplace. Known as the “Great Resignation,” over 47 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021. Healthcare had some of the most significant turnovers, and about 18% of staff have left their jobs since the pandemic began.

Also called the “Great Renegotiation,” many people left their jobs for better jobs, and not always for more pay. Employees are looking for caring employers, flexibility and work-life balance. They want to do meaningful work and feel appreciated. In other words, they want a positive workplace culture.

What Is Workplace Culture?

Work culture is becoming a deciding factor for job seekers. A Glassdoor survey found that 77% of adults consider work culture before applying for a job, with 56% saying culture matters more than salary. “Work culture” often refers to an organization’s mission and values, but it is much more.

Writing for Radical Product, Radhika Dutt describes work culture as “what you experience in your workday through your work and interactions. A good work culture creates an environment that maximizes the mental and emotional bandwidth that you can sustainably invest in the business.”

Faced with staffing shortages and retention issues, healthcare leaders must rethink their work culture and adopt new ways of meeting employee needs.

How Can Healthcare Leaders Foster a Strong Workplace Culture?

Culture is essential in every workplace, even more so in high-stress healthcare organizations. Building a positive culture in hospitals and other healthcare facilities can improve employee engagement, productivity, retention, patient outcomes and profitability.

Culture change in any workplace is a leadership challenge and opportunity. The following are strategies to consider.


Fostering a strong workplace culture in any organization starts with asking: What are we doing well? What are some ways we can do better? Engagement surveys are one way for leaders to show they are listening. Quick check-ins called pulse surveys help track progress in specific areas such as stress levels.

Conducting regular “stay interviews” is another option. Whereas exit interviews may expose issues after the fact, stay interviews help employers build a culture that both attracts and retains employees.

Promote Meaningful Engagement  

Andrew Carnegie described teamwork as “the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Cross-functional teams in healthcare typically focus on patient care. The same approach can bring together employees from across an organization to create culture change.

What is the work culture missing? Developing cross-functional teams based on shared areas of interest can promote a sense of purpose and belonging. Examples of areas where teams can take the lead in shaping work culture include:

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategies and goals
  • Sustainability policies
  • Learning and development (L&D) experiences
  • Social impact initiatives
  • Coaching and mentoring programs

Prioritize a Culture of Wellness

Workplace wellness programs can be effective in improving workplace culture. In addition to supporting health goals, these programs can promote employee happiness and productivity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 83% of hospitals in the U.S. offer wellness programs, compared to 46% of employers overall. Yet McKinsey’s research shows that 32% of registered nurses intend to leave direct patient care for reasons that include stress.

Healthcare leaders can address stress, burnout and retention issues through wellness programs that support and value nurses. WellRight suggests creating a “nursing-specific” wellness program, such as with the following initiatives:

  • Create dedicated places to destress. Comfortable chairs and soothing music can provide a needed place of respite.
  • Nurses may not get the breaks they need to eat at all, much less enjoy a healthy meal. Providing “healthy nutrition carts” can help nurses get their needed nutrition.
  • For nurses working long shifts, onsite childcare can be a game-changer in promoting work-life balance and retention.

The cost of nurse turnover alone puts the value of workplace culture into perspective. According to Becker’s Healthcare, the average cost of turnover for a bedside RN is $40,038, costing a hospital $3.6M to $6.5M per year.

Arkansas State University’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) – Healthcare Management online program equips graduates with both the business and healthcare skills to succeed in high-demand healthcare leadership roles. As professionals who work to keep hospital systems running smoothly, MBAs can drive cost-savings while fostering a workplace culture that is an investment in the future.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s MBA – Healthcare Management online program.

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