“I like the work I do.” (90%–faculty)
“The person I report to treats me with respect.” (86%–faculty)
“This organization provides high-quality care and service.” (83%–all)
“This organization values employees from different backgrounds.” (82%–all)
These are statements that an overwhelming majority of department respondents agreed were true. Ninety percent of faculty agreed with that first statement, and 86% agreed with that second one. The numbers behind the last two statements reflect all employee (faculty and staff) responses. This data comes from the Working at Iowa survey that you took last fall. Thank you to the nearly 80% of department respondents who took the time to let us know how you are doing.
Although there are those bright spots up above, I know morale is low and that you are tired and that you feel like providing superior health care and educating world-class health care providers and scientists is becoming more cumbersome. This has been a hard year filled with a lot of change and the departure of dear friends and colleagues whose loss has increased our burden. These staffing shortages produce more stress and inefficiencies, and although Iowa is not the only academic medical center facing these issues, that fact is cold comfort when you are trying to schedule an extra clinic or are up very late finally getting a chance to complete your notes in EPIC. I share your concerns and take them up to the institutional leadership wherever I can to find solutions for us. The stress this all causes is clearly represented in the survey data in your comments on work/life balance, recognition of your effort, physical and emotional health, and fair compensation. It has always been my desire to focus here on the things that we should celebrate and our shared aspirations. I want to remind us that we all just want to do good work and to have the space and time to succeed and grow. But here, you took the time to tell us what you need help with and we want to do something about what you said.
Last year, armed with the survey data from 2021, we empaneled a cross-section of department members to help us find grass-roots consensus on what to do. They met a half-dozen times, categorized your many responses and developed some action items. In response to comments around communication and a sense that important information was not being shared quickly enough, one of the first things we did last year was establish a virtual suggestion box, a feedback form. We have gotten excellent comments, honest comments both signed and unsigned, and we have taken each one to heart. I hope you will all continue to make use of it. The committee also proposed regular open forums with me, which led to the creation of the Chat with the Chair series. The next one, in fact, will be a week from today, March 17, from noon to 12:50 pm. Slots are still available. I look forward to talking with you face to face.
That brings us back to this year’s Working at Iowa survey data. Only 39% of our faculty could agree with the statement “I am able to disconnect from work communications during my free time (emails/phone etc.).” When all employees are added in, this number rises to 57%, but this is still nothing to celebrate. This is only one category, but it shows where some of the problems are. Disconnecting, refreshing, enjoying pursuits outside of work, all of this is critical to being healthy and happy and feeling fulfilled and to our ability to deliver high-quality care or for employee retention.
So, if you have an idea of something we have not tried or tried well enough, I urge you to consider joining this year’s Strategic Action Engagement Committee. The committee will sort through the ideas in a few focused meetings. Members who served last year are more than welcome to serve again, and we will look for new members as well. We will aim for a smaller group while striving to maintain the cross-section of employee types that we achieved last year. Some things, as with last year, will be out of our capacity to address quickly or systematically, but a good idea is a good idea, and you have my pledge that I will work to implement the results of this group’s honest efforts. This link will take you to a sign-up page. This year, along with the request for sign-ups, we thought we would solicit a specific question as well, regardless of your participation on the committee.
If you were in charge of spending $10,000 meant to improve an aspect of working life within Internal Medicine, what would you spend it on?
If you cannot serve but have other ideas any time, the feedback form is also always active. As for that $10,000 question, we commit to choosing at least one of the responses for implementation. Let’s see what you think!