Helping Health Centers Assess Workforce Well-Being

March 18th, 2024 | news


When the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced it was conducting a workforce well-being survey among more than 1,400 health centers in 2022, Alejandro Esparza Perez was a bit worried about whether the 350 employees at Holyoke (Massachusetts) Health Center would participate. As CEO, he and the leadership team had surveyed their workforce a year before, and were in the process of developing tactics to mitigate concerns that came from their in-house questionnaire. Then he received a toolkit and other promotional materials from JSI, which HRSA contracted to provide technical assistance to the health centers in the survey.

“JSI did a tremendous job in terms of providing the toolkit, the graphics, postcards, posters, all the things to help us explain [the survey purpose] and get people re-energized,” says Dr. Esparza Perez.

In 2019, HRSA contracted JSI to conduct a literature review and develop and test a survey instrument to measure health center workforce well-being, job satisfaction, and burnout. In 2021, HRSA contracted JSI for the second phase of the initiative to engage health centers and their staff in this first-ever survey and to analyze and report national and health center-level findings.

“I used [JSI’s resources] to inform our board members, providers, and staff of the intent of the survey and how it could help community health centers” recalls Dr. Esparza Perez.

JSI has provided technical assistance to HRSA’s Bureau of Primary Health Care for 45 years and has a deep understanding of the significant workforce challenges that health centers have faced for decades, including the pervasive stressors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Survey data collection ended in January 2023. While health centers have had access to early generalized results for the last several months, more specific data are now in the HRSA Health Center Workforce Well-being National Data Report and the Health Center Workforce Well-being Survey Dashboard, which illustrates the findings.

Dr. Esparza Perez and the Holyoke Health Center leadership are working to prevent and reduce staff burnout, which is high on the list of workforce stressors. “Clearly, burnout is a big factor, regardless of your role as a provider, nurse, medical assistant, or front desk staff. We’re thinking about that as we continue to look at our initiatives throughout the health center,” says Dr. Esparza Perez.

The Surgeon General’s recent call to mitigate this workforce crisis underscores the importance of timely, innovative, evidence-based, and data-driven technical assistance. HRSA has created the Bureau of Primary Health Care Workforce Well-being Technical Assistance Project, where JSI leads a partnership to provide technical assistance that directly responds to the survey results.

Because workforce well-being technical assistance needs are evolving and comprehensive, JSI is developing various learning pathways to allow health centers to use resources that are most relevant to their specific readiness for change. It’s about ensuring that the workforce can continue to serve and facilitate communities’ well-being now and in the future.

“We are all very happy to do our part to contribute to that,” says Dr. Esparza Perez. “I hope this is not short-lived. We are not going to solve this problem overnight; this is going to be a marathon. New things come at us on a regular basis; new problems, new threats. What’s contributing to burnout today may not be contributing to burnout tomorrow. So continuing to do this will be important.”

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