Staff turnover at Sonoma Valley Hospital hits all-time high in 2018

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Turnover in staff at Sonoma Valley Hospital hit an all-time high in 2018, triggering hospital officials to take a deeper look at what might be happening and determine if it is a localized or nationwide trend.

“We saw a significant increase” in turnover last year, Lynn McKissock, director of human resources told the Sonoma Valley Healthcare District board of directors at its March 7 meeting.

“I decided to do a little bit of research just to gain a better understanding of” whether the turnover is something that is “impacting us, or is this something that is impacting everybody – and, sure enough, I found some consistencies across the nation,” McKissock said. “So, that raised some eyebrows.”

Sonoma Valley Hospital, she said, is “mirroring” a national trend.

She quoted multiple articles that she found during her research that said the number of U.S. workers quitting their jobs is higher now more “than at any time since the numbers have been recorded,” according to the Society of Human Resource Management. Her research also found that “job hopping” by a particular age group – the so-called “Millennial” generation – accounts for “more than a quarter of all turnover” of employees in their first year, she said.

At the hospital, McKissock discovered that of the 87 voluntary resignations 34 percent of those were employees who had been on the job less than one year, and of that group half were Millennials, she said.

The turnover rate at SVH in 2018 was about 19 percent, which was about 40 percent higher than in 2017. “The largest turnover was in our second quarter, April, May, June,” she said, but she has not been able to determine what, if anything, caused the turnover in that quarter.

“It was jaw dropping. It really caught us off guard,” she said.

In exit interviews of those employees who left voluntarily, there were mostly positive responses on such questions of how the employee was treated by hospital supervisors, how well the department worked together, and the survey indicated employees had a favorable work-life balance. The amount of worker pay was found to be mostly fair to excellent, according to the survey.

"I’m proud to say that most staff think SVH is a great place to work," said Kelly Mather, CEO of the hospital.

McKissock said she thinks "it’s important to recognize that this seems to be reflective of how well our leadership is doing and maintaining a good work environment for our employees. They’re communicating, they’re supporting them and they’re interested in their well-being and their productivity.”

Mather said she believes the HR staff and hiring managers do a good job of finding strong candidates, but could possibly be more "discriminating" in their selection.

"While I think we do a good job on orientation, we have room to improve feedback in the first year. But, I think the most important way to reduce turnover is to have strong leaders who role model our values and inspire their staff to reach their highest potential. I believe that even Millennials will stay if they are inspired and feel pride from and connect to their purpose at work," Mather said.

Editor's note: This story was updated on March 15 at 12:15 p.m. to include Kelly Mather's comments.

But there are areas and opportunities of improvement, McKissock said, and that is in their stress level with 59 percent of those surveyed who said their stress level was either “high or extreme.”

There is little supervisors can do to eliminate stress for employees who work in the emergency room, for example, because they are literally dealing with “life and death situations,” but they can give employees tools to help them manage their stress level better, she said.

Email Anne at anne.ernst@sonomanews.com.

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