An Examination of Quality of Work Life And Quality of Care Within a Health Care Setting
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Unsatisfactory working conditions and job stress may be indicative of working in a society where work-life balance is a desired, but often elusive, goal (Duxbury & Higgins, 2001; Smola & Sutton, 2002; Sturges & Guest, 2004). Working conditions in the healthcare sector are reported to be particularly problematic and stress inducing compared to other work sectors (Yassi, Ostry, Spiegel, Walsh, & de Boer, 2002). In fact, quality of work life (QOWL) among healthcare workers is believed to have deteriorated to the point where it is impeding the capacity of the system to recruit and retain staff needed to provide effective patient care (Koehoorn, Lowe, Rondeau, Schellenberg, & Wager, 2002). The purpose of the study was to examine the experiences of healthcare staff who participate in QOWL initiatives aimed to provide employees with creative, educational, and fun activities designed to address feelings of stress. This study included thirteen staff members from disciplines that comprise the Health Care Team at a facility specializing in aging and veteran's care. Data were collected through conversational interviews with staff from each of the following disciplines: nursing, recreation therapy, physiotherapy, creative arts, clinical nutrition, social work, audiology, occupational therapy, and pastoral care. The data were deconstructed into common themes through an open-ended process, which lead to the identification of common experiences across the data provided by the staff. Upon further comparison of the themes, it was identified that work demands were believed to detract from care provision and strained manager relations were believed to minimize quality of care. However, a strong professional identity was evident as staff described being able to rise above adversity and use their skills and competencies to provide quality care to residents. The data also suggested QOWL initiatives seem to be valuable because they provide opportunities for staff to interact socially. This interaction helps foster and strengthen connections amongst staff, which they feel transfers to the work place through improved working relationships. Participants described feelings of personal gratification that can be derived from team cohesiveness. They also acknowledged the carry over value that team work brings to residents by way of improved care provision. Furthermore, the relationships that staff members develop with one another were viewed as sources of strength, particularly in times of increased stress. In addition to the social element associated with the QOWL initiatives, these initiatives also seem to address a need for restoration, humour, and balance within the work day. Without planned opportunities for rejuvenation and humour appreciation, participants admitted that they would seldom take the time to incorporate these into their work day. Therefore, QOWL initiatives can provide staff with a reason to take a break and find their balance. The findings indicate the factors affecting QOWL are varied and complex. The findings also indicate that there can be a paradoxical nature to work within a health care setting. Paradoxes exist in relation to the provision of professional care and the provision of minimized care. Paradoxes also exist in relation to the expressed need for restoration, humour, and balance and the low priority staff will place on taking time to fulfill these needs.