A sad male doctor because of healthcare burnout

Healthcare Burnout: A Major Problem That Can’t be Ignored

Burnout refers to a work-related stress syndrome that stems from chronic exposure to job stress. Experiencing burnout leaves someone feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. While anyone can experience burnout, healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses are especially prone to it.

The Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post conducted a poll between February 11 and March 7. The results revealed that 55% of healthcare workers feel burned out. After an extremely stressful year in the front lines of a health crisis, it’s not surprising the mental health of many healthcare workers has been negatively impacted.

Why healthcare burnout needs to be addressed

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the three symptoms of burnout include:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job or feeling negative or cynical about it
  • Reduced professional efficacy

Specifically on the topic of physician burnout, approximately one in three physicians experience burnout at any given time. Not only can this impact their own well-being, it can affect the quality of delivered care. On the personal front, burned-out physicians may experience substance abuse, broken relationships, and suicidal ideation. Professional consequences include impaired quality of care, lower patient satisfaction, and even medical errors.

All these reasons point to why it’s essential to be attentive and provide support to healthcare staff who may be experiencing burnout.

Preventing burnout in healthcare – what actions can leaders take?

Make resources accessible

Adding recharge rooms is one way to make on-site mental health services and resources accessible for frontline workers.

The Mount Sinai Healthcare System in New York converted a 3,000-ft clinical research space into a respite for exhausted and stressed healthcare workers. From custom composed music to natural scents, the space was thoughtfully designed to make for a soothing and relaxing experience for occupants.

The team in charge of creating the room conducted a survey to see if the hospital recharge room was making a difference. The survey included a self-reported, perceived stress measure. Results showed that just 15 minutes spent in the room resulted in an average 60% reduction in stress.

Build a stigma-free environment

Within the healthcare sector, mental illness-related stigma is known to be a problem. In these types of environments, staff can find it difficult to talk openly about their feelings or seek help for psychological problems.

It starts at the top with healthcare leaders to change this type of workplace culture. Employees should feel comfortable expressing that they’re struggling or need help. Showing empathy, actively listening to the concerns of staff, and offering different support systems are all ways to improve workplace culture and perceptions of mental health.

Keep communication clear and consistent

If there are any organizational changes or updates, your staff needs to know about them. For example, if staff are required to work different hours and take on new responsibilities, outline these changes clearly so that everyone is on the same page.

Employees value clear and consistent communication. According to this study, employees who felt their managers were not good at communicating have been 23% more likely than others to experience mental health declines since the outbreak.

Prioritize your staff’s well-being to tackle healthcare burnout

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic subsiding, healthcare workers are at risk for developing physical and mental health consequences for their role in caring for patients with COVID-19. That’s why it’s so important for organizations to see how they can prioritize the mental health and wellness of their employees.

By doing so, healthcare organizations are likely to see benefits in the long run. After all, what organization doesn’t want happier employees, greater productivity, and enhanced patient safety?

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