Burnout in Healthcare Professionals – Why should we care
Burnout in Healthcare continues to get more traction as a real problem that is impacting nurses, physicians and other members of the clinical team. As the recently NAM Study (2019) indicates, these are longstanding issues that have not been properly addressed. The health care team cannot continue to keep up the pace and carry the workloads that they have in the past. This is unsustainable. As a result of increasing burnout, we are seeing young nurses and physicians leaving their professions at alarming rates, an increase in errors and worst of all suicides.
Burnout strains health care organisations
National turnover rates and vacancies are staggering and there has never been a higher rate of suicide among physicians and nurses. Doesn’t this convey the true urgency of the problem? Why should we care? NAM (2019) states that “Burnout strains health care organisations by increasing clinician absenteeism, presentiment (working while sick), and turnover, and by reducing individual productivity” (p. 2). It is evident that workloads, workflows, documentation burden, and the work environment need to change. While those are not impossible to solve, they do require the commitment to resources.
In addition to addressing the legitimate workload issues, burnout can also be countered through meaningful work and workplace cultures that promote recognition and collegiality. By providing real-time feedback and recognition from patients and families directly to physicians, nurses and the entire team, it brings a sense of value and appreciation that is currently underrepresented in the course of routine, high-demand work. Many clinicians hear the issues, complaints and negative comments and rarely hear the positive feedback from patients and their families. This needs to change. Riskin et al. (2019) concluded in their study that “Expressions of gratitude enhanced the effectiveness of medical teams…those stemming from patients or their families were impactful, boosting information sharing and enhancing performance outcomes” (p.1).
Healthcare Burnout – Possible Solutions
Building positive workplace cultures mean that no one dreads going to work or looks at the schedule in advance to see whom they work with. It means that the entire clinical team brings their best self to work and is appreciated for their efforts. Consider how professional relationships can improve when it is made easier for clinicians to thank each other for their efforts.
A “thank you” from a colleague goes a long way and creates a sense of team support. This shows that the team is here to uplift each other for a job well done, especially when things don’t go as planned. It is incumbent on organisations to adopt ways to improve the culture, starting with recognition, to retain the best clinicians while also addressing the work environment, workloads, workflow, and documentation burden. We have been so concerned with patients that we have neglected to think adequately about caring for the caregivers. We need to care about both.
So who cares? We should ALL care because the issue of burnout adversely affects every clinician and organisation, as well as many individuals and families suffering the repercussions and ultimately, this impacts the patient. Something must be done.