Dr. Vivek Murty, the U.S. chief surgeon, recently issued advice on the current health care burnout crisis, which has led to significant resignations and staff shortages. The advice website contains various resources, including an analysis of the causes, as well as recommended mitigation measures that healthcare providers and other employers can apply to reduce worker burnout. Below we outline key recommendations that can serve as a useful starting point for healthcare providers and others to formulate a strategy to reduce burnout in healthcare.
Even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Medical Academy found that in 2019 the burnout reached “crisis” levels, with more than half of health workers (including nurses, doctors, residents and medical students) suffering from burnout. These figures only increased after the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll, seriously affecting the mental health of such health workers (eg the CDC reported that more than 50% of public health workers showed symptoms of mental health associated with burnout). These mental health conditions have adversely affected the provision of health care due to labor shortages and gaps in primary care, as well as restrictions on access to health care.
The Advisory Board of the Chief Surgeon for Burning Healthcare Worker Burnout sets out the following recommendations for healthcare providers to deal with the burnout crisis:
- Transform the workplace culture to empower health professionals and respond to their voices and needs.
- This measure will include formal engagement with health professionals to better understand their challenges and concerns and active cooperation with such workers to improve processes, procedures and culture.
- Eliminate criminal policies for seeking mental health care and substance use disorders.
- This measure would help to remove the stigma associated with such conditions / disorders by encouraging workers to seek counseling and other treatment for such conditions / disorders (and make such treatment and counseling more readily available).
- Protect the health, safety and well-being of all healthcare professionals.
- This measure may include various measures for the well-being of workers, such as increased wages, increased paid sick leave / family leave, childcare resources, formal workload assessments, financial advice / support, growing staff shortages , protective equipment, oral / physical in the workplace avoidance of abuse, etc.
- Reduce administrative burdens to help healthcare professionals spend productive time with patients, communities and colleagues.
- This measure may include a reduction in responsibility for administrative tasks compared to direct responsibility for patient care, as well as an increased focus on building relationships between colleagues at work and the wider community.
- Give priority to social connection and community as a core value of the health system.
- This measure will require formal measures to prioritize team care approaches and strengthen cooperation between colleagues to avoid feelings of isolation.
- Invest in public health and our workforce in public health.
- This measure may include various initiatives such as clinical / community partnerships, disease surveillance systems, health information / education projects, community health needs and diversity assessments, and more.
In general, resolving the burnout crisis in healthcare will not happen overnight, but will require a multifaceted approach by the entire healthcare industry to improve working conditions, patient care / engagement and cooperation between different industry groups.