Clinician burnout is a longstanding workforce challenge that is directly linked to clinician turnover, and negatively impacts quality, safety, and consumer experience. Despite overall covid stabilization, rates of clinician burnout have continued to rise.
For example, researchers from the American Medical Association, Mayo Clinic, and Stanford Medicine report that physician burnout spiked to a new height of 62.8% in 2021, up from 38.2% in 2020, while various surveys report current RN burnout ranging anywhere from 38% to 69%, depending upon the RN's age and clinical specialty.
To confront clinician burnout, many organizations have prioritized solutions that focus on supporting the emotional health and well-being of individual clinicians. However, in today's employment climate, providing personal self-help and coping tools for clinicians will not be enough. A two-pronged approach that also includes targeted strategies to address systemic work environment challenges is essential to dissipating this growing workforce challenge.
Exposure to trauma and other emotionally challenging situations is part of working in health care. Health system leaders must continue to implement and sustain a variety of individual-level support services to address workforce burnout.
Organizations need to not only provide comprehensive emotional support resources, but intentionally create a culture that allows employees to feel encouraged and empowered to utilize all available resources.
Sample strategies to bolster support for acute and ongoing emotional and mental health/wellness needs of individual clinicians include:
No matter how robust organizational resources are for supporting clinician wellbeing, clinicians will continue to struggle with burnout if systemic, structural barriers in their work environment remain unaddressed.
The importance of organizational investment in work environment challenges cannot be overstated. Such investment communicates to clinicians that leadership is taking organizational responsibility for clinician burnout and that burnout is not just a personal matter for clinicians to try and individually cope with on their own. The organization must own environmental drivers of burnout and be prepared to make deliberate investments on behalf of its workforce.
As leaders, don't presume you know the systemic drivers of burnout. Direct care clinicians are the best sources to identify work environment barriers contributing to their burnout. The role of leadership is to provide safe forums for these conversations to occur and the resources to address confirmed barriers.
Sample strategies to mitigate organizational drivers of burnout include:
Insights to inform this two-pronged approach include the following:
Clinician burnout represents one of many workforce priorities that C-suites are challenged to invest in at a time when the business climate is tighter than ever. However, failure to strategically invest in this two-pronged approach will predictably cost more over the long term. Scaled investments that include equal attention to personal self-support and systemic work environment issues will require leadership prioritization and ongoing oversight.
Given the severity of clinician burnout, multi-year investments to achieve sustainable results will be needed. Determining how to prioritize investments that reflect the documented individual and environmental needs of clinicians as well as evidence-based practices that mitigate root causes is the most prudent course of action.
For additional guidance on mitigating clinician burnout and restoring the strength of the U.S healthcare workforce, check out the National Academy of Medicine's recently released National Plan for Health Workforce Well-Being
Health care has become a 24/7 industry, and if employers are to effectively address workforce recovery, they have to take a 24/7 view of the problem.
That means addressing workforce well-being beyond the workplace. Advisory Board's Alex Polyak looks at some tactics providers are using to bolster staff well-being outside of work.
Create your free account to access 2 resources each month, including the latest research and webinars.
You have 2 free members-only resources remaining this month remaining this month.
Never miss out on the latest innovative health care content tailored to you.