A quarter of clinicians say they are thinking of leaving the health profession altogether, a decision that most say is being driven primarily by burnout, according to a new survey from Bain & Company. To address this problem, Bain offers several short- and long-term solutions to reduce clinician burnout and improve satisfaction.
Bain surveyed 573 U.S. clinicians, including physicians, advanced practice providers (APPs), and nurses, about their current satisfaction with their jobs.
Overall, a third of clinicians said they are considering switching employers, and 25% said they are considering switching to careers outside of health care.
Currently, many clinicians report being dissatisfied with their working conditions. Roughly 40% of clinicians said they don't have the resources necessary to function at their full potential, and 59% said their teams are not adequately staffed.
Because of these difficulties, burnout is common. In the survey, 63% of clinicians said they are worn out at the end of the workday, 51% said they don't have energy for friends and family during their leisure time, and 38% said they feel exhausted in the morning at the thought of another day of work.
Among clinicians thinking about leaving health care, 89% cited burnout as the primary reason. Other reasons included personal health and safety, the health and safety of family and friends, financial insecurity, and more.
Clinicians also said the five job criteria they cared most about are compensation, quality of patient care, their workload, flexibility, and job responsibilities. However, roughly 40% of clinicians said they were not satisfied with their employers in most of these dimensions.
Physicians' Net Promoter Score, which measures how likely they are to recommend their employer, dropped from 36 points in 2020 to 19 points in 2022. Nurses were also dissatisfied with their employers, giving a Net Promoter Score of 11 points in 2022.
Clinicians working at management-led practices (hospitals, health systems, parent companies, or private equity funds) also gave a much lower Net Promoter Score than those working at physician-led practices (6 points vs. 40 points, respectively.)
To help organizations improve clinicians' well-being, satisfaction, and retention, Bain offers both short- and long-term strategies to mitigate clinician burnout, spark employee engagement, and create a more supportive work culture.
1. How to mitigate burnout among clinicians
In the short term, Bain recommends organizations routinely assess and address well-being with their employees and provide mental health support when needed.
For example, Ochsner Health has created an Office of Professional Well-Being to handle mental health and wellness among its staff. Separately, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, Hartford HealthCare, and the University of Michigan Medical School have all created a chief wellness officer position to help with worker anxiety, guide organizational responses to crises, and provide resources to support workers' well-being.
In the long term, organizations should invest in technology and employees that can help ease administrative burdens. Automated tools for referrals, scheduling, and workflow management can reduce the time clinicians spend on administrative tasks.
Bain also suggests organizations consider redesigning their clinical operating models to allow more clinicians to work at the top of their licenses. For example, 70% of clinicians say multidisciplinary care teams would allow them to work at the top of their license and deliver high-quality care that improves patient satisfaction.
2. How to improve employee engagement
In the short term, Bain says organizations should work to engage their clinicians in decision making, since workers who feel like they have a voice in their organizations are usually much more satisfied with their jobs.
"Good engagement can take many forms," Bain writes, including an anonymous survey, a town hall, and more.
In the long term, Bain recommends setting up employee feedback systems since "[i]nspired and satisfied employees are three times more productive and 50% less likely to leave." According to Bain, leading companies are setting up Net Promoter Systems for their employees, which allow them to identify systemic issues and address employee feedback quickly.
3. How to cultivate a supportive work culture
In the short term, Bain says organizations should regularly recognize clinicians' hard work since recognition "can go a long way in making clinicians feel valued for their efforts." Currently, only around half of clinicians say they are satisfied with the amount of recognition they're receiving.
Over time, organizations should also champion a culture of support and inclusions since it is "crucial to strengthening an organization's talent strategy and delivering value." More than 30% of clinicians currently say they don't feel included in their organizations, and nearly 60% say they don't get the coaching and mentorship they need.
Some ways to do this include investing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) data infrastructure, putting marginalized voices at the center of DEI efforts, and ensuring coaching and mentorship opportunities are available.
"Providers have long focused on delivering high-quality care for their patients," Bain writes. "Now, the imperative is clear: They need to ensure this high-quality care extends to their clinicians and employees. Those that take near- and long-term actions today will not only be better positioned to retain their current workforce but also to attract the next generation of top talent." (Gamble, Becker's Hospital Review, 10/11; Ney et al., Bain & Company, 10/11)
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