Leaders, Burnout Is Preventable

February 18, 2022 Fiona Sykes

Building a strategy for burnout prevention is about improving your workplace, not about your employees

“Burnout” is a healthcare industry focus right now, and for good reason. Before the pandemic, over 50% of North American healthcare workers were showing signs of burnout, and now that number has climbed to 75%. The impact of burnout is wide reaching and pervasive and heavily exacerbated by COVID-19. One in ten health care workers have already resigned, with one in four health care workers having considered resigning, and the potential for nursing turnover has a projected cost of up to 137 billion dollars in the United States. 

The stress our health systems are under is overwhelming, and with burnout related issues like absenteeism and rostering, increased cybersecurity risks, more adverse events and more medical errors, decreased environmental cleaning and handwashing leading to more healthcare acquired infections, breakdowns in teamwork, decreased performance and productivity and more, organizations can quickly find themselves overwhelmed and struggling to stay resilient under these pressures. And, on top of it all, each of these issues can substantially impact patient satisfaction and brand loyalty. Further, none of these negative outcomes of burnout even address the psychological impact on the clinician and the dangers to themselves and others that can be born from that.

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Acknowledging burnout as a problem allows us to reflect on what leads to burnout. If we can identify the key factors that lead to burnout in a health system, we can also begin to address them. Here are a few that originate in the work environment:
  • Understaffing: Leading to constant overtime and low staff to patient ratios.
  • Moral Injury: Feeling forced to choose the least dangerous path, knowing there isn’t a “safe” one – difficult to abide by all standards and policies when short staffed.
  • Mass Casualties: Constant exposure to unprecedented death and harm.
Leaders, take note: burnout should be attributed to challenges in your workplace, not challenges with your people. Burnout is preventable and building a good strategy is key. Harvard Business Review’s Jennifer Moss suggests a better strategy for burnout prevention requires good organizational hygiene, better data, asking more timely and relevant questions, smarter budgeting (more micro-budgeting) and ensuring wellness offerings are intentionally included as part of your overall staff well-being strategy. Monitoring workloads and creating a workplace environment that prioritizes high quality care, job satisfaction and social support further address workplace factors that contribute to burnout. Implementing intelligent software solutions to automate processes, save time and provide just-in-time insights can help to alleviate some of the burden on your staff and on you. 
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