How Health Systems Can Help Prevent Healthcare Worker Burnout
A recent report on physician burnout and depression showed that 47% of physicians reported feeling burned out in 2021. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most burned out physicians are emergency care physicians.
The tragic news of Dr. Lorna Breen, an emergency room doctor who died by suicide by 2020, prompted new legislation aimed to provide support for health care workers. This new bill will include a budget of up to $135 million over three years to train providers on suicide prevention and behavioral health, as well as awareness efforts to improve mental health among medical workers.
Dr. Kapil Parakh, cardiologist and medical lead for Fitbit, says in a recent op-ed piece he wrote for CNN Perspectives: “This is an important start, and one of the first national efforts at supporting health care workers, but it is only the beginning. Research into mental health is as critical as raising awareness of the issues. There is so much we don’t know: What roles and specialties are experiencing effects of burnout at the highest rates, and therefore which workers are most at risk? Can we identify vulnerable workers before they experience burnout? How can we prevent it? How do we do any of that at a cost that is not prohibitive to health systems, many of which are already strapped for budget?”
Read Dr. Parakh’s full CNN op-ed piece here, and read on for strategies he recommends for health systems to better support healthcare worker mental health:
Provide Support, Communicate Availability
MedScape’s study on burnout shows that 42% of physicians’ workplaces offer a program to reduce stress, but only 11% of physicians have taken advantage of it.
More and more health systems provide mental health tools such as counseling, flexible schedules, and support groups. Health systems also need to ensure these tools are accessible to healthcare workers by giving healthcare workers the option of a flexible schedule and communicating widely about these programs.
Identify Early Signs of Burnout
Being able to identify the signs of burnout early is a great step in the right direction.
Health systems need to organize regular meetings between physicians and their managers to discuss the physicians’ schedules, workloads, and work relationships. Studies show that long hours, bureaucracy, and frictions between team members are the main factors contributing to burnout.
Having regular mental health check-ins will make it easier for healthcare workers to come forward and ask for help.
Implement Organizational Changes
Administrative tasks are one of the biggest challenges for physicians. Many healthcare workers waste hours on administrative tasks and use outdated technology. Operational improvements such as electronic health records and AI-assisted note-taking will help healthcare workers be more efficient and save time.
In addition, the healthcare industry suffers from a lack of workers. Hospitals and practices are short-staffed and workers have to take on more and more responsibilities. Manageable workloads and flexible schedules can make a huge difference in people’s mental health.