News of burnout in healthcare made headlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the problem has plagued the medical profession for decades. Addressing burnout requires a multifaceted approach that begins with systematically recognizing and tracking its causes and symptoms.
Employee Burnout is Widespread Among Healthcare Professionals
Individuals experiencing burnout suffer mental or physical exhaustion, often combined with cynicism or alienation, and long-term work-related stress, leading to diminished performance. The problem is widespread. Findings over the past decade have shown between 35% and 54% of physicians and nurses have symptoms of burnout, reports the National Academy of Medicine. Beyond the common impact on productivity, more extreme cases have led to substance abuse and suicide.
Coronavirus has put a spotlight on the intense physical and emotional stress that frontline health providers face. However, it’s not only a global pandemic that triggers and sustains the burnout. Any disaster, epidemic, or mass casualty event can be an incubator.
Symptoms of Burnout
Physical and mental fatigue, often leading to illness such as nagging colds, are among the most common signs of burnout among doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and other medical staff. This exhaustion can lead to depression, substance use, and even self-harm. Often, professionals suffering from burnout display cynical or paranoid feelings about the systems and conditions under which they work. These symptoms commonly lead to reduced productivity, often despite longer hours worked.
Not surprisingly, when staff are working less efficiently because they’re tired and stressed, the whole workplace suffers. And the patients do too. Burnout is associated with lower patient satisfaction ratings. It’s also correlated with increases in medical errors, malpractice lawsuits, and patient mortality, according to Health Affairs. These effects translate into increases in costs and reductions in revenues, but even more troubling is the cost to patient well-being.
Given the potentially drastic consequences, it’s important that we find solutions that address the problem early. It starts with discovering the causes and actively monitoring them.
Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing deaths of patients or extreme suffering are among the more obvious causes of burnout symptoms. Clinicians have cited stigma as a reason not to seek treatment for behavioral health. Long work hours and the fear of professional repercussions can exacerbate this form of self-neglect.
Less discussed are the effects of everyday frustrations such as the increasing time spent on documentation and electronic paperwork, which subtracts from valuable time with patients. Medical professions’ notoriously long work hours degrade individuals’ work-life balance, leaving less time for self-care.
How Hospital Employee Health Can Help
The healthcare industry is beginning to see burnout as a real problem that affects individuals and institutions, inevitably influencing patient outcomes and the bottom line. Health systems have taken different approaches, such as adjusting incentives and offering flexibility.
Employee health programs, which provide a range of employee health and safety functions, can implement wellness strategies to help avoid and manage burnout. Employee health is critical for medical staff compliance and multiple exposure tracking in regards to infection. In addition, hospital employee health can educate and offer options for health workers to seek professional assistance with mental health needs.
An important function of employee health is assessing, treating, and tracking illnesses and workplace injuries. By using employee surveillance tracking, hospitals can better understand how stress affects staff. Information from encounters with employees combined with data on hours worked and absences can give a picture of the stress and pressures a hospital worker faces.
Net Health for Hospital Employee Health
Net Health for Hospital Employee Health offers compliance and employee wellness oversight in a paperless system. To learn more about how Net Health can help you promote employee wellness, request a demo.