Clinician burnout has become a serious issue for medical personnel. Lack of sleep, inefficient workflows, limited time with patients, strict regulations, constant stress, inability to sustain a healthy work-life balance; you name it. All this makes doctors and nurses feel exhausted and dissatisfied with their work, achievements, and even themselves.
In the US alone, up to 45% of healthcare providers develop burnout at some point during their medical careers. Considering the events of 2020, clinician burnout has become not just a problem but a public crisis that requires immediate action.
Let’s take a look at what clinician burnout is and the possible solutions that can help medical professionals fight it.
What Is Clinician Burnout?
Clinician burnout is a workplace syndrome caused by chronic job stress, ongoing pressure, an overload of tasks, and the inability to feel accomplished or maintain a healthy lifestyle. Burnout is a state of emotional exhaustion.
Visible symptoms of clinician burnout are present in 35% to 54% of nurses and physicians, and 45% to 60% of medical students and residents, a recent report suggests.
“Clinician burnout is basically a point of diminishing return. The workload or stress from the job gets to the point where you become a dysfunctional human being. The person becomes negative, focuses less on themselves, becomes forgetful, has diminishing work performance, and always feels tired.
I personally have experienced clinician burnout throughout my career prior to opening my business. Not only have I personally dealt with it, but I also have plenty of friends in my field of Physical Therapy who deal or have dealt with it in the past.”- Dr. Robert Berghorn Jr., Physical Therapist & Owner, Ascent Physical Therapy
While being asked to treat more patients with fewer resources, clinicians lose a sense of professional efficacy, which rapidly drains their energy and causes burnout. Not only does it affect their professional life but also their personal life. This constant feeling of moral distress negatively impacts healthcare workers all around the world, and it can lead to depression and other various health issues.
What Are the Factors Contributing to Clinician Burnout?
There are many structural changes that are needed on a wider policy scale, such as higher value-based insurance reimbursements, more accessible student loan debt forgiveness, reduced caseloads to support quality care, and accurate documentation. However, these changes have little sign of occurring despite the fact that these problems have persisted for years.
Small scale solutions that can offer a degree of relief for clinicians might include:
- Compensation packages with longer vacation times
- Standardizing professional development days during the workweek across both public and private agencies
- Specialized committees (made up of former direct care practitioners) to regularly review work conditions, satisfaction, and factors contributing to employee turnover in order to advise leadership and boards of best steps to protect this segment of the workforce.
Physicians don’t have regular schedules. Sometimes they’ll need to work up to 80 hours per week or work irregular shifts lasting for 28 hours. Even a normal day can be a constant overload of work. Making life and death decisions without a break only makes it harder to relax and enjoy life after a shift. Many doctors and nurses don’t have enough time to spend with their friends and relatives, which often leads to loneliness and the inability to build strong personal relationships.
In most cases, medical professionals are aware of the stressful aspects of their career choice before pursuing it. Yet, being able to tackle stress all day long isn’t easy nor healthy. Healthcare workers often face difficult situations, including fatalities, terminally-ill patients, terrible injuries and diseases, and many more. This takes a toll on people. Even those who go into healthcare well aware of the stress can see a decline in mental health and this contributes heavily to burnout.
Medical Office Inefficiency
Apart from treating patients, medical personnel spend a lot of time on computers entering data. Electronic health records make some parts of a clinicians’ job easier, but moving back and forth between treatment and data entry can be incredibly time-consuming. That’s why it’s crucial to find ways to improve medical office efficiency.
How to Tackle Clinician Burnout
It’s time for the healthcare industry to learn from mistakes and act to prevent burnout for medical professionals and sustain a better work-life balance.
“Most importantly, organizations have to understand that burnout is not a problem which is easily solved, but a dilemma that requires sustained effort focused on the contributing factors unique to that organization. This requires a strategy to not just survey but to listen to your doctors, and a multiyear effort of mitigation through prioritized organizational change and redesign, while helping physicians develop strategies to proactively manage the stress of practice.”- Kevin Moser, MD, Senior Medical Consultant & Former Health System CEO, SE Healthcare
Here are a few clinician burnout solutions to consider:
1. Use Voice Recognition Software
Due to the significant number of regulations, laws, policies, and standards healthcare workers have to follow, their workdays become full of administrative tasks that make their job more exhausting. One possible solution to this problem is voice recognition technology. By dictating or entering information with their voice, physicians can save time and treat more patients instead of spending hours on data entry.
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2. Provide Support
Clinician burnout is often overlooked, which creates even more problems for healthcare workers. That’s why it’s essential to assure doctors, nurses, and residents that they can always get adequate help to tackle or recover from burnout. Leadership that allows and supports a healthy balance between their staff’s professional and personal life will have the most success in combatting burnout.
3. Improve Work Environment
Healthcare organizations should strive to create a positive clinical work environment for their workers by listening to their needs and monitoring their professional well-being. With the tremendous number of patients and limited resources, it doesn’t take long for clinicians to lose the purpose and meaning of their work. It can lead to depression and insecurity in their skills and expertise. Executive and board leadership need to focus on establishing a collaborative work environment where personnel have access to the resources they need and feel free to voice their concerns without facing judgment.
The Bottom Line
Recognizing and addressing clinician burnout is critical. It’s a complex issue that may provoke depression, stress, loss of professional confidence, moral injuries, and other serious problems in healthcare professionals. Fighting clinician burnout is essential not only for the doctors or nurses but also for the patients who depend on them.