4 ways to manage provider burnout during the pandemic
Provider burnout has been a problem in the healthcare system for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has turned overwhelming job-related stress into a full-blown crisis.
The statistics on burnout make for grim reading. In a 2020 survey by the American Medical Association (AMA), half of healthcare workers reported burnout and 38 percent said they were suffering with anxiety and/or depression. Burnout rates were higher among women, while stress scores were significantly higher among Black and Latinx workers of any gender identity.
Healthcare workers are among the most likely to take part in the “Great Resignation,” with one in every five professionals leaving their jobs behind. This mass exodus is compounding existing shortages and putting exponentially more pressure on those left behind.
Combating burnout is imperative, but organizational leaders need to make sure they are doing more than just advising staff to take time for self-care. They must actively create a culture of wellness that makes staff members feel truly valued. Here are 4 ways leaders can encourage resilience, improve retention rates, and ease burnout for their staff.
Educate staff about when (and how) to seek help
The telltale signs of burnout include physical and emotional exhaustion, reduced capacity to feel compassion, and a fading sense of purpose or personal satisfaction. Leaders should educate staff about these signs and provide accessible, culturally sensitive, low-cost mental and behavioral healthcare resources for all team members. Create an open-door policy for management and check in with staff periodically to ensure they are getting the support they need.
Provide for basic needs to keep staff energized
Pizza parties may be fun, but offering healthy food around the clock is much more likely to make a positive impact on overwhelmed staff members. Pair the nutritious snacks with a quiet place to rest and retreat, opportunities for physical exercise, and optional social events to help keep staff feeling balanced and focused.
Banish guilt over taking paid time off
Staffing shortages can make providers feel like there’s no good time for a break. However, a little PTO can go a long way toward staving off burnout. Managers should avoid creating a stigma around taking time off to recharge with family and friends to ensure that staff take advantage of the benefits they’re entitled to. Encouraging time off can make providers feel valued and help them return to their jobs with more energy.
Invest in technology to streamline patient care
Now is not the time to put digital transformation on the back burner. Using health IT tools to tackle that provider wish list of workflow improvements can improve patient management, reduce provider stress, and help staff do more with the limited resources at their disposal. Be concise yet thorough with training to minimize time spent away from primary tasks.
As the pandemic continues, healthcare leaders will need to continue being vigilant and proactive about provider burnout. Deploying a comprehensive approach to emotional, physical, and professional wellness is key for ensuring staff can continue to deliver optimal care in challenging situations.