Reduce Burnout. Let’s Build a Better Workplace.August 29th, 2022
While disappointing, the data provided by our Vital Voices engagement survey confirmed what we were all feeling. For two years, our increasing concerns about our workplace have been lurking in the background, enormously compounded by the widespread challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. But let there be no question – this did not all start with the pandemic. The pace and challenges of working in healthcare date back at least a decade.
Healthcare-related burnout was recognized long before COVID-19 arrived. For many years it was seen as a personal problem, even a sign of weakness, which caregivers were expected to deal with quietly and on their own, as one of our own medical students points out in his “Lessons From History” medical paper.
More recently, this state of burnout has been accentuated by national events. No matter what one’s perspective, political change, economic swings and the continuous pace of our work and expectations has led us to where we are. Now, we wonder, how can we return to that place where we thrive on rewarding work and find moments to relieve stress in our lives?
I’ve written numerous blogs about burnout. Burnout is real and we must address it. Positively connecting with our patients, learners and investigators, finding meaning in our work and feeling supported in voicing safety concerns are just a few components of a rewarding environment. Despite efforts to address burnout and build resiliency, our scores indicate that we aren’t making much forward progress.
We already have resource in place to fight burnout through our Wellness Office, and our Office of Counseling and Workplace Resilience, but as Dr. Christine Sinsky, Vice President of the AMA for Professional Satisfaction, noted, “Burnout manifests in individuals, but it originates in the system.”
To use resources effectively, we need to develop concrete plans that will address the underlying causes leading to burnout within our industry and our system. To help identify forces that negatively affect workplace wellness, the Wellness Office has appointed Faculty Associates to find solutions to six workplace issues that lead to burnout, including:
- Exploring solutions to address email usage burden
- Evaluating job resources and job demands to improve teamwork
- Developing communities of support for parents and other caregivers for co-workers
- Piloting solutions to address barriers to vacation and sabbatical usage
- Reduce the negative impact of electronic health record (EHR) usage
- Identify effective strategies to improve psychological safety among faculty and residents
These findings will soon be shared within our community.
My Time & Stress Management Task Force Team has also researched and shared similar tools and resources to help reduce burnout.
Also, as the pandemic took hold, and caused additional staffing and inventory shortages that challenged our system, we put several organizational processes in place to reduce burnout, including:
- Multi-year compensation review to ensure market equity as labor shortages increase
- Greater flexibility with scheduling for shift assignments
- Remote work options for those who are able to work in this type of environment
- Increased pay incentives for picking up additional shifts in understaffed areas
- Greater focus on recruitment through marketing campaigns
And this brings me back to the subject I started with – our engagement results. This is our most important resource – feedback from you. This year we will not only share the engagement results with you, but we will also build on them, with:
- Two organization-wide initiatives which will be guided by committees who will seek input from departments and areas to help implement each initiative across the entire organization.
- The organization is going to begin leader rounding in a systematic way that will identify actions to improve processes and communication across the organization.
- Leaders will engage faculty to identify and reengineer three processes to improve wellbeing and engagement.
- Press Ganey will train all department/unit leaders in new tools to support action planning with their local teams.
- All departments and units will be encouraged to have open discussions to address burnout and wellbeing
- Action plans will be expected to be submitted by Oct. 31 so we can implement action items aimed at improvement.
Burnout is a cultural, systemic issue, and we cannot check a box and call it done. This won’t be easy but we have the resources available and if we all work together, we will see improvements.
No one in the medical community believes that we can eliminate burnout entirely. Medicine will always be a highly stressful and demanding calling. But by acknowledging and responding to the systemic factors that create it, and caring for one another, I’m confident we can reduce its terrible impact and reconnect more deeply with the profound joys of medicine.
Additional Comment: Due to the high volume of comments, it may take a few days before you see your comments and replies on this blog. Please be patient and thank you for your interest and concern in this important topic.
Do you have some suggestions for reducing burnout? Please share them in the discussion box below.