Burnout impacts employees in almost any job in any industry — including healthcare. The healthcare sector is among the most high-stress environments as it deals with saving human life, and according to studies, one in three physicians may experience burnout at any given time.
Similar to how it manifests in any person, physicians and healthcare staff experiencing burnout may show emotional exhaustion, irritability, and a lack of empathy. This can be seen in how they conduct procedures and communicate with patients and colleagues. Further, burnout can also exhibit a form of depression, panic attacks at work, difficulty sleeping, and high absenteeism.
Burnout leads to healthcare workers failing to perform or quit their jobs, compromising patient access to quality care. If not addressed, burnout among healthcare workers can spiral into a major crisis that will affect society as a whole.
The growing human population cannot always be blamed for the increasing amount of work that healthcare providers have to do. This is their primary purpose and should be able to focus on delivering care.
However, extrinsic factors affect how they carry out work and make delivering care more complicated than it already is. Here are some major contributors to physician or healthcare provider burnout that need to be addressed.
During the COVID crisis in 2021, burnout among healthcare workers became even more prevalent. According to reports, some 60 percent to 75 percent of clinicians reported symptoms of exhaustion, depression, sleep disorders, and PTSD.
However, before and even after COVID, healthcare workers are still subject to high workloads. The World Health Organization estimates that there will be a 10 million deficit in health workers by 2030, mostly in low and lower-middle-income countries. While in the US, there is projected to be a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032 as demand for physicians continues to grow.
There needs to be more healthcare practitioners to cater to all the people who might need care. With that, healthcare workers need to take on additional workloads and care for more patients than they should.
Physicians and other healthcare staff undertake several duties, particularly when the workforce is low. This is a detrimental bargain as it can easily cause healthcare workers to get overwhelmed. While being so, the quality of care they provide to patients might be affected as well, even before they acknowledge having a burnout.
In addition, long work hours, stress, and lack of sleep negatively impact job performance for any person. A normal person works with hours a day or 35 to 40 hours a week, but in healthcare, staff often work from 12 to 16 hours every day, while others even cover 24-hour shifts. Thus, this makes those working in healthcare more susceptible to emotional distress and burnout.
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For every doctor in a healthcare institution, it is estimated that there are ten non-clinical workers. However, this still needs to be deemed more due to the spiraling increase in documentation and regulatory requirements in the healthcare sector. Physicians and nurses also have to take on administrative tasks.
The administrative processes in healthcare have become more complex due to various documentation that is required from stakeholders. This covers everything, from coding to billing and finance, legal documentation, and more. With the administrative duties vested upon healthcare practitioners, physicians actually spend about two hours on their computers for every hour they spend with patients.
The increase in administrative tasks, the lack of efficient strategy, and the integration of technology in healthcare processes have been identified as among the major contributors to burnout, which has reached a critical and alarming level in recent years.
The development of more timely strategies for managing administrative tasks is needed in the healthcare sector today. Simple and easy-to-use technology solutions like RPA healthcare can also aid in automating repetitive admin tasks for healthcare workers, freeing up time and reducing their workload effectively.
Lack of Organizational Support
The physical and mental stress caused by handling patients with illnesses and sensitive conditions and dealing with death are all considered part of healthcare providers’ jobs. But this does not mean that it will not take a toll on their well-being. This is where organizational support and a healthy work design are needed.
However, many institutions fail to deliver consistent support to healthcare workers. This stems from various causes, including the need for more communication channels to know what healthcare practitioners need as support and not prioritizing employee support among healthcare facilities, as many are often focused on patient care and administrative processes.
Organizational support comes in many forms, from compensations and monetary allowances to mental and physical health programs and services for practitioners. This also includes facilities to rest, exercise and engage in social or recreational activities; a flexible work environment; sufficient paid sick and vacation leaves.
Such programs and services are often designed to help employees feel safer, achieve work-life balance, and maintain well-being, allowing them to avoid burnout.
Address and Avoid Burnout in Healthcare
Healthcare practitioners contribute positively to society and are vital parts of it. Without physicians and nurses, as well as other healthcare staff, people will not be able to get the right treatment to prolong life.
Therefore, it’s imperative that healthcare organizations prioritize their well-being. Proper management within institutions helps ease the stress, and burden healthcare workers feel. In addition, providing them with help through effective technology solutions and organizational support can make their jobs easier, alleviate stress, and help them see their job more positively, keeping them from burning out.
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