Burnout among employees in the healthcare industry is a significant problem. The causes were prevalent pre-COVID, with the pandemic worsening the issue. Not only does burnout significantly impact the mental health of your healthcare employees. Ultimately, the downstream consequence is the adverse effects on patient care. Beyond the pandemic, there are several contributing factors to why healthcare workers are beyond exhausted. However, through positive actions, there is hope to correct the course and create sustainable change.
The Backstory of Burnout in Healthcare
Healthcare is a rewarding and inherently stressful field. Pre-pandemic burnout rates among healthcare workers oscillated between 20 and 40 percent, with higher rates in intensive care and emergency medicine units. These rates aren’t shocking given the consistent stress and trauma exposure.
Here are some of the additional reasons behind healthcare worker burnout:
- Time pressures and low control over work pace
- Poor workplace culture and dysfunctional workplace dynamics, including favoritism to co-workers, mistreatment, and even unfair corporate or compensation policies
- Workers deal with traumatic injuries, combative patients, ethical dilemmas, and mortality in a high-stress environment.
- Non-supportive management
- Emotional strain from patient care
- Technology issues, including with patient records keeping, that cause delays or problems with patient care
The Effects of Healthcare Worker Burnout
Healthcare worker burnout has enormous ramifications for your workers, your patients, and your organization. The negative symptoms of burnout include but are not limited to:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Diminished cognitive functioning
When experienced over the long term, burnout can lead to anxiety, depression, and other severe mental health disorders. These symptoms, by their nature, affect the quality of patient care. Burnout leads to employee disengagement, leading to costly patient safety mistakes. A September 2018 study found that burnout doubled the odds of an adverse patient safety event.
Those mistakes and worker disengagement is costly for your organization. Burnout leads to higher turnover rates, meaning you constantly spend more money to hire new employees. It also can lead to expensive lawsuits from mistakes made in patient care.
How to Correct the Course and Decrease Burnout in Healthcare
Creating a positive workplace culture that focuses on employee mental health and champions a healthy work-life balance will decrease burnout among your employees and provide better patient care. Workplace culture is the shared values, characteristics, and behaviors of an organization and its employees. This definition includes company values, ethics, leadership style, and the physical working environment.
A strong, positive company culture takes a top-down approach and constant reinforcement. Leadership has to always set the example by eliminating toxicity and showing that they genuinely care about their employees. Cultivating a growth mindset and empowering your employees means setting policies that promote better mental health, providing a support system for employees, support flexibility in work schedule, and promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
Excellent company culture also means hiring for culture. Hiring people whose values and personalities align more closely with the organization can reduce turnover and increase employee engagement, leading to better patient care. Workzinga is bringing job seekers and employers together in a new way with our innovative pre-employment cultural assessment tool. You’ll get better insights on cultural alignment so you can hire the right, caring professionals!