The Growing Employee Burnout Problem in Healthcare

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

Many people working in healthcare are well aware of the growing employee burnout problem in the industry. In a webinar based on her article, 10 Healthcare Trends to Watch in 2019, Robin L. Rose, MBA, VP, Healthcare Resource Group, HealthStream was joined by HealthStream’s Jim Reeves, Vice President, Strategic Accounts, in a discussion of how we need more joy in the work of healthcare.

In discussing how burnout is high in the healthcare industry, Rose shared that “37% of newly registered nurse leave their profession in the first year, and 54% of US physicians categorize themselves as burned out.” This is close to 60% of physicians, who have spent tons of money for training that supports their life’s calling, and are at a point where they want to leave the profession. Adding further information about this crisis among nurses, Rose stated, “The average turnover rate in skilled nursing is high, and the turnover rate for home health agencies is averaging 32%.”

Stress and Burnout a Big Problem among New and Experienced Nurses

Reeves offered that he often hears nurse leaders and administrators describing the stress of the nursing  role, especially among new nurses ”being asked to provide care that’s outside their comfort zone, for which they have a lack of confidence.” According to Reeves, nurses want to feel like they’re working in an environment and a culture that is promoting learning. Not only do most clinicians “genuinely care about patients and want to do the best,” but they want the commitment and integrity of their educational experiences to be reflected in the leadership environment as well. Reeves mentioned a CNO who noticed, when rounding, that “the further removed nurses got from the classroom the less likely they were to use their judgment, meaning they would just take the orders given to them from an EMR without challenging them.”  Reeves advocates for efforts focused on driving greater engagement on the part of the nurse team.

Rose describes burnout as an experience not unlike depression, with physical symptoms as well as behavioral impacts, such as lack of engagement with people. Those affected are also more likely to make medical errors. For Rose, “there are a lot of tangible reasons that we need to address this issue.”

Solutions for Reducing Clinician Burnout

According to Rose, physicians’ number one recommendation is more manageable work schedules, especially for “people working horrendous hours.” Rose reminded listeners that none of us wants treatment for ourselves or our loved ones by someone who is sleep-deprived from having worked 18 hours straight. She mentioned The Institute for Healthcare Improvement, an organization committed to making improvements in the healthcare industry, which has a 2019 initiative to help us do better as an industry and actually bring joy to work. According to them, Rose shared, “There’s a lot of evidence that management practices that are concentrated on producing joyful engaged workforces result in lower burnout, fewer medical errors, etc.  Expect to hear a lot more from the IHI in this coming year about bringing joy to work.”

Download the complete 10 Trends article.