In the high stress world of healthcare, it’s not uncommon for workers to experience burnout. Aside from the urgency and risk that goes into many of their tasks, physicians, nurses, and other providers are often plagued by insufficient rest, understaffing, unmanageable workloads, and significant amounts of paperwork. And it’s not getting easier. A 2015 study conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that more than 50 percent of American physicians show at least one sign of burnout—an increase of 9 percent over their previous study three years prior.
Burnout can have a marked effect on the mental and physical health of healthcare workers, in addition to compromising patient safety. As such, managing and preventing burnout is a leading issue among the industry’s leadership. Here are three ways they can help employees cope:
Provide support. Some hospitals have instilled on-site rapid response teams that attend to employees and physicians in times of high stress. Peer support programs encourage open discourse among workers, and provide outlets for processing feelings. These teams are especially valuable after traumatic situations, when workers may have a hard time coping with their emotions.
Prioritize organizational leadership. All jobs suffer without proper leadership, but for healthcare workers, not having leaders you trust and whom you believe to have your best interests at heart can lead to toxic, draining work environments. Poor leadership quality leads to inefficient management and lots of miscommunication. By making sure to optimize their leaders for both business and employee health, healthcare organizations can help ensure their employees feel safe and heard at work.
Encourage introspection. Burnout is not something that happens overnight. It’s a gradual process, fueled by unresolved emotional exhaustion. Giving employees a space to nurture their mental health when needed can go a long way toward preventing burnout from occurring. This can mean providing a quiet space where they can go to meditate, facilitating physical activities like yoga that promote wellbeing, or simply just letting employees know that someone is there to talk to if they need to vent.
Helping healthcare workers avoid and deal with burnout can have a significantly positive effect on an organization’s morale and efficiency. Providers who feel emotionally supported tend to do better work and to stick around longer. Ultimately, happy employees facilitate happy work environments. And while healthcare is rarely an easy field to work in, having the ability to cope with its traumas is incredibly valuable.