Physician burnout is in the news a lot these days. More than half of physicians report at least one sign of burnout,[i] and three out of four nurses cited the effects of stress and overwork as top job concerns.[ii]
The Experience Innovation Network, part of Vocera, just completed a market research study to understand the causes and consequences of burnout. The study delves into how forward-thinking organizations are building cultures and processes that support resilience, well-being, and joy among all members of the care team. We fielded a survey of more than 150 leaders and frontline staff, and conducted in-depth interviews with more than 40 healthcare executives, academics, and thought leaders.
When we asked survey respondents how important the well-being of physicians, nurses, and staff is to their organizational success, 91% said it was very or extremely important. However, when we asked respondents to rank physician and nurse well-being among other critical priorities such as quality, safety, financial performance, and even patient-family experience, the well-being of both groups fell to the bottom of the list – by a lot. This isn’t an indictment of leaders’ views on the need to support their teams; it’s an indication of how important the priorities they juggle are. No one wants to pit the well-being of physicians, nurses, and staff against the quality and safety of care they provide.
This seeming contradiction is at the heart of what differentiates organizations that elevate resilience, well-being, and joy to a top strategic priority from those that try to address it in a more tactical way. The most strategic approaches recognize that the well-being of physicians, nurses, and staff is integral to quality, safety, financial success, and the patient-family experience. They view the Quadruple Aim as the unifying factors that must drive all strategic decision making, not as four separate initiatives.
These leaders aren’t just taking a leap of faith. There’s strong evidence linking burnout with the incidence of medical errors, infection rates, and mortality rates
So what do healthcare executives do when they elevate resilience, well-being, and joy to a top strategic priority?. One study used multivariate analysis to show that nurse burnout rates are significantly associated with both urinary tract infections and surgical site infections. The same study showed that hospitals which reduced burnout rates by 30% had a total of 6,239 fewer infections, for an annual cost savings of up to $68 million.[i]
They take a multi-faceted approach to address burnout. They provide the individual and team-based tools that help physicians, nurses, and staff withstand the trauma of dealing with life-and-death responsibilities, and the pain and loss that come with providing care. But they don’t stop there.
They also seek to minimize trauma that can be inflicted by poorly designed processes, inefficient workflows, and non-supportive team dynamics. They do this while consistently reinforcing the purpose and meaning that can get buried when caregiving gets overly focused on tasks.
In our research, a few organizations stood out in their strategic focus on resilience, well-being, and joy:
Addressing the challenges of burnout and building cultures and environments that support resilience, well-being, and joy takes a deep-seated commitment across an entire organization, as the examples above illustrate. Our research uncovered five key steps that leaders can take to solidify their own journeys build the sustainable care systems of the future:
You can access the full report and read more about these forward thinking approaches here.
[i] Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2014. Shanafelt, Tait D. et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings , Volume 90 , Issue 12 , 1600 - 1613
[ii] 2011 ANA Health & Safety Survey. Hazards of the RN Work Environment
[iii] Cimiotti et al. Am J Infect Control. 2012;40(6):486-90
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