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Almost three-quarters of healthcare leaders feel some degree of burnout, survey finds

Of 1,750 healthcare leaders, 45 percent said they felt "burned out," while 28 percent said they were "somewhat" burned out.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Physicians and nurses have been struggling with burnout for a while now, driven largely by worsening shortages in both fields. But they're not the only ones feeling besieged by stress. A recent poll from the Medical Group Management Association finds that 73 percent of healthcare leaders feel at least some degree of burnout.

Conducted last week, the poll found that out of 1,750 healthcare leaders, 45 percent said they felt "burned out," while 28 percent said they were "somewhat" burned out. The remaining leaders, 27 percent, said they were not burned out.

Citing the work of Christina Maslach, PhD, professor of psychology emerita, University of California, Berkeley, and Susan E. Jackson, PhD, distinguished professor, human resource management, Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, MGMA outlines three main components of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and personal accomplishment.

Emotional exhaustion, of course, was defined as feeling drained and emotionally extended at work. Depersonalization was seen as feeling withdrawn when providing care or performing other kinds of work, while the personal accomplishment component was marked by feelings of inadequacy regarding work skills, accomplishments and ability.

In an accompanying blog, MGMA outlined a few brief suggestions on how to address burnout in the workplace.

The first is to assume some modicum of control; the more control one has over what they do and how they do it, the easier it is to mitigate against burnout, according to MGMA. The key here is to achieve empowerment, and to enable it in others.

Addressing and avoiding conflict is also an essential component, and it's important that employees understand and are engaged in the organization's mission, vision and values. 

And then there's the issue of too much work, too little work, or unclear expectations about work. Leaders should ensure expectations are clear, and should provide the necessary tools and training to ensure employees' success. Recognizing accomplishments and celebrating victories also goes a long way, as is general communication.

Physician burnout has become an increasingly widespread problem in healthcare. Earlier this year, a  Medscape National Report on Physician Burnout and Depression found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. physicians report feeling burned-out, depressed or both, with one in three admitting that their feelings of depression have an impact on how they relate to patients and colleagues. And physician burnout can hurt the bottom line. Research has shown, for instance, a consistent relationship between higher levels of physician burnout and lower levels of patient safety and quality of care.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com