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Burnout prevalent in healthcare community, consensus report confirms

Clinician burnout isn't a new problem, but it appears to be getting worse due to factors that are inherent in today's healthcare system.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Clinician burnout is affecting between one-third and one-half of all of U.S. nurses and physicians, and 45 to 60% of medical students and residents, according to a National Academy of Medicine report released this week.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is among 32 institutions and foundations that sponsored the 296-page report, "Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being," which investigates the causes of widespread clinician burnout and offers solutions to address the problem at its source.

What it found was a direct connection between clinician burnout and quality and safety in healthcare. Clinician burnout isn't a new problem, but it appears to be getting worse due to factors that are inherent in today's healthcare system.

Addressing burnout requires a deliberate healthcare system redesign, the report found, with a focus on activities that deliver value to patients while enabling clinicians to deliver the best possible care.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

The report discusses some key issues that need to be addressed.

One is that clinician burnout needs to be tackled early in professional development, and special stressors in the learning environment need to be recognized. Leaders in healthcare and health professions education have a responsibility to foster, monitor and continuously improve work and learning environments, authors said.

While some healthcare technologies appear to contribute to clinician burnout -- poorly designed electronic health record systems, for example -- there is real potential for well-designed and implemented technologies to help reduce burnout.

Federal and state governments, other payers and regulators and the healthcare industry itself have important roles to play in preventing clinician burnout. Increasing administrative burdens and distracting clinicians from the care of their patients can directly affect burnout.

At the same time, medical societies, state licensing boards, specialty certification boards, medical education and healthcare organizations all need to take concrete steps to reduce the stigma for clinicians seeking help for psychological distress and make assistance more easily available.

The report concludes with goals and recommendations centered on creating more positive work and learning environments, reducing administrative burden, enabling technology solutions, providing more support to clinicians and learners, and investing in research to address clinician burnout.

THE LARGER TREND

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 2018 poll from the Medical Group Management Association finds that 73 percent of healthcare leaders feel at least some degree of burnout.

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.
 

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com