Burnout has long been a problem for healthcare providers. The stress of the job itself, combined with the ever more complex administrative duties and requirements set by insurance companies, has led to a situation where many healthcare providers (from surgeons to doctors, nurses and physical therapists, to lab technicians and aides) find themselves both physically and emotionally exhausted. Although this problem was well established before the pandemic, the vast stress put on healthcare providers during the worst of the coronavirus outbreak highlighted the need for change.
This state, commonly known as burnout, leads to a significantly lower level of patient care. It also leads to high turnover rates in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities. This may lead to a reduction in the workforce, putting even greater pressure on those who remain. Clearly, this situation must be addressed for the good of healthcare professionals and the patients they treat. Today, we’re looking at an interview from Dr. Patrick Conway of Optum, who offers insight into the consequences and prevention strategies of burnout.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a form of exhaustion caused by prolonged exposure to stress. It is frequently associated with work-related stress. It can cause both physical and emotional problems, including:
- Heart palpitations
- Addictive behaviors
In healthcare, these problems are often compounded by guilt that the healthcare professional cannot provide the highest level of care for their patients.
How to Fight Burnout
Like many problems, Dr. Conway states that the most effective way to fight burnout is to alleviate the things that cause it before a problem develops. This can be done by lightening the workload and helping employees find a work/life balance that gives them time to relax and recuperate from the stresses of their work life.
In the healthcare field, some strategies for reducing stress involve allowing doctors and nurses more time to devote to each patient. The relationship that forms when patients have the time to actually talk to their healthcare providers not only brings about better results for the patient but also allows the healthcare professional to feel appreciated and rewarded for their efforts. Some physicians have accomplished this by conducting in-home visits, instead of appointments based in a hospital setting.
Other techniques for reducing the strain on healthcare workers include the use of AI-based analytics. This data provides rapid, actionable solutions to patient problems. Additionally, cohesion across patient portals creates a team of connected healthcare employees who all have the same information about a patient’s care. It’s regrettable that many providers experience stress when trying to learn new EMR systems, which contributes to burnout. Ideally, this process should be intuitive and not require additional heavy training.
How Do Doctors Deal with Stress?
Doctors and other healthcare professionals deal with stress the same way as most people. Given the opportunity and access to time off and behavioral counseling, they will usually use their medical knowledge to care for themselves. However, those who lack resources may resort to addictive behaviors like drinking or drug use to alleviate stress.
To address burnout among providers, Dr. Conway recommends:
- Reducing stigma within the healthcare community
- Offering confidential resources while reassuring employees that there is no risk of punishment or ramifications
- Pioneering groundbreaking, flexible policies in telehealth, vacation time, and more
- Encouraging personal changes like meditation, relaxation, and self-care
Providence Treatment Can Help
For those who work in the medical field, addictions can quickly develop and become devastating to your career. Help is available. Providence Treatment understands the unique needs of healthcare professionals battling addictions and the need for complete and discreet recovery. To get help, contact us at Providence Treatment today.