From the Winter Issue 2018
Hospitals and health systems may perceive the
intensifying challenges of change, uncertainty, and complexity in
healthcare as opportunities. However, these challenges also may be major
stressors that lead to burnout, which can result in negative
performance such as poor quality and financial outcomes, low
productivity, safety issues, and decreased staff morale and retention.
Any stakeholder in every healthcare organization can
experience burnout. It is a serious, systemwide issue, and yet a lack of
understanding and attention persists. Is burnout difficult to diagnose
and measure? Are we dealing only with symptoms and not the root causes?
These are questions an organization faces when dealing with
significantly poor performance. But what if the leaders themselves are
experiencing burnout? Organizations must employ comprehensive strategies
to deal with burnout and develop resilience if they are to confront the
enormous pressures of meeting the many demands of healthcare today.
The first step is to become aware that burnout exists
and acknowledge its extent. Determining its systemic root causes,
understanding the issues, and preventing it are the next steps.
Executive leadership and culture are necessary elements for preventing
burnout among clinicians and the entire team of healthcare
professionals. Although caregivers have drawn the most attention because
of their direct impact on quality, safety, and cost, we cannot exclude
board members, who carry many responsibilities for major policy and
strategy decisions. They must recognize burnout in themselves and in
executive leaders. Denial is not an option because the risks are too
great. Burnout requires a total organizational focus.
Developing a culture of caring and safety, designing
work processes to decrease stress, eliminating factors that contribute
to burnout, educating stakeholders, and providing and promoting wellness
resources are key strategies to address and prevent burnout and to
produce effective and positive outcomes. Burnout is a crisis and an
epidemic, and the time to act is now.
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