Earlier this year, the Surgeon General declared health worker burnout and well-being a national crisis. At FORVIS, we continue to assist our clients in the fight against the impact of burnout and fatigue and agree a greater focus is needed to effectively address the burnout crisis. While workforce burnout existed prior to the pandemic, its presence escalated as a result of the intense pressures caused by the public health emergency. This longstanding healthcare challenge, with deep systemic connections, will not be remedied by generalized approaches or self-help programs. A crisis of this magnitude, as outlined by the Surgeon General, requires deep analysis of the current environment and an openness to implementing new and innovative countermeasures to identify and address the roots of the problem.
The burnout crisis has caused elevated fatigue, burnout, and frustration contributing factors to several post-pandemic, workforce statistics, notably that 52% of nurses and 20% of doctors plan to leave their clinical practice. This exodus would compound the one million nurse shortage projected by the end of the year and the already existing gap of three million low-wage health workers anticipated over the next three years.1 If these statistical trends continue, the magnitude of the problem could fundamentally change the healthcare industry.
The Surgeon General called for bold and sustained actions if we hope to see real progress against burnout and fatigue. We believe those actions fall into five categories, each with a clear call to action.
Infrastructure: Organizations can search for and invest in systems that will ease the non-value-adding administrative burdens facing today's clinicians. As these investments are made, organizations can implement adaptive operating models optimizing the investments that better align with the demands of today's clinical environment.
Culture: Organizations can proactively establish or reinforce cultures where appreciation and empathy are requirements, sustained over the long term by individual accountability, leadership transparency, and organizational adaptability. As the healthcare environment continues to evolve, establishing a culture anchored in the belief that the accountability for culture resides with each team member, no matter the level or function, is essential.
Leadership: Leadership will be critical in the fight against burnout. Beyond shaping the tone from the top down, leaders must demonstrate through their behaviors, whether prioritizing infrastructure investments or embracing personal qualities that push back the effects of burnout and change fatigue. Sustained action across these three categories will drive meaningful change. Given the magnitude and intensity of the burnout crisis, implementation will be challenging, but does not diminish the imperative for leaders to act. So, where can organizations start and how can they limit their implementation risk? Leaders can do both by taking the following steps.
Define Organizational Uniqueness: Every organization is different and includes diverse population groups. For this reason, each organization’s approach to combating burnout and fatigue will be unique and it is crucial that leaders understand the divergent feelings, perspectives, and needs of the individuals across their organization–both demographically and functionally. With this information leaders can make informed decisions and identify unique burnout countermeasures that will be most effective in their environment and sub-environments.
Demand Speed to Solution: The needs of the future workforce are here today. So, while traditional methods of information gathering may appear more cost effective, they lack the speed and scale necessary to swiftly address the burnout crisis. The use of research and analytic informed survey diagnostics provide leaders the scale needed to develop macro-organizational priorities and people group specific micro–strategies and tactics that will drive tangible improvement.
The Surgeon General labeled burnout as a crisis. For healthcare providers across the continuum, this very real crisis is challenging their ability to effectively carry out their mission and advance their vision. However, leaders can take the fight to burnout. FORVIS is helping organizations with the deployment of scaled analytic tools like Clari3ty/INTELLIGENCE and the Burnout Diagnostic, both used to analyze environments, identify countermeasures, and provide the perspective and confidence needed to win the battle against burnout and fatigue.
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