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Understanding Burnout in Healthcare
Understanding Burnout in Healthcare
Many believe that burnout is simply something which we must accept, with no real options for prevention or relief. However, burnout is extremely harmful to individuals who experience it, and it threatens to negatively impact anyone who works in or interfaces with the healthcare system. There are consequences to well-being, job satisfaction, retention of the work force, patient experience and other system costs. Moreover, research indicates that those in healthcare are impacted by burnout more than those who work in other industries. If you have concerns about burnout symptoms in yourself or a colleague, contact the Mass General Brigham Employee Assistance Program at 866-724-4327.
Burnout is not a diagnosis but rather a combination of symptoms:
Cynicism and detachment
Loss of ability to empathize and connect
Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
The practical translation of this definition is that individuals who are committed to caring for others are not able to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible, and they are unable to thrive personally and professionally.
Causes of Burnout
Burnout is the result of a combination of factors and there are different pathways that ultimately lead to burnout for different individuals. Some of the factors identified in the literature are as follows:
Administrative and technical burden, particularly navigating EMR systems
Lack of control over work
New payment models
Not being able to operate at license/training level
Publicly reported quality metrics
Repeated exposure to helping families with stressful decisions
Complicated ethical issues
Diminished or inadequate time and space to meet with colleagues
Impact of Burnout
No one is Immune to the Potential Effects of Burnout
Whether you are a medical provider, other type of employee, co-worker, part of leadership, a patient or family member, you may be impacted by burnout in the healthcare workforce. A growing body of literature shows the impacts in Physician and Nurse populations.
Increased anxiety, depression and suicidality
Increased substance use/misuse
Other physical health impacts – headaches, cardiac, digestive, blood pressure
Negative impact on healthy life-style – sleep, nutrition, exercise, interest in hobbies
Negative impact on relationships inside and outside of work
Job impacts – impaired job performance, decreased perception of job performance, dissatisfaction with job, absenteeism, job changes
Decreased quality and poor patient safety outcomes
Increased medical errors, healthcare associated infections, negative 30-day mortality rates
7 billion attributed annually to hospital-employed physician turnover
The cost of replacing a PCP or specialist ranges from $100,000 to $300,000
One study found that the yearly productivity loss attributable to burnout may be equivalent to eliminating the graduating classes of 7 medical schools
Are You or a Colleague Experiencing Symptoms of Burnout?
Burnout manifests differently in different people and some of the burnout symptoms might be indicative of other conditions or co-occurring conditions, such as compassion fatigue, relationship concerns at home, financial stressors or other mental health concerns. Regardless of the cause, further exploration should be triggered when symptoms are persistent and/or cumulative. For further assistance, please contact the EAP at 866-724-4327.
If you are concerned about a colleague, consider the RUOK program as a way to check-in.
Job Symptoms Loss of enjoyment, detachment, apathy, performance problems
Tools to Measure Burnout Burnout is not a diagnosis but rather a cluster of symptoms. When these symptoms accumulate and/or are persistent, this should generate concern. There are many instruments constructed to measure burnout or symptoms related to burnout. The most commonly used instrument is the Maslach Burnout Inventory, which is a validated, reliable and has 22 self-report questions. Some MGB hospitals have used abridged versions of the Maslach. Click here to view the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Abbreviated)
Help for Burnout
Remember you are not the only one experiencing these types of challenges and stresses
Talk to someone-family, friend, colleague, mentor, unit director
Consider letting leadership know about your concerns about burnout – maybe there are opportunities for assessment and improvement on a clinic or department level
Your department or institution may offer assistance, available via targeted programs or grants. Some options may include initiatives around wellness programs, coaching or career development, reducing administrative burden and Epic training
In case of emergency, please call 911 or your local hospital emergency service.
This site is not intended to provide any clinical assessment, counseling or other type of intervention. The Mass General Brigham EAP provides links to external websites for your convenience. The EAP is not responsible for the availability, accuracy, or content of outside resources or sites, nor does it endorse them. If you notice any malfunctioning links, please contact the us at: EAP@partners.org. The Mass General Brigham EAP is not a service available to the general public. For more information or to discuss concerns, please contact the Mass General Brigham EAP at 866-724-4327.
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