Burnout is caused by chronic stress in the work environment. Health care staff are particularly vulnerable because of their exposure to risk factors such as emotional interactions, exhausting shift patterns, and a lack of control over the demands placed upon them. The recent winter pressures have created the “perfect storm for burnout”.
There is strong evidence that burnout has an adverse effect on quality of care, patient safety and patient satisfaction.
- Staff experiencing burnout feel fatigued and unable to face the demands of their job, or able to make a meaningful contribution.
- Burnout reduces productivity and performance
- Staff disengage – high levels of burnout are linked to more staff leaving their job, or walking away from their profession altogether.
- Burnout is also detrimental to staff wellbeing, and linked to higher levels of relationship breakdown and suicide.
The Mayo Clinic has developed a wide range of organisational strategies to promote clinical staff engagement and reduce burnout. They argue that many of these interventions are relatively inexpensive and can have a large impact. They include:
- Acknowledge and assess the problem. Regularly measure the wellbeing of staff and demonstrate that the organisation is trying to reduce burnout.
- Harness the power of leadership. Develop and support clinical leaders. The Mayo Clinic found that a 1% increase in senior doctors’ leadership score brought a 3% reduction in how likely those reporting to them would be to suffer burnout.
- Cultivate social connections and peer support. Invest in areas where staff can meet and relax.
- Develop targeted interventions for specific clinical areas.
- Align values and strengthen culture. Work to ensure shared values across the organisation, and use these for decision-making as well as recruitment.
- Provide resources to promote personal resilience and self-care.
- Flexible working patterns that support a better work-life balance.
Full post at the Nuffield Trust blog