Rising workloads and technology are main causes of clinician burnout

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | July 15, 2019
Increasing workloads and technology
are considered high contributors
to the risk for clinician
burnout, says a survey
Increasing workloads and technology are among the biggest factors that contribute to risk for clinician burnout.

That’s according a survey conducted by healthcare communications firm Spok Holdings, in which 92 percent of clinicians who responded called burnout a “public health crisis” and reported little implementation by their organizations of recommended strategies to combat it.

“Clinician burnout is a complicated issue. The phrase is often used to capture associated symptoms like occupational stress, depression, moral injury, and many other terms,” said Teresa Niblett, RN-BC, director of clinical informatics at Peninsula Regional Medical Center and member of the Spok nursing advisory council, in a statement. “The pursuit of the triple aim — improving care experiences, bettering the health of populations, and reducing the costs of healthcare — results in many variables that increase pressures on healthcare workers. I am not surprised 92 percent of clinicians in this survey called burnout a public health crisis. It validates expanding the triple aim to a quadruple aim by adding the goal to reduce clinician burden.”

Seeking to assess clinician perceptions of burnout, researchers evaluated responses from more than 470 clinical staff at hospitals and health systems in the U.S. They also questioned if organizations were implementing solutions proposed in, A Crisis in Healthcare: A Call to Action on Physician Burnout, a 2019 paper that advises reducing the risk for burnout by supporting proactive mental health treatment and support, improving EHR usability, and appointing an executive-level chief wellness officer.

Increasing or ineffective technology was rated strongly or moderately by 90 percent of respondents as contributing to the risk of clinician burnout, with 89 percent viewing burdensome or increased workloads not related to direct patient care as the biggest factor behind this risk. Approximately 40 percent indicated no use of the three strategies listed in the 2019 paper at their organizations. Only 30 percent said EHR usability was in place at their facilities, despite 95 percent believing improving EHR usability to be at least somewhat helpful. Availability of mental health treatment and support was reported by 20 percent, while 13 percent confirmed the presence of a chief wellness officer or equivalent position at their place of work.

When questioned as to what factors prevented them from seeking help for potential symptoms of burnout, 65 percent of respondents pointed to a lack of institutional attention and resources by their organization as the number one challenge. In addition, 47 percent noted that discussions on the subject by their organization leaders were rare or did not take place at all.

“The insights from this survey reinforce the complexity of addressing clinician burnout,” said Vincent D. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, in a statement. “There is not one easy or clear path for healthcare leaders to turn the tide on this pressing issue. Our commitment at Spok is to continue to be a partner with healthcare organizations to ease their communication challenges in an increasingly fast-paced care environment, so they can focus more where they want: on providing patient care.”

A webinar on the survey results hosted by Becker’s Hospital Review will take place at 12 p.m. CDT on August 8.

Spok Holdings declined to comment on the findings.

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