The First Step In Reducing Physician Burnout

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As a leader in healthcare, you know that the health and well-being of your staff is vital to your mission of providing excellent patient care. However, as the most recent data has shown, the mental health of our clinical workforce is being threatened like never before.

Physician burnout is at an all-time high, causing record-setting turnover rates and staff shortages, increasing the risk of major medical error and malpractice lawsuits, costing institutions nearly $5 billion per year, and even taking the lives of hundreds of clinicians who die of suicide related to increased work distress. It's obvious that we must do something to protect and support the well-being of our staff, but it can be hard to know where to start or what to do next. Over the past several years, leading wellness experts have been studying the causes and solutions of physician burnout and have compiled frameworks to help other healthcare leaders maximize the mental health of their teams.

Evidence-Based Practices for Reducing Physician Burnout

As physician burnout reaches an all-time high, awareness of the issue is also increasing. According to the NEJM Catalyst Insights Council, 96% of surveyed healthcare executives and clinical leaders said that physician burnout is a major problem in healthcare. Along with this increased awareness of physician burnout, evidence-based strategies to identify its causes and mitigate its impact have been rigorously studied. 

In November of 2020, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) released a study on Organizational Evidence-Based & Promising Practices for Improving Clinician Well-Being. As stated in its introduction, the study is intended for leaders in health care settings with the objective of outlining "organizational approaches that focus on fixing the workplace, rather than “fixing the worker,” and by doing so, advance clinician well-being and the resiliency of the organization." 

According to this comprehensive framework, measurement of clinician well-being is one of the first and most vital steps in reducing provider burnout. In fact, after gaining initial organizational commitment, workforce well-being assessment is the very next step:

"It is not possible to know how an organization—or any part of that organization—is performing without measurement of clinician well-being and burnout. Measurement is essential." - National Academy of Medicine 

Why Start with Well-Being Measurement?

Measurement of healthcare provider well-being is the first step in reducing physician burnout for a number of reasons. Effective assessment of clinician well-being allows organizations to:

  • Understand their current state of well-being
  • Benchmark against other organizations to provide context to interpret the local experience
  • Identify the areas of greatest need
  • Measure the efficacy of interventions
  • Track organizational progress over time 
  • Prioritize limited time, energy, and resources where it is needed most
  • Calculate ROI of interventions and provide financial context for key stakeholders

Lisa Bellini, MD, Senior Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, Perelman School of Medicine and Professor of Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said this regarding the importance of well-being measurement in reducing physician burnout:

“You can’t fix what you don’t measure. In this resource-constrained world that we live in, if you don’t have a baseline for what’s going on it’s really hard to know if the resources you’re applying to the problem are effective.”

In addition, well-being assessment represents an organizational commitment to improving the overall work environment. Investment in organizational wellness measurement sends an important message to clinicians that their mental health is a priority and allows individuals to provide feedback, be heard, and feel valued. The use of a validated and participant-focused assessment tool indicates an ongoing interest in identifying and fixing the factors causing physician burnout.

For too long, it has been believed that solving physician burnout falls to the individual instead of the organization at large. There is a mentality in much of the medical field that burnout is a necessary and natural part of the job–that it is entirely unavoidable. But these days, we know that that isn't true and that simply encouraging people to engage in self-care isn't going to make a meaningful difference in the rate of burnout. Making a firm commitment to improving the workplace to reduce physician burnout can begin with deciding on a course of action.

Together, We Can Go Beyond Burnout

Physician burnout is a daunting problem to solve, but the steps provided by the National Academy of Medicine give organizations a successful framework to start with. It can be challenging to know where to begin unless you have accurate data that provides insight into what aspects of the workplace are causing physician burnout.

The Well-Being Index allows for comprehensive data collection from your clinicians, giving you a full picture of the pain points that they are experiencing. With this information, you can then begin to develop a plan of action to improve areas that need work and reduce the rate of physician burnout. This vital measurement delivers both qualitative and quantitative data back to the organization to help make evidence-based decisions about what next steps to implement. 

It is important to remember, however, that this is only the first step in the process. Measurement must be followed up by further action to change the work environment and provide needed support to our clinicians in their daily work. 

Over 800 healthcare organizations use the Well-Being Index to measure and support the well-being of their clinicians every day. Learn more about the features of the Well-Being Index and explore helpful resources such as case studies, validation articles, and more. Take a free demo of the tool to see a sample assessment and see how healthcare leaders are working with us to reduce physician burnout and maximize the mental health of their staff.

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