The topic of clinical burnout is not a new one. As providers enter 2021, they are already fatigued by a year of stress from the trauma of living on the front lines of a pandemic. This leaves human resource leaders, business leaders, and communities looking for ways to further support healthcare providers. In this article, we will discuss how a Clinical Wellness Survey is a crucial first step to understand and address clinical burnout. To aid those in a position to act on this important step, Golden Source Consultants has researched and compiled a list of resources available.
What is clinical burnout?
There is no standard definition of clinical burnout, but the main symptoms are:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Diminished sense of personal accomplishment
Unfortunately, burnout in healthcare providers is common. Studies estimate that between 40-50% of all healthcare providers experience strong symptoms of burnout. For jobs that have longer hours and increased stress, such as surgical residents, this number is shown to be as high as 78%.
Understanding the Impacts of Clinical Burnout
Burnout has deep negative effects on the individual healthcare provider. Here are some sad and startling facts about the impact of clinical burnout on these individuals:
- Burnout has shown to increase rates of suicide of healthcare workers by 1.41 times in men and 2.27 times in women.
- Clinical burnout has also shown to drastically increase the likelihood of substance abuse as a coping mechanism. For instance, in surgeons alone, burnout shows that male surgeons are 13.9% more likely to abuse alcohol and a 25.6% increase of likelihood in female surgeons.
Burnout also has serious impacts on the quality of care provided and can be observed in two major ways.
First, burnout increases the likelihood of malpractice occurring.
- Malpractice is currently the third leading cause of death in the US. In a survey group with no indication of burnout, 10.5% of physicians indicated that they believe they performed malpractice in the last 3 months.
- A 2018 study indicates that physicians who are experiencing burnout are twice as likely to have malpractice.
- A study led by Dr. Tait Shanafelt of Stanford shows that, of those who are experiencing average feelings of burnout, there is a 28% increase in malpractice rates. The same study indicates that, of those who are experiencing the highest levels of burnout, there is a 110% increase in malpractice rates.
- The average malpractice claim costs $371,054, making the potential of doubling the frequency of malpractice due to burnout a costly one.
A second way to measure the impact burnout has on patients is to consider how it may limit their access to quality care measured by the number of clinical professionals leaving the practice.
- A 2019 study showed that 17% if physicians strongly considered leaving clinical work. We can assume that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these numbers are currently higher.
- When a physician leaves the industry, it costs an average of $90,000 to replace them as well as an approximate $500,000 – $1,000,000 in lost revenue.
What is a Clinical Wellness Survey and why is it important?
The term Clinical Wellness Survey was defined in 2011 by Stanford University. Dr. Michey Trockel, MD, PhD., in response to the increasing rates of burnout in healthcare professionals, led the charge to develop a survey which would help identify the level and causes of burnout within a healthcare provider practice. The first version of the survey was circulated to selected Stanford medical staff in 2013. Over the next 3 years, the survey iteratively evolved as Dr. Trockel and other leaders at Stanford sought to prevent burnout proactively by looking for predictors. The results of these early surveys have now helped inform many healthcare organizations as they seek to understand and plan for the health and welfare of clinicians.
Based on the statistics, it may seem impossible to be able to identify where to begin to make a positive change in the current landscape. To tackle any problem, it is necessary to first know what is causing it to develop a plan and implement a strategy. Taking the Clinical Wellness Survey is that first step in the right direction and will give you those causes.
What resources are available to me to get started?
If your organization considers pursuing a Clinical Wellness Survey, there are many resources now available.
|Clinical Wellness Survey from Stanford University||Take the Wellness Survey by contacting WellMDCenter@stanford.edu.|
|Other Stressor Surveys from Stanford||Information and surveys to measure anxiety, relationship trust, work-life balance, and many other predictors.|
|The Physician Wellness Academic Consortium||PWAC helps medical organizations with their wellness needs and goals. To contact them for more information, email PWACadmin@stanford.edu.|
|Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine||Read more about burnout in healthcare workers.|
|Federation of State Physician Health Programs||This provides a state-by-state list of Physician Healthcare Programs available to help healthcare workers|
|Mayo Clinic||Find more information on the program for physician well-being the clinic provides.|
|American Medical Association||Develop a Wellness Program using these 5 steps.|
|American Medical Association||Take a survey to have insight into the wellness if your healthcare workers during this pandemic.|
|American College of Physicians||Look at an extensive list of resources (Articles, TED talks, Podcasts, etc.) covering Healthcare Burnout and Wellness.|
After you have completed a Clinician Wellness Survey, what is the next step?
Once selected members of your organization have completed a Clinical Wellness Survey, it is time to utilize the results and make positive changes to improve in the areas that need attention. The survey results will indicate areas of wellness that need to be improved so that the overall health of the healthcare staff can avoid burnout and achieve professional fulfillment. To do this, here are a few simple next steps:
- Discuss Results: The results should be discussed with trusted leaders from HR, business, and clinical departments to both better understand the at-risk areas and begin developing a plan for improvements moving forward.
- Understand the Causes: Take time to investigate what may be driving your Clinical Wellness Survey results. This may mean doing deeper research or listening more deeply to clinical employees.
- Tackle Low Hanging Fruit: While your survey may uncover many areas that need attention, begin by focusing on the items that can be easily changed with minimal impact to budget or operations. Gaining a few early wins gives relief to those who need it and increases momentum for the larger effort.
- Plan for Larger Objectives: Changes to improve clinical wellness that require a large shift in operational processes, or investment in a solution, need the leaders of the initiative to think carefully through the timing and structure to make such changes worthwhile. Give those leading your clinical wellness initiative the space early on to design a thoughtful strategy for larger objectives to ensure their success.
- Review and Remeasure: We improve what we measure. Make it a goal that your organization will commit to completing a clinical wellness survey on an annual or bi-annual basis. This ensures you know how your program is performing and if there are any new areas to address.
It is abundantly clear that now more than ever communities need every healthcare professional functioning at their best. For those working in healthcare, we need to care and support clinical wellness and care for those who care for us. While the journey to improve clinical wellness and eliminate burnout is long, the first step in gaining understanding of the current well-being of your practice can be as easy as clicking a link.
Do so immediately and begin making the wellness of healthcare providers a priority today! Golden Source Consultants hopes that the resources provided here are helpful in your journey and stands by to assist providers as they seek to plan and launch their own initiatives.
If you are not ready to take the Clinical Wellness Survey but want to have an indication of how well your organization is performing, consider taking the P&T Formula Talent Survey. Take the survey here!
If you have already taken a Clinical Wellness Survey and need help planning and executing improvements, Contact Us!