Your physicians and nurses are literally saving lives every day—and they’re also getting very burnt out while doing it. In fact, burnout levels among healthcare workers have gotten so high (from 41-52% during the pandemic) that the World Health Organization says that they’re experiencing a “pandemic within a pandemic” as healthcare professionals report increasingly high levels of anxiety, depression, and stress.
But burnout is about more than just temporary stress—it’s an ongoing problem that can lead to serious patient outcomes such as increased medical errors, lower quality of care, and poor decision-making.
Nurse and physician burnout is not an individual problem, and addressing it as if it is by suggesting that your people take up meditation or manage their own work-life balance simply won’t be effective. Instead, you need to tackle burnout at an organizational level before the signs of burnout overwhelm your clinical teams.
In the long run, implementing extra measures of care for your team will benefit everyone, from patients to providers alike. These ten interventions for preventing burnout will help support the people who provide exceptional care for your patients every day!
Create a Culture of Safety and Positivity
1. Communicate Clearly with Healthcare Staff
An environment where your physicians and nurses feel that they’re in the know about important news and policies that will affect them is critical to increasing their job satisfaction. When people feel they can trust their department leaders to keep them informed, they feel more in control and are less likely to be burnt out.
It’s also critical for leaders to connect the work each employee does to the mission of the organization—that keeps engagement high and burnout rates low.
2. Ensure Everyone’s Voices Are Heard and Valued
Creating a safe work environment where everyone feels included means focusing on diversity in your organization as well. When employees feel alone, they’re less likely to feel engaged and empowered to speak up when it matters.
But if your organization creates a truly diverse and inclusive work environment, all employees will feel more supported and safe at work. And having a support system at work, as well as valued like your voice matters, are essential to lowering burnout rates and even preventing burnout.
Encourage and Promote Mental Health Services
3. Lead By Example
Physicians and nurses are experts at providing care to others—but they’re not always so eager to take steps to care for their own mental health. And the culture in many healthcare organizations also isn’t always open to talking about mental health, let alone taking the time to care for it.
That’s why leading by example is so critical in healthcare organizations. Providing a mental health and wellness program isn’t enough—you need to show healthcare workers that they won’t be punished for taking advantage of mental health leave or talking openly about their own mental health.
4. Offer Peer and Support Groups
Feeling connected to the people around them is essential for preventing nurse and physician burnout—because it’s about more than just workload or stress. Building a supportive network of peers and colleagues can help physicians and nurses feel supported and understood, and address burnout at its root.
Encouraging the formation of peer groups and support groups through formal or informal programs can promote these critical bonds. These initiatives can look like paying for a group dinner for the whole nursing staff of a department once a month or giving your critical care team a coffee outing with time to chat with co-workers as part of an appreciation effort.
Leading by example is critical in healthcare organizations. Download our practical guide to managing a team!
Offer Family Care for Employees
5. Provide Better Childcare Options
Finding, organizing, managing, and paying for childcare is a struggle for parents all across the US. Childcare is often difficult to find and pricey to pay for, and the added stress levels of juggling drop-offs and pickups for doctors and nurses with long shifts is just one more item on an impossibly long to-do list.
Managing all of this and the heavy workloads in the office can become too much, and lead to burnout—especially for parents of young children. Finding ways to support parents such as offering on-site childcare, emergency childcare options, and helping to pay for childcare are good steps.
6. Support Other Kinds of Care Too
Parents of young children aren’t the only people who are caregivers for someone in their lives. Your health care professionals may provide care for their elderly parents or grandparents, nieces and nephews, partners and spouses, or another loved one.
These groups deserve support for their care work just as much as parents. Ensure your family care offering covers those situations as well to help all of your healthcare providers balance their care obligations outside of work with those in the workplace. Offering flexibility where possible so
Provide Opportunities For Self-Care
7. Offer Employees Mental Health Days
Sometimes, what even your most dedicated doctors and nurses need is a day or more out of the care setting to care for themselves in the way they need—a hike, a favorite hobby, or simply a day doing nothing at all. Ensure your patient care people can take these days as needed.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has an innovative approach to letting employees take a step back when they need a break—they offer “Resilience Days” to their nurses and physicians so they can proactively take time to rest and recharge. When emotional exhaustion sets in, doctors and nurses can tend to their own well-being with these days off.
8. Make Self-Care Opportunities Available
Moments of self-care don’t always need to be as big as having a whole day off work—the chance to sit quietly with a cup of coffee in a relaxation room with a colleague for a few minutes in the middle of the workday can also make a big difference.
Ensuring that you’re offering these chances for wellness and self-care during working hours is important. This could look like setting aside quiet rooms to catch a quick nap, lounges for connection with good coffee and tea and snacks, or a meditation room to recenter with mindfulness can all create a more rested and connected atmosphere to counteract burnout and the stressors of working in a healthcare system.
Focus on Hiring and Staffing
9. Ensure You’re Fully Staffed
A big component of physician and nurse burnout is organizations that, frankly, don’t have enough staff on hand to ensure employees can work reasonable hours and take their allotted time off, or that leave them caring for too many patients at a time.
While the staffing shortages in the nursing and physician fields are real, focusing real energy and intensity on your recruiting and staffing efforts is the only way to ensure that your best people aren’t continually burning out and leaving. It might take some creativity, but it’s essential as overloaded care workers and clinicians eventually can’t keep up and will leave your organization (and maybe the field altogether).
10. Create Fair Workloads and Shift Management
Adequate staffing alone, though, won’t resolve all of your physician and nurse burnout issues. If some employees have longer or more difficult shifts than others, such as having more overnights or back-to-back shifts, this perceived unfairness can affect retention and increase burnout.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is again a great example here, because they not only staff and recruit appropriately, but also focus on ensuring schedules are balanced and workloads are fair for all employees.