Burnout among healthcare workers is reaching an all-time high, and not being able to prioritize mental health is driving many employees to quit. To combat this, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has issued an advisory on how to address ongoing healthcare worker burnout. The advisory calls for reducing administrative burdens, improving workplace and learning environments, increasing access to mental health treatment and addressing workforce shortages.
“Confronting the long-standing drivers of burnout among our health workers must be a top national priority,” Vivek says in a statement. “COVID-19 has been a uniquely traumatic experience for the health workforce and for their families, pushing them past their breaking point. Now, we owe them a debt of gratitude and action. And if we fail to act, we will place our nation’s health at risk.”
As COVID-19 cases increase again, healthcare facilities workers are once again feeling the strain of weakened operations and limited staff. According to a report by McKinsey Health Institute, surveyed employees who experienced higher levels of toxic behavior at work were eight times more likely to experience symptoms of burnout. Meanwhile, one in four employees had experienced high rates of toxic behavior at work.
Toxic behavior is also one of the leading causes of workers quitting. This negative demeanor can take a toll on other employees’ mental wellbeing. Stress levels are already high and are expected to get even worse as the labor shortage continues. However, quality leadership matters within the workplace. A study by Talkspace found that employees who have managers that talk about mental healthcare significantly are more likely to find their work fulfilling (86 percent) and less likely to feel stressed or burned out by work (41 percent).
More than 22 million people are employed in healthcare and social services, the nation’s largest employment sector, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Retention still remains a challenge for healthcare facilities. However, offering mental health services can encourage employees to stay for the long haul. According to the Talkspace report, 57 percent of workers who considered quitting would likely stay on the job in the current position if they received more mental health services.
“Some facilities are reducing the traditional responsibilities to a manageable level to allow focus on the core aspect of their work,” says Shay Rankhorn, senior director of facilities management with Quorum Health and president of American Society for Healthcare Engineering. “Even pre-COVID, many healthcare facilities managers wore so many hats that they were unable to do justice to those roles because they were burned out and eventually left the industry. That is increasing with the additional burden of COVID related issues and many being asked to take on even more responsibility without both commensurate salary and staffing to support the increase to bandwidth.”
A long-term plan is needed to address the wellbeing of employees and the reason they are continuing to leave. In order to recruit and retain new employees, healthcare facilities managers must prioritize their employees so they know how to handle their stress levels and can get help when needed. Allowing for new policies that prevent burnout while enabling employees to flourish in their careers can create a workplace environment where people want to stay.
Mackenna Moralez is the associate editor with Healthcare Facilities Today.