Workers have been leaving the healthcare industry in droves over the past few years. Since February, 2020, hospital employment has decreased by nearly 94,000, including over 8,000 between August and September, 2021, alone.1 Another study predicted there will be a critical shortage of 3.2 million healthcare workers by 2026.2 Physician burnout has been a significant trend in the industry as well. Although the COVID-19 pandemic may have been the last straw for healthcare workers, long shifts, little time off, and hectic work environments were other driving forces behind the decision to quit.
To improve staff retention and resolve shortages, we must first recognize what causes workers to leave. Some common factors contributing to burnout:
Long Shifts: It is not uncommon for a nurse to have four days off a week. Sounds great, right? However, nurses often work 12- to 15-hour shifts, leading to fatigue, poor dietary choices, and a variety of mental and physical health problems.
Little Time-Off: 82% of providers said flexible work hours would help alleviate burnout, and 72% said increased time off would help significantly. Yet only 29% were given more flexible hours, and only 11% have seen an increase in paid time-off.3 This inability of staff and management to compromise leads to toxic work environments where employees feel undervalued, leading many to start exploring other career options.
Note-Taking/Patient Interaction: Generally speaking, people go into healthcare to help others, not stare at a computer screen. Providers often feel they spend more time on their electronic health record (EHR) than they do with their patients. According to a 2019 report, 74% say they spend at least 10 hours a week on administrative tasks alone, with 36% saying they spend more than 20 hours a week.4 If your EHR is not user-friendly, expect frustrated clinicians, and low employee satisfaction leads to staff turnover. If your organization wants to replace its system, we know where you can start your search!
Job Pressure/Hectic Work Environment: Sometimes, people outside of healthcare look at a doctor’s salary and think about how great a job it must be. What they do not realize is how heavy that lab coat can feel. This amount of pressure can take a toll on clinicians, both physically and mentally. Day in and day out, doctors and other healthcare practitioners are responsible for human lives, where one mistake could lead to disaster.
Family/External Responsibilities: Being responsible for a family is probably the only job more stressful than working in healthcare. All day you care for the well-being of strangers and their families, and as soon as you get home, you must start caring for your own. Parenting is a full-time job, and when combined with a 40+ hour work week, you can get stuck in a never-ending cycle of stress.
For more on physician burnout, head to our previous blog post.
Avoiding burnout and staff turnover requires a collaborative effort between organizational leaders and their employees. Both parties have an essential role.
Roles of the organization
Hire more staff: It sounds like an impossible task—finding healthcare workers when there is a nationwide shortage—but hiring more staff is the best solution for an organization gradually losing clinicians. The leading cause of turnover is overworking existing staff to the point of physical and mental exhaustion. With more employees, organizations can reduce everyone’s shift time and still get their life-saving work done.
Offer greater benefits: People work for many reasons, but money is certainly a prime motive. When employees in healthcare, or any industry, feel underpaid or worth more than their salary, it can create a lack of motivation. They may begin to shop around and see what the competitors offer. If organizations want to keep staff retention up, they must compensate employees fairly—and compensation doesn’t always have to be in the form of currency. They can increase paid time-off, offer better health insurance, more flexibility with their schedules, etc. Half the doctors in a recent survey said they would give up at least $20,000 in annual income to reduce their work hours.5
Implement new technology: The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, and organizations need to keep up and adapt to the changing needs of patients and staff. Healthcare workers often feel overwhelmed with their daily tasks, and technology can help ease that burden. For example, by offering patients the ability to schedule appointments, fill out forms, and make payments online, organizations can reduce the workload of their administrative staff. Telemedicine has been a great tool, especially in behavioral health settings, in both addressing health disparities and helping to address burnout. Allowing physicians to stay home and treat patients virtually, they can save a lot of time from traveling, and reduce the stress from worrying about who will care for the kids or pets at home. A sound EHR system, equipped with Clinical Decision Support, can simplify care, and help providers make more informed treatment decisions, particularly while working remotely. For more on technology in healthcare, head to our recent blog post.
Roles of staff
Talk to superiors: If employees want to see change, they must first bring their issues to the attention of management. By scheduling regular meetings between healthcare staff and organizational leaders, both parties can discuss clinical topics, work environment, and other issues in an open forum. Addressing and settling these concerns together will improve staff satisfaction and reduce turnover.
Maintain a healthy work/life balance: Healthcare workers spend long hours taking care of others, but when it’s time to clock out, it is time to focus on yourself. Spend your precious free time doing things you love, whether exercise, baking, painting, hanging out with friends or family, listening to music, or binging your favorite television show. It is vital to relieve your mind of all the stress work brings. Sleep is also essential for recovery, so you have the energy to endure another long day at the hospital or healthcare practice. A lack of sleep could lead to weight gain, memory loss, and a weakened immune system, among other short- and long-term effects. For more on sleep health, check out another recent blog post.
Get help: Working in healthcare can be highly stressful. Add to that the stress can come from caring for your family, and it can feel overwhelming. If you start feeling anxious, depressed, or even suicidal, please seek professional help. The suicide rate among healthcare workers was high before the pandemic. Physicians and nurses were 2-3 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population (and the rate is higher among women).6 At the very minimum, take a mental health day. Again, if negative feelings persist or become overwhelming, seek professional help.
We need our clinicians to be healthy in order to treat unhealthy patients, but it is hard to maintain physical and psychological well-being when working conditions can be so challenging. When practices are understaffed or staff are overworked, we are putting patients at risk. If we want to improve healthcare staff turnover rates and maintain the welfare of our patients, we must provide our brave frontline workers with the help and resources they need to succeed in their profession.
Read below on how our products and services can help with staff shortages and satisfaction rates:
Our Arize EHR makes a clinician’s life so much easier, giving them complete control over the system’s interface, customizing views, dashboards, templates, forms, and more! Its smooth interface makes it easy to navigate through the system and input notes in patient records. Staff members can locate any treatment plan, lab/test result, assessment, progress note, or report throughout the entire database by typing words, numbers, or phrases into the intelligent search function.
Our Managed Services can help take some of the pressure off your clinical teams. We provide clients with access to virtual experts in the clinical and billing aspects of not just Cantata systems, but of other software providers’ electronic health records as well. Our resources bring dozens of years of experience managing EHR systems, including clinical workflows, screen-building, reporting, billing, and system administration to help support your EHR environment. Our team allows your organization to focus on using the EHR, while we configure, administer, and support your back-end solution.
- “Data Brief: Health Care Workforce Challenges Threaten Hospitals’ Ability to Care for Patients: AHA.” American Hospital Association, https://www.aha.org/fact-sheets/2021-11-01-data-brief-health-care-workforce-challenges-threaten-hospitals-ability-care.
- Gooch, Kelly. “7 Stats That Show Healthcare Workforce Staffing Challenges.” Becker’s Hospital Review, 2 Nov. 2021, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/workforce/7-stats-that-show-healthcare-workforce-staffing-challenges.html.
- Hedges, Lisa. “3 Solutions to Staff Turnover at Your Practice.” Physicians Practice, Physicians Practice, 14 Feb. 2022, https://www.physicianspractice.com/view/3-solutions-to-staff-turnover-at-your-practice.
- “5 Causes of Physician Burnout and How to Address Them.” PatientPop, 13 Oct. 2021, https://www.patientpop.com/blog/physician-burnout-causes/.
- Hartzband, Pamela, and Jerome Groopman. “Physician Burnout, Interrupted: NEJM.” New England Journal of Medicine, 17 June 2021, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2003149.
- Jacobs, Douglas G., and Marci Klein Benheim. “When Helpers Feel Helpless: Mitigating Suicide Risk of Health Care Workers in a Pandemic.” Stop a Suicide Today, https://stopasuicide.org/when-helpers-feel-helpless-mitigating-suicide-risk-of-health-care-workers-in-a-pandemic/.