According to a survey by the National Institute of Healthcare Management, an astronomical 76% of healthcare professionals are burned out. But we’re not just talking about feeling tired and fatigued, burnout has real-life impact on occupational efficiency, patient safety, and the quality of care.
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”– The World Health Organization (WHO)
If burnout isn’t addressed, it can lead to a whole range of detrimental results while lowering workplace morale overall.
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It’s Not Just Doctors Who Are Feeling Fatigued
As the pandemic persists – and the line on the charts of COVID cases ebbs and flows – frontline workers and physicians report feeling burned out in ever-increasing numbers. As a now-recognized syndrome, burnout is associated with:
- Dread and negativity about going to work,
- Lack of energy and exhaustion,
- Feeling detached from the job,
- Forgetfulness and decreased accuracy on the job,
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances,
- Cynicism and difficulty feeling empathy for patients,
- Mood changes, such as sadness, anger, and irritability,
- Alcohol or substance misuse.
This was to be expected, really, for those stretched and stressed the most by the increased patient load, long hours, and high-risk environments. Now, what we’re also seeing is that medical administration and healthcare support staff are experiencing increasing levels of burnout as well.
And it’s the same set of factors that is contributing to this negative effect. The heavy workload, long hours, difficulty maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and limited economic compensation for their time are struggles for the entire team.
More Pressure than Usual
We also know that now is an unusually hectic period in the healthcare industry. The Pandemic has caused a plethora of challenges and exacerbated ones that were already present.
For example, healthcare admin, assistants, secretaries, those who work in records, patient accounts, and insurance billing, are all feeling the squeeze as the labor shortage continues. So, those working in administrative roles find themselves tasked with increased workloads in addition to their regular workloads.
In today’s healthcare environment, technology and streamlined operations have enabled some roles to be eliminated. Further, administrative support staff are feeling the pressure as facilities try to cut costs and streamline operations by eliminating positions. Yet the burden often falls on the support staff to fill in the gaps. This increase in responsibility can lead to burnout and eventually, attrition.
The healthcare support team isn’t immune to these changes, which has led to a significant decrease in morale for those who remain on the job. While those who show up for their shifts, are still dealing with the risk of contagion and illness, lack of sleep, as well as the nature of working in a caregiving role when patients are more agitated and needy than ever.
The Cost of Burnout
In the healthcare sector, burnout isn’t just something that affects employees, it also affects employers. While some healthcare providers may feel that it’s cheaper to hire a new employee than invest in staff training and development, they all too often forget about the hidden costs. In 2019, the Annals of Internal Medicine estimated the cost of burnout in the healthcare industry to be $4.6 billion a year. This estimate is based on lost billings due to reduced hours, physician and staff turnover, and expenses related to finding and hiring replacements.
In organizations where burnout is prevalent among members of the administrative team, it’s not uncommon for people to start looking for positions elsewhere before their own stress takes a toll on their health. And this attrition can become a costly and disruptive domino effect.
Is Your Admin Staff Close to Burning Out?
Administrative staff are critical cogs in the wheel that keep an organization running efficiently. Here are some questions that you should ask to gauge morale in the medical office:
- Are staff overly cynical or critical when doing regular activities?
- Has there been an increase in tardiness, sick days, or absences from work?
- Are support staff irritable or impatient with co-workers and patients?
- Do they seem more distracted or unmotivated to start tasks than usual?
- Are staffers regularly acknowledged for their achievements and special efforts?
- Have healthcare staff shown signs of drowsiness or sleep deprivation?
- Is it possible that they have developed a dependence on food, drugs, or alcohol to cope?
- Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
Related article: How to Prevent Burnout among Medical Staff.
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