How to minimize clinicians' 'pajama time' — 5 thoughts on addressing staff engagement, burnout

Burnout isn't just an issue affecting U.S. clinicians — it affects staff at all levels across multiple departments in industries all over the world.

Three healthcare experts offered their insights into staff engagement and addressing burnout during a May 10 panel at the Becker's Hospital Review Health IT + Clinical Leadership 2018 conference, which took place May 10-11 in Chicago. Members of the panel included Ben Frank, system executive director of clinical operations at Cleveland Clinic; Carolina Ibarra, director of solution design for TigerConnect; and Shaun Phillips, PharmD, vice president of clinical services and pharmacy services at Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Bronson Healthcare.

Here are five insights the panelists provided related to staff engagement and burnout.

1. "I think we are wrong when we consider burnout as something we're just going to go and fix," Mr. Phillips said. "Burnout isn't just a physician issue; it's not just a professional issue; it's not just a leader issue — it's a problem across all of our departments. … It really comes down to engagement and how we're engaging our staff and how we're working on engagement plans to help reconnect them to our work."

2. In discussing a Cleveland Clinic study of clinicians and healthcare professionals systemwide, Mr. Frank said one of the major themes was decreasing "pajama time," or the amount of time clinicians and staff spend doing administrative work at home and away from the office.

"We're really trying to focus on what we're asking physicians, clinicians, nurses, etc., to do during the day [and] what can we do differently so we're not just piling [work on clinicians], but taking it off," Mr. Frank said.

3. "Technology is sometimes seen as the end-all, be-all, and that's not the reality," Ms. Ibarra said. "Technology is here to enable the existing clinical workflows. [Tech companies and providers] need to be very focused on the 'why' — why this technology or why is this change happening. Staff at every level should understand why certain technology is being turned on and how it's going to improve their daily interactions."

"For institutions with smaller wallets, really push your technology vendors to prove to you why there is value [in their products] and how they'll impact [your institution's] bottom line," she added.

4. In order for staff engagement to be effective, leaders at every level in the organization must be on board to support the initiatives, Mr. Phillips said, adding organizations must incorporate "various types of leadership structures to spread engagement throughout the organization."

5. For institutions with limited financial resources, Mr. Frank suggested officials take a hard look and prioritize initiatives that make the most sense for their institutions.

"I don't know of any healthcare organization that has unlimited funds in place; our ATM is certainly running low on cash sometimes," Mr. Frank said. "[Cleveland Clinic] looks very strategically at investing. We [know] we're going to have to do without something, but [engagement] is something we feel very strongly about … and we will constantly invest in."

More articles on physician integration issues:
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