How the AMA is providing resources to health systems to proactively respond to physician, care team member and employee burnout

Burnout of physicians, nurses and other caregivers has become a significant issue for healthcare systems, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American Medical Association works to provide the research, tools, and support to help health systems evaluate and address staff concerns and put into place strategies that can drive solutions.

During an October webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, sponsored by the AMA, Suja Mathew, MD, senior physician adviser, and Nancy Nankivil, director of practice transformation, both of the AMA, talked with Susan Turney, MD, chief executive officer of Marshfield Clinic Health System in Wisconsin, about her journey in addressing staff burnout before and during the pandemic.

Four key insights: 

  1. During the pandemic, nursing and support staff experienced the highest levels of burnout. According to Ms. Nankivil, the AMA-sponsored COVID Caring for Caregivers survey showed that nurses and clinical support staff had high levels of fear of exposure and self-reported anxiety and depression, while also feeling less valued. The AMA regularly assesses people's intention to reduce clinical hours or leave their practice; ongoing research shows that one-third of those who signal those intentions will typically follow through. "Our COVID data shows almost a third of respondents indicating they would reduce their clinical hours," Ms. Nankivil said. "We are at a crossroads here. How do we rebuild, refresh and reset our healthcare workforce?"
  2. Evaluating the health and well-being of staff must always be a top priority, even during a crisis. Although Marshfield Clinic, which runs 10 hospitals throughout rural Wisconsin, faced challenges with COVID spikes, lack of PPE and supplies, and nonemergent service shutdowns, the organization still prioritized surveying its clinical and non-clinical employees. "We thought it was very important to show our staff we were here to listen," Dr. Turney said. "We knew the findings would likely reveal a lot of frustration and challenges, because that has been the nature of dealing with COVID. We were determined to make the survey something that was useful and would have an impact on how we helped our staff every day." Marshfield Clinic has since provided childcare assistance, mental health resources, merit pay increases, and a zero-premium health plan.
  3. Technology can help facilitate burnout reduction strategies and programs. Marshfield Clinic offers employees a mental health app to track how they're feeling and connect them to mental healthcare providers if needed. "It's a really simple way to leverage technology to put people at the center of our thinking. Our goal is to be the workplace of choice in our communities," Dr. Turney said.
  4. The AMA offers support and tools to help health systems address a variety of pandemic burnout challenges. Dr. Mathew shared several ways that the AMA assists health systems: research literature, validated burnout assessment, interventions and curated resources, recognition tools and professional networks. "Our Insight Network is a wonderful opportunity to bring leaders together from across the country, share best practices, obtain peer feedback and recognition, and provide pilot opportunities," Dr. Mathew said.

By taking advantage of resources from the AMA, health systems can successfully address physician, nursing, and clinical staff burnout as well as turn these challenges into opportunities to care for, retain and appreciate their most valuable asset — their people. Well-being resources

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