National Academy of Medicine issues report on health worker burnout

Investing in mental health resources, standardizing technology usage and supporting diverse recruitment efforts are among the National Academy of Medicine’s recommendations to support healthcare workers and address widespread and worsening burnout.

The National Plan for Health Workforce Well-Being, released Wednesday, details the need for healthcare leaders, insurers, educators and government agencies to work together to reduce administrative burdens and the strain healthcare workers face on the job.

Thirty organizations have endorsed the plan, including the American Medical Association, the Joint Commission and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.

Although most healthcare workers reported feeling burned out prior to COVID-19, the pandemic exacerbated problems such as understaffing and unmanageable patient volumes that impact workplace wellness.

The Health and Human Services Department announced $103 million in grants this January for health systems to use on efforts to improve employees’ mental health. In May, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a report calling on health systems and insurers to address the industrywide mental health crisis, warning that the burnout would only intensify with time.

Around 30% of advanced practice providers reported leaving their jobs in 2021 due to burnout, according to a survey by the Association for Advancing Physician and Provider Recruitment. Turnover reached 10% in 2021, the highest rate in six years, the survey found.

To strengthen the healthcare workforce and reverse longstanding burnout issues, the National Academy of Medicine report outlines seven priority areas, each with dozens of short- and long-term actions for health systems, insurers, information technology companies, academic institutions and the government to take :

1. Create and sustain positive work and learning environments

  • Invest in a culture that supports quality patient care while encouraging professional well-being
  • Set reasonable productivity expectations
  • Implement well-being onboarding programs for medical students to build resilience and coping skills
  • Create flexible staffing plans that allow for adequate sick leave and time off
  • Conduct experience surveys and exit interviews

2. Invest in measurement, assessment, strategies and research

  • Coordinate industrywide to examine how factors such as payment models, IT, workload and regulatory practices contribute to burnout
  • Measure the impact of bias and COVID-19 on occupational distress
  • Convene conferences to share de-identified data and best practices for improving worker well-being

3. Support mental health and reduce stigma

  • Train and recruit mental health professionals to care for healthcare workers
  • Increase resources and debt forgiveness opportunities for those looking to become mental health professionals
  • Educate employees and the community at large about mental health resources
  • Offer peer support programs and first aid training for stress

4. Address compliance, regulatory and policy barriers for daily work

  • Revise documentation requirements that do not contribute to quality patient care to reduce unnecessary administrative burdens
  • Use metrics to assess employee workload and set goals to reduce non-patient contact time
  • Develop hybrid workplace policies to support in-person and virtual workflows
  • Increase automation to standardize processes
  • Lower the volume of prior authorizations when possible

5. Engage effective technology tools

  • Research ways to develop and implement information technologies that support healthcare workers in care delivery and don’t inhibit clinical decision-making
  • Create standards for technology to be clinically useful, accurate, interoperable, human-centered and user-friendly
  • Examine benefits and drawbacks to using telephone and video consultations to ease clinician burnout

6. Institutionalize well-being as a long-term value

  • Plan to have reserve supplies of personal protective equipment and other resources to bolster public health and care systems during future emergency situations
  • Provide long-term funding for those experiencing physical and mental stress from caring for COVID-19 patients
  • Grant relief on timeframes related to pre- and post-admission patient assessments, allowing health systems to recover and care for patients in a timely manner
  • Form a national network to rapidly share, implement and test models for transitioning from acute COVID-19 care

7. Recruit and retain a diverse and inclusive health workforce

  • Offer targeted scholarships and loan forgiveness opportunities for medical students and healthcare workers from underrepresented communities
  • Build pipeline programs and partnerships with high schools, technical schools and universities
  • Ensure compensation is equitable companywide
  • Increase the number of childcare opportunities, as well as the duration and pay for parental leave
  • Reimburse healthcare workers for addressing social determinants of health

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