AHA publishes playbook to reduce burnout in healthcare

A major healthcare association group has released a playbook to help reduce the prevalence of burnout in the industry. The American Hospital Association has outlined a seven-step approach specifically tailored to health system leaders to address burnout, which is a long-term stress reaction caused by a work environment, according to the association.

Burnout is a pressing issue in the healthcare workforce, with more than 40% of U.S. physicians feeling at least one symptom, such as feelings of depersonalization of exhaustion, according to a recent study. Symptoms can also include a low sense of personal accomplishment. While the burnout can vary by specialty, several healthcare groups have noted that it should be addressed at the institutional level to recapture the joy and purpose of the profession, even creating a culture of wellbeing for physicians, according to the AHA.

Healthcare providers can be deeply impacted by high rates of burnout, with quality and patient safety, the financial burden of replacing burned out employees who quit, and the physical and psychological health consequences of employees all taking a hit. The blueprint notes that a top-down approach isn’t enough to combat the negative effects of burnout and create wellbeing for physicians in the workplace. Instead, all aspects of the health system must be engaged in these efforts, including clinicians, patients and caregivers, regulators and administrators.

Here are the seven steps that AHA came up with to tackle burnout:

Create infrastructure for well-being. With a dedicated budget, executive support and sponsorship from a chief medical officer or CEO, health systems can create infrastructure that cultivates well-being with a wellness team that can champion new initiatives or expand efforts.

Engage your team. Address the stigmas of burnout with a team-based approach, with the wellness team facilitating small group sessions and open-ended surveys to gather feedback.

Measure well-being. Health systems should also be prepared to monitor their own efforts to fight burnout by measuring well-being through benchmark surveys at least annually. Following up with survey participants when issues are raised is also critical.

Design interventions. Engaging the health team and conducting surveys can help identify the top causes of burnout that can be addressed in interventions in the following categories: improving input; increasing recognition; improving quality; improving efficiency; increasing resiliency; cultivating community.

Implement programs. Starting with the easiest implementations, health systems can get their interventions underway and start to build buy-in from employees before moving on to more complex and challenging interventions. Another key focus should be on making these initiatives fun for participants.

Evaluate program impact. One health system may have several underlying causes of burnout, which means one intervention might not make much of a difference. And health systems should continually evaluate if their programs are having an impact, through process metrics and surveys.

Create a sustainable culture. Follow-up feedback is essential for programs to work long term and to expand the success of initial pilots. Celebrate wins “often and loudly,” the playbook urges.

Find the playbook here.