Addressing the ‘public health crisis’ of healthcare worker burnout

Addressing the 'public health crisis' of healthcare worker burnout

Dr. Cole Edmonson, chief experience and clinical officer at staffing company AMN Healthcare, said burnout and mental health struggles in the industry should be treated as “a public health crisis.”

“We know that the health and the wellness of our healthcare workforce is tied directly to the health and wellness of society,” Edmonson said.

As such, he sees a need for additional dedicated federal funding for mental health services, especially for students training to enter healthcare professions, to help them establish healthy habits early on. And there should be parity in payment for mental health.

AHA’s Demehin adds that there need to be more Medicare-funded residency spots to address the long-term physician shortage and improve residency training. The Association of American Medical Colleges predicts the U.S. could see a shortage of 54,100 to 139,000 physicians by 2033.

At Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, well-being is embedded into the culture of the system and into the curriculum of students at the teaching hospital. That involves incorporating more breaks, or pauses, into the day for clinicians, offering more flexible work schedules and giving clinicians meeting-free time. And in January 2020, the system expanded the Buckeye Paws certified therapy dog program it uses to reduce stress, pain, anxiety and depression in patients to its employees as well.

Dr. Harold Paz, Wexner’s CEO and chancellor of health affairs at Ohio State University, sees technology, namely artificial intelligence and machine learning, as one way to reduce the burden on clinicians by automating tedious tasks like data entry. He wants to find ways to reduce stress by maximizing technology, especially when it comes to electronic health records.

“We don’t want highly trained clinicians to become data-entry clerks. What can we do to use technology to automate these things?” Paz said.

Michelle Davey, founder and CEO of Wheel, which matches clinicians with telehealth companies and helps businesses launch their own virtual-care programs, sees telehealth as a way to improve doctors’ work-life balance, if done correctly. With the right tools and training, clinicians can use virtual care to bring more flexibility to their schedules, she said.

“I think the pandemic did a lot for workforces across the U.S. How do we enable that remote work environment for clinicians as well?” Davey said.

That will involve reducing the administrative burden put on clinicians by not using “antiquated systems with 16 click-throughs” and designing systems with input from doctors, Davey said.

“Most people think to get a clinician’s opinion primarily when (it involves) clinical outcomes or clinical protocol development. The other piece is making technology that works for them, not against them,” Davey said.

And it will involve training, as early as residency, on telehealth and other rapidly expanding technologies, she said.

“Healthcare in the future is going to be digitally enabled across the board. At this point, there’s no fighting that. … How do we create an environment to move forward that’s healthy and not just bringing the broken system online?” Davey said.

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Marie Maynes
Marie Maynes is a Sports enthusiast and writes for the Sports section of ANH.