Mitigating Employee Burnout and Improving the Patient Experience

May 6, 2021 Sarah Bloznalis

Stethoscope and mask Today marks National Nurses Day, a day dedicated to appreciating the nurses who are so essential to keeping us, our families, and those around us safe and healthy. This year, we have even more reason to be grateful for the incredibly hard work nurses do each and every day.  

As we get closer to reaching the light at the end of the tunnel that is COVID-19, we should take a moment to thank those who got us through it – the nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals who risk their own safety to ensure ours. 

Even before the pandemic, nursing shortages were far too common in the U.S. According to the 2019 National Nursing Engagement Report, “15.6% of all nurses reported feelings of burnout, with the percentage rising to 41% of ‘unengaged’ nurses. What’s really interesting as well, is that 50% of nurses who reported feeling burned out also reported that they had no plans to leave their organization — pointing to the importance of supporting and meeting nurses where they are at in the workforce.”  



On the added stress of the pandemic, Jen Miller, a Critical Care Nurse Practitioner in the New York Hospital System reflects: “It’s difficult to relax and try to turn yourself off when you’ve spent the entire shift bottling up so many emotions … I try not to bring a lot of baggage home, but it’s difficult when this is all you see.” 

More than ever, it’s up to organizations and their leaders to create a more human workplace so healthcare employees can provide the best care possible – for both their patients and themselves. One way organizations can do this is through authentic, genuine communication.   

Make time to listen. 

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines burnout as “a long-term stress reaction marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a lack of sense of personal accomplishment.” So, it’s no surprise that when burnout hits, employees often feel alone, likely leading them into a spiral of disengagement and exhaustion. To prevent this, managers should conduct frequent check-ins with their employees to create a sense of trust, connection, and belonging. 

In fact, managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores. During COVID-19, managers received an average 65/100 score from their employees for how well they boosted motivation and engagement. 

The good news? According to Gallup

  • Only 11% of healthcare workers say they have not touched base with their manager one-on-one during the pandemic.  
  • Most have checked in weekly (37%) or monthly (31%), and some check in daily (22%).  

Healthcare moves quickly, but weekly, even daily check-ins give employees the chance to slow down, ask questions, raise concerns, and most importantly, feel heard. Rather than facing burnout alone, frequent check-ins ensure employees that they have the support and guidance they need. 

Here are three questions to use to start an authentic dialogue:  

  1. What can I do to help you do your best?
  2. What conversations do we need to be having to get through this? What am I missing? 
  3. What are ways that you think you could help that we might not know about? 

Now is the time to think about everything we’ve learned in 2020 and consider how it can be applied in the future to mitigate burnout and provide vital support to healthcare professionals.  

Learn how Workhuman can help your healthcare professionals fight burnout | Get the guide.


About the Author

Sarah Bloznalis

Sarah Bloznalis is a content marketing coordinator at Workhuman from Dorchester, Mass. When she's not writing about the future of work you can find her in the library, at the beach, or exploring the city.

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