Healthcare worker burnout is more common than you think and can lead to poor mental health, reduced quality of care, and low retention rates. Tackling burnout isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s strategically vital.
But while burnout is common in the healthcare industry, it’s not inevitable and there are many ways to prevent healthcare worker burnout.
In this guide, we will discuss ways that business owners and managers can support their teams through better scheduling so staff can feel positive about their work.
What exactly is employee burnout?
Employee burnout is a specific type of workplace stress where workers feel generally dissatisfied with their work while also experiencing multiple levels of exhaustion, including:
- Mental exhaustion
- Physical exhaustion
- Emotional exhaustion
The end result is an employee who no longer feels up to the task of their daily work and is generally disinterested in their profession, which can lead to mental disturbance and overall reduced productivity. On a business level, this can lead to higher staff turnover rates and attrition, lower employee engagement, and may even have a negative impact on workplace culture that can affect the business’ performance generally.
How Common Is Employee Burnout?
Surveys suggest that over 20% of employees have experienced some form of job-related burnout within their current career.
That’s a lot of stressed staff and a serious reduction in productivity across the UK working population.
Why do healthcare workers risk burnout more than other professions?
Professional healthcare workers often suffer burnout due to the type of work they undertake and the amount of work they are expected to do. While on shift, healthcare workers regularly experience stressful situations and high pressure, in addition to long hours. In turn, this can severely impact a healthcare workers’ physical and mental health.
Poor scheduling can also increase caregiver stress. Employees working shifts, as opposed to office hours, are already more likely to experience burnout. Scheduling, however, can make the situation far worse for employees if it isn’t handled carefully, fairly, and sensitively.
Poor scheduling can leave employees stressed, short on sleep, or struggling to balance their work with other responsibilities, such as picking up their children from school or looking after elderly family members. It can also make a healthy work life balance impossible to attain. As a result, health workers are at an increased risk of becoming drained and demotivated. The sensation of having no control over their lives can quickly turn into burnout.
What are the signs of healthcare worker burnout?
Signs of healthcare worker burnout include:
- Physical and mental exhaustion. Long shifts can lead to mental and physical exhaustion, with staff members becoming fatigued easily.
- Sickness: Employee absenteeism rates due to illness rise considerably when employees experience burnout. This can cost a company working days and may impact on their ability to service customers and make money.
- Mood swings. Being tired often goes hand in hand with grumpy or emotional staff, which can lead to poor productivity and a lower standard of patient care.
- Emotional distress. The high-stress levels and increased workloads required by healthcare workers can lead to depression, anxiety, and other signs of emotional distress.
- Poor judgement. Staff who are constantly tired and stressed will find themselves far more likely to make errors of judgement, which is obviously not a good thing when dealing with patient health.
- A higher tendency to make mistakes. Similar to the point above, tired and stressed staff will often make more mistakes than those who are fresh and relaxed.
- Reduced quality of work undertaken. Our final point can be considered a culmination of all the other points above. Physical exhaustion, mood swings, poor judgement, and a tendency to make mistakes will lead to a reduction in the quality of work produced.
Healthcare worker burnout can also lead to an increased turnover rate as cases of chronic caregiver burnout can lead to workers questioning their choice of career path.
What are the benefits of good scheduling in the healthcare industry?
There are a number of benefits of having a good employee scheduling model in the healthcare industry, including:
a. Gives patients a better experience
Scheduling can help improve the patients’ overall experience by helping alleviate delays in getting care, which are a common source of frustration for patients. Poor staffing can lead to long wait times, staff who are pushed to their limits (see burnout), and constant delays in treatment, all of which can impact on the patient’s journey.
b. Improve utilization of staff
Healthcare workers routinely spend much of their time on tasks not directly related to patient care. This can be alleviated when the right patient scheduling software is used to designate time for tasks with priorities for patient care. This in turn can reduce employee stress and lead to happier and more focused staff.
c. Increase staff productivity
Proper employee scheduling allows staff to avoid spending all their time and energy on tasks that are irrelevant to patient care. This allows staff members to focus on the more important tasks, such as administering medication, diagnosing illnesses, and making sure patients’ needs are met.
So, how does better scheduling prevent healthcare worker burnout?
When your healthcare workers feel motivated and engaged by their work, they’ll perform better. Their improved well-being will enable them to handle stressful situation more easily. As a result, you will also see better employee retention rates and higher patient satisfaction levels.
Support groups and lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, can help employee’s manage stress and reduce burnout symptoms. However, this is not a substitute for a good work-life balance. One of the best ways you can support workers with their work/life balance is by improving scheduling so they’re less likely to experience burnout.
Tips to prevent healthcare worker burnout when scheduling
While poor scheduling can leave healthcare workers exhausted, good scheduling will help avoid burnout. Here are a few tips to get started with:
a. Give healthcare workers control over their own schedules
Before you create your schedules, get your caregivers to select their ideal shifts. This will allow them to have a say in their rotas and may make it easier for them to achieve a healthy work life balance.
Consider allowing shift swaps without questions or justifications, so that caregivers can practise self-care and make the changes necessary to look after their personal health, both mentally and physically.
This can often be achieved automatically through the use of a good scheduling software package like the one we provide at Papershift.
b. Allow schedule flexibility
Workers within the healthcare industry are likely to be dealing with a variety of out of work issues, like schooling their kids, having to look after the running of their homes, and having to take care of ailing family members. If workers can offer services by working from home, even if only for part of their shifts, allow them to do so. If they need to take time off to take care of family or their own mental health, look for ways to make it happen. Be flexible with scheduling to allow staff to deal with issues that might otherwise see them feel stressed.
c. Minimise the time workers are expected to spend on admin tasks
Check how much time your healthcare workers are spending filling out paperwork. While progress notes and other records are essential, make sure you’re scheduling allows sufficient time is set aside for these tasks and ensure that performing them doesn’t impact on patient care.
Ideally, healthcare workers should be able to submit progress notes, time sensitive data, expenses and other administrative tasks easily via a staff companion or other HR app (see our marketplace for our fully featured HR app). This will help alleviate the stress of completing admin tasks between patients or even before or after shifts have ended, which can exacerbate burnout.
d. Check workers aren’t overscheduled
How many days a week have you scheduled the workers under your care? How long are their shifts? And how much time do they have between shifts?
When scheduling multiple healthcare workers, it’s easy to overlook common scheduling issues, such as an employee finishing a shift at 11pm and starting the next one at 6am. Not only would this put the business in danger of breaching legal regulations, but it will seriously overwork staff and could lead to burnout.
e. Use a good scheduling tool
To avoid most scheduling problems, make sure you have the best tools available, and a good quality scheduling software will offer multiple views on your rota needs so you can home in on individual workers’ schedule as well as the whole team’s.
Scheduling software that places the healthcare worker’s experience front and centre can help a business prevent burnout while also ensuring that patients receive quality care. The best scheduling tools will also be simple and intuitive to use, so can save time while better supporting your team.
Papershift’s scheduling software package and its Marketplace of add-ins can help you to automate schedules in minutes and will give you all the tools you need to ensure shifts are adaptable and sensitive to staff needs.
What are the best practices to prevent healthcare professionals’ burnout?
Here are a few general tips on how to prevent employee burnout in the healthcare industry:
a. Make staff wellness a part of the workplace culture
If your healthcare workers aren’t doing well, your patients aren’t going to do well. Be proactive in finding out workers’ concerns by creating surveys or some other platform where they can bring issues up. Prioritize addressing them.
If your business area is understaffed, hire more people. If you don’t have enough supplies available at any given time, enlist someone to oversee that stores are always fully stocked. If necessary, make sure everyone has adequate PPE and insist on every single healthcare professional taking breaks.
By doing all these things you can not only prevent burnout but show staff that you take their well-being seriously.
b. Create a healthy working environment
This goes hand in hand with point one above and combining the two can have a drastic effect on employee well-being.
For starters, have a physical location where workers can go to relax like an on-call room where they can sleep, a relaxation room where they can relax or simply sit in silence. Sponsor workout classes. Keep healthy snacks, water, coffee and tea in the break room for staff to use. Encourage communication and foster trust. Have an open-door policy and encourage your team to be honest about what would alleviate their stress load.
c. Provide mental health support
At some point, frontline healthcare workers will need help coping with the trials of their work. Providing access to counselling and other support services are good starting points in helping them deal with their mental health needs.
d. Acknowledge employee hard work
Nobody likes to feel underappreciated or overlooked, especially when they are working around the clock helping others. Always provide positive feedback when warranted. In fact, actively look for things that are going well. Let your team know how much you appreciate them. If you can, set up a reward scheme that gives staff a small token of appreciation whenever they do something worthy of note.
Working in the healthcare industry is never easy and can be incredibly stressful at times. Having an understanding of the factors that can lead to employee burnout can help business owners and managers to support their staff and look after both their physical and mental well-being.
- Create any scheduling pattern
- Click employees into rota schedule
- Staff view by hours, day & week
- Fast & auto schedule planning
- Publish rota via app to employees
- Automatic timesheets from rota schedules