Responsibility for addressing burnout should not be solely placed on the individual clinician. Organizations and organizational leadership must also do their part to enact systems changes that actively promote clinician well-being.
Why Organizations Must Play a Role
Clinician burnout affects all members of the care team and has a substantial impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system. Many organizational factors play a role in clinician burnout – including bureaucracy, workload, compensation, organizational culture and mission, and diversity and inclusion, among others. Therefore, while individual strategies like mindfulness and self-care workshops show promise in helping clinicians and trainees improve their well-being, organizations have an obligation to systematically address the drivers of clinician burnout. Any single intervention is unlikely to be effective in addressing burnout, rather a multidimensional approach that addresses the work environment are likely to be most successful.
Currently, there are no large randomized controlled trials that have addressed the organizational strategies to prevent or treat burnout. Existing evidence suggests that organization-driven interventions, such as reductions in workload or schedule changes, can lead to reductions in burnout. One study showed that organizations may be able to improve burnout, dissatisfaction and retention by addressing communication and workflow, and initiating quality improvement projects targeting clinician concerns. Programs that combine several elements, such as structural changes, fostering communication among members of the health care team, and cultivating a sense of teamwork and ownership could be most effective at reducing burnout and promoting engagement. Organization-driven strategies are necessary to protect and foster the well-being of medical students, residents, and early-career individuals as well as clinicians well-established in their careers. While current research helps shed light on promising interventions, more information is needed on effective interventions.
Resources on Organizational Strategies
Executive Leadership and Physician Well-Being: Nine Organizational Strategies to Promote Engagement and Reduce Burnout
There is a strong business case for organizations to invest in efforts to reduce burnout and promote engagement. The following article from Mayo Clinic Proceedings identifies nine organizational strategies to promote...
Clinicians can't fix burnout alone. To ensure the best quality care, health organizations and leadership must make clinician well-being a top priority.
Organizational leadership plays a vital role in promoting clinician well-being and there is an association between reduced burnout risk and positive leadership skills in supervisors. The Mayo Clinic suggests several key actions health system leaders should take, including:
- openly acknowledge that burnout is a serious problem
- engage in ongoing dialogue with staff at all levels
- measure levels of burnout and well-being within the organization
- commit to developing and implementing targeted solutions
A recent meta-analysis of controlled interventions to prevent physician burnout further, suggested that actions such as adjustment of work schedules, reduction in workload intensity, increasing level of participation in decision-making and mentorship in managing job demands can all be protective.
Sustained attention to clinician well-being at the highest levels of health care organizations is key to making progress. Culture change to address burnout needs to be driven by suggestions and changes from staff at all levels and leadership must be open to engaging in dialogue with staff and committed to implementing suggested changes.
To combat clinician burnout, organizations and organizational leadership must prioritize clinician well-being and implement solutions that create an environment in which all clinicians can thrive. The viability of our health system depends on it.