Discussions of physician or healthcare professional wellness are often narrowly focused on personal resilience. However, physician wellness is directly correlated to patient quality and safety. In this context, burnout results in more medical errors, less empathy, poor communication, and poorer outcomes for patients.
Is burnout an extravagant cost to your organization? If your answer is “I don’t know,” “maybe,” or “probably,” your organization is inefficiently utilizing its limited resources, spending an unknown amount of money on a mitigatable problem. Without knowing the impact of burnout in your hospital or other medical facility, you can’t calculate the potential value to your organization of initiatives for enhancing workplace efficiency or promoting professional fulfillment.
Clinician burnout threatens our entire healthcare system and results from many contributing factors on multiple levels. All these factors influence patient care, efficient allocation of resources, career development, work culture, and clinician well-being.
Physician turnover costs approximately 2-3 times a physician’s salary due to vacancy, recruitment, onboarding, and lost patient revenue; the national average cost of replacing a physician is estimated to be $500,000. On a national level, the fiscal impact of physician burnout on the healthcare system is conservatively estimated to be approximately $4.6 billion annually. It is important to note that this estimate accounts only for physicians, and there are approximately four times as many nurses in the United States. The cost of replacing a nurse is estimated to be 1.3 times the nurse’s salary.
The above information is hardly shocking in light of current data on physician wellness, as both male and female physicians’ average rates of suicide are significantly higher than of the general male and female population, respectively.
Given the complexity of burnout and the predominance of systemic-level contributions to it, preventing and mitigating burnout is a shared responsibility between organization and individual, with the most responsibility falling on the organization.
Since each organization and department is unique, initiatives can be provided in any domain once specific areas of improvement have been identified.
The first steps in solving a problem are acknowledging and assessing its scope. Unfortunately, many organizations do not provide baseline burnout and wellness assessments of healthcare professionals.
Internal well-being and burnout assessments can be done at any level. Systemic initiatives to acknowledge and assess healthcare professional burnout enable leadership to facilitate positive change and promote a culture of wellness in the workplace.