February 13, 2020

New call to action addressing growing epidemic of burnout and depression in healthcare professionals unveiled

Proposal asks policymakers, healthcare leaders to support needs for culture change, resources

A new evidence-based policy brief released today addresses an alarming level of healthcare clinician burnout – and its consequential impact on patient care – and asks state policymakers and healthcare leaders to take urgent action to ensure safe and high-quality care.

A partnership of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) and the Helene Fuld Health Trust National Institute for Evidence-based Practice (EBP) in Nursing and Healthcare at The Ohio State University College of Nursing crafted the policy brief. It points to research that finds high rates of depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide among healthcare clinicians, which in turn can lead to dangerous medical errors and costly turnover:

  • Medical errors were the third-leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 250,000 deaths per year, according to a 2016 analysis. While clinician burnout is not the only factor contributing to medical errors, it does pose a significant threat to patient outcomes.
  • Burnout is estimated to be responsible for approximately $4.6 billion in costs related to physician turnover and reduced clinical hours.
  • Total estimated costs associated with nurse turnover for an average hospital were between $4.4 million and $6.9 million in 2018.

“This important partnership between our Fuld National Institute for Evidence-based Practice and HPIO spotlights the critical issue of clinician burnout and how we can improve population health, patient outcomes and healthcare quality across our state,” said Bernadette Melnyk, PhD, APRN-CNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, vice president for health promotion, university chief wellness officer and dean of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University. “Healthcare professionals of all disciplines cannot take great care of their patients and families if they do not prioritize taking great care of themselves. However, healthcare organizations also must be proactive in supporting clinicians and addressing burnout and depression from a holistic perspective, including shift length, providing resources and building a culture that promotes well-being.”

“Our analysis of the research literature found that clinicians and health professional students face serious problems related to their health and well-being,” said Reem Aly, vice president of HPIO and co-author of the report. “Understanding the relationship between clinician well-being and patient care and safety enables state policymakers and healthcare leaders to implement evidence-informed policies and programs that improve outcomes for clinicians and their patients.”

The brief outlines several evidence-informed action steps that legislators, state agencies, health professional licensing boards and other leaders can champion to stem the tide of clinician burnout, including:

  • Advancing an organizational culture that supports wellness
  • Promoting wellness programming that reduces burnout and fosters resiliency in health professional clinicians and students
  • Providing confidential mental health screening, referral and treatment services for clinicians and students
  • Supporting policies that reduce stigma, including confidential monitoring and treatment programs as alternatives to discipline programs
  • Monitoring and tracking data on health professional clinician and student wellness

The full report and resource page can be accessed at www.hpio.net/a-call-to-action.

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