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Clinician Well-Being—Addressing Global Needs for Improvements in the Healthcare Field

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Key Takeaways

  • The ACC, AHA, European Society of Cardiology and World Heart Federation issued a joint opinion paper calling for burnout reform among healthcare providers.
  • The organizations identified the key drivers to burnout and offered solutions for organizations to reduce burnout among staff.
  • Increasing clinician well-being among a provider population ensures exceptional and optimal patient care.

In a joint opinion statement published to Circulation, the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, the European Society of Cardiology and the World Heart Federation called for a global initiative to confront clinician well-being. 

The paper, published in mid-July, addresses the drivers and ramifications of burnout, and provides strategies to improve the well-being of those in the cardiovascular workforce. However, the suggestions and directives in the paper can be applied to clinicians in every specialty across the medical profession. 

The organizations call for global action in healthcare reform, research, and policy  development to address  clinician well-being. Further, the authors “aim to generate awareness about the impact of burnout and potential solutions to improve clinician well-being in cardiovascular medicine.”

What Is Clinician Well-Being?

Clinician well-being is described as experiencing satisfaction and engagement with work while also having a feeling of professional fulfillment and a sense of meaning in work. In order for hospital systems and healthcare organizations to function at 100% efficiency, staff must have a strong sense of well-being and feel at least moderately satisfied with the work they are accomplishing. 

A survey conducted by the sponsoring organizations found that only 23.7% of clinician respondents felt satisfied with their work. 

“Clinician wellness is a broad entity that requires medical specialty societies to develop a multipronged approach to make meaningful progress,” stated the authors.

Drivers of Burnout

One of the biggest inhibitors of well-being is burnout. It is described as an occupational phenomenon that is defined as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of low personal accomplishment in a perceived stressful work environment.

According to the paper, the following drivers have caused a dramatic increase in burnout:  

  • workload and job demands
  • efficiency and resources
  • control over work
  • work-life integration (WLI)
  • alignment of individual and organizational values,
  • social  support/community  at  work
  • meaning in work

Burnout contributes to both personal and professional ramifications. Personal  ramifications  of  burnout  include  higher  rates of  alcohol  abuse,  substance  use,  dysfunctional  relationships, depression, and suicide. Although mental health conditions can occur along the spectrum of burnout, it is important  to  recognize  that  not  all  burned  out  clinicians will develop mental health conditions, and not all clinicians with mental health conditions will experience burnout. 

Professional ramifications of clinician burnout include higher rates of medical errors,   lower quality of care, patient satisfaction, increased disruptive behavior, and loss of  professionalism  accompanied  by  a  decreased level of empathy.  

Reducing Burnout Among the Clinician Population

Assessing burnout and its drivers by conducting surveys is a critical step to understanding the factors that need to be addressed to cultivate an engaged and efficient workforce and to mitigate clinician burnout. Hence, burnout is a metric to measure and monitor, whereas  clinician well-being is the goal in cardiology and general medicine.  

Additional ways in which healthcare organizations can prevent burnout include:  

  • Support the psychosocial health of employees and be accountable for a holistic approach.
  • Create an organizational infrastructure in which clinicians can thrive.
  • Provide employees with a structure that allows for confidential reporting of mistreatment, as well as destigmatization of clinician access to mental health resources.

A Future With High Clinician Morale

Regular assessment of clinician burnout is essential to understand the effectiveness of  implemented strategic pilot projects. Hospital and healthcare organizations must invest in primary and primordial prevention before considering secondary prevention, which is only beneficial after burnout has occurred. 

“As clinicians, we continuously strive for the improved health of our patients and at the same time recognize our own welfare is paramount to them receiving optimal care,” said Laxmi Mehta, MD, chair of the report and cardiovascular medicine professor at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “We will continue to work together and strategize to maintain the well-being of our workforce.”

References

  1. Carbajal C.  4 cardiovascular organizations issue call to improve clinician well-being. Becker’s Hospital Review. Published July 13, 2021. Accessed July 20, 2021. 
  2. Mehta LS, Elkind MSV, Achenbach S, Pinto FJ, Poppas A. Clinician Well-Being—addressing global needs for improvements in the health care field: a joint opinion from the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, European Society of Cardiology, World Heart Federation. Circulation. Published July 13, 2021. Accessed July 20, 2021.  

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