Ways to improve hospital staff work life, reduce burnout & improve patient care

Physician having trouble solving a problem.

Most healthcare leaders have heard about the Triple Aim by now. It’s the concept introduced by Harvard professor Don Berwick a decade ago that the three ways to optimize health system performance should be built around enhancing patient experience, improving public health and reducing costs.

It’s an idea that took hold and has shaped healthcare policy ever since. But lately, another element is being recognized as just as vital to improving health system performance: Staff and physician work-life balance and morale.

That’s because medical staff burnout and dissatisfaction imperils the Triple Aim. Another physician, this time from University of California at San Francisco, proposed that a fourth goal be added in his 2014 paper: From Triple to Quadruple Aim: Care of the Patient Requires Care of the Provider.

The National Academy of Medicine estimates that 50 percent of physicians showed substantial symptoms of burnout, while similar percentages of nurses and other healthcare staff reported  depression, burnout, and emotional exhaustion.

With more expectations heaped on the healthcare workforce than ever before, what can you as a hospital leader, do to improve the work life of your staff? Here are some suggestions from CompleteRx:

  • Learn to spot the signs of burnout. In order to stop burnout in its tracks, hospital leaders must learn how it manifests in the healthcare workplace. One staffing agency, Barton Associates, lists frequent errors, decreased empathy, workplace toxicity, and lower patient satisfaction as key indicators of staff and physician burnout.
  • Get help with data entry. Rather than one person being in charge of all EMR documentation, take a team approach. Nurses and medical assistants can help doctors and one another. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can help the whole team with medication documentation and prescription processing. Such an approach is a proven way to improve physician and nurse satisfaction and improve billing accuracy.
  • Expand roles. Allow nurses and medical assistants to coach patients on discharge instructions and chronic health and preventive care. Allow pharmacists to inform patients about in-hospital medication changes and discharge medications.
  • Establish best practices for prescription refills. Studies show it can save doctors 5 hours a week while improving care if prescription refills for those with chronic conditions are standardized and synchronized.
  • Keep teams close together. Co-locating all team members in one central location saves everyone time and effort looking for one another when support is needed, or questions and concerns arise and require discussion.
  • Cross train as needed. To avoid shifting burnout from your doctors to other staff, make sure those who assume new responsibilities are well-trained for their new responsibilities.
  • Cut waste ruthlessly. Nothing frustrates employees more than unnecessary paperwork and broken procedures. Therefore, champion process improvement at every opportunity so that time- and productivity-wasters are re-engineered out of your hospital.

Want other suggestions for improving both pharmacy and overall hospital performance? Read these blog posts from our Knowledge Series:


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