Healthcare workers are burning out at record rates, and the problem is negatively affecting patient care in New Jersey and across the U.S.
What Is Healthcare Worker Burnout?
Because of widespread staff shortages, many doctors, nurses and other medical professionals face long hours and overwhelming caseloads during every shift. These stressful working conditions can lead to burnout, a state of emotional and physical exhaustion associated with mental distress, cynicism, self-doubt and compassion fatigue.
The rate of healthcare worker burnout has been rising for years, and, to make matters worse, many hospitals have been cutting staff salaries. As a result, thousands of medical professionals have been fleeing the healthcare industry. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, around 20% of American hospitals reported critically low staff numbers in January 2022.
Some healthcare systems have hired traveling nurses, military medical personnel and others to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, this solution puts training burdens on existing staff and forces new workers to make life-and-death decisions in unfamiliar clinical environments.
How Is Patient Care Impacted?
Healthcare worker burnout has a negative impact on patient safety and increases the risk of medical malpractice claims. Fatigue and burnout can cause hospital staff to make more medical errors, which can endanger the lives of patients. In addition, studies show that burnout can cause healthcare workers to lose empathy for the people under their care, which can lead to apathy and substandard treatment.
Healthcare experts say there are several ways hospitals can reduce burnout among staff, including making workloads more manageable, increasing salaries and encouraging workers to seek help for substance abuse problems and depression. These solutions could ease some of the stress healthcare workers face each day and improve overall patient care.