According to a study done before the pandemic, over one-half of physicians and one-third of nurses experience symptoms of burnout. Now, we’re seeing an unprecedented rise in the prevalence of burnout among clinicians due to demanding hours, lack of work-life balance, higher demand for providers, and stressful circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Burnout generally refers to physical and emotional exhaustion coming from chronic stressors. For many providers, it can feel like they can’t provide their highest quality of care or that they’re not functioning in a high-quality system. People can develop burnout from contributing factors like a long commute to extended hours. Providers who are feeling burnout can lead to a decreased quality of care, emotional distancing from one’s personal life, and prolonged stress and overwhelmingness in other aspects of their life.
The state of clinician burnout
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinician burnout rate was reported to be around 25%. As the pandemic continues, the number is increasing. It can be challenging when providers balance raising a family, longer work hours, personal life, and their mental and physical health.
In recent years, dialogue about who the pandemic experts are has been mentally taxing for providers. For them, the continuing dialogue can be taxing about how we should proceed during the pandemic and what measures we should take as a community to keep people safe has caused a significant amount of stress. The beginning of the pandemic was also mentally taxing to providers when they had to adapt and pivot virtually during this uncertain and stressful time.
Many behavioral health providers are on the front lines of the mental health crisis. According to a survey done by the American Psychological Association in 2020, 8 in 10 adults say the pandemic was a significant source of stress in their life. Providers across the country are having a hard time handling many patients, especially when there are few resources to provide quality care to patients.
And, due to the provider shortage, there is enormous pressure and insufficient providers to combat the mental health crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What providers can do to identify burnout
Burnout can be hard to identify, but physical exhaustion and the need to recharge and self-care can be early signs. Sometimes burnout can show itself in emotional exhaustion as well. For example, when you cannot emotionally engage in your relationships with your family and friends or are having difficulty enjoying your hobbies, these can be early red flags that you are suffering from acute burnout. It can be hard to take time for yourself as a provider, especially when you want to meet the needs of your patients. Taking time out for yourself and engaging in self-care can help mitigate and alleviate burnout.
Ways telepsychiatry can alleviate provider burnout
When implemented properly, telepsychiatry can help address the challenge of provider burnout. According to Physician’s Weekly, 20% of providers said greater flexibility in their work schedules could help avoid burnout. Here are just a few of the ways telepsychiatry can help decrease burnout:
- Telepsychiatry can help clinicians to have a better work-life balance, decreasing burnout. Through telepsychiatry, providers can have a sense of control and autonomy over their schedules. Providers can have the ability to spend more time with their family, engage in self-care, and take appointments from the comfort of their own home.
- No more long commutes. Providers can skip the commute and conduct remote visits with the help of telepsychiatry. When providers can work from home, they will no longer need to worry about the wasted time or the expense of a commute, especially in rural areas where they might have to travel further to see patients.
- Practicing from a setting where you are more comfortable improves the quality of care for your patients. With telepsychiatry, providers can provide optimal care from the comfort of their own homes.
How can organizations help their providers?
As an organization, you should make sure your providers aren’t isolated during difficult times. Here are a few ways you can help your providers:
- Remind them about employee assistance programs and other places to get mental health help. Ensure they know who is on their team and who they can talk to, especially when they are virtual. With a culture of open communication, encourage your providers to talk about their concerns.
- Monitor your provider’s mental wellbeing. Check in with your providers. Sometimes, when taking care of their patients and their loved ones, it can be challenging for providers to take a step back and think about themselves. Burnout can be mitigated by creating an environment where a provider’s mental health is a priority.
- Give your clinicians ample time for their personal lives by not overscheduling them. Make sure you’re giving your providers as much flexibility as you can. Reinforce safety practices, monitor their stress, and provide support for your providers. And, remember to encourage your providers to take their PTO.
Resources to support providers and looking towards the future
According to a study on physician suicide before the pandemic, an estimated 300 physicians die by suicide every year, and the rate is increasing due to the pandemic. It’s becoming more important to keep an eye on depression and anxiety for physicians during this difficult time. Many providers are leaving the profession or retiring early, which is also contributing to the provider shortage. By ensuring our providers are feel mentally and emotionally well, we can keep more people in the profession and provide the best quality possible.
There are a few resources that can help you manage clinician burnout from an individual level and organizational level. These toolkits, TEDTalks, and guides can help you prevent burnout for yourself and advocate for a healthier workplace culture. Here are a few resources:
- TEDTalks: TED has a list of TEDTalks that can help you mitigate burnout. They share great information on how to bounce back and get you back in the groove of everyday life through various tips and tricks.
- The American Psychiatrist Association Toolkit for Well-Being Ambassadors: This slide deck can help you support, advocate, and spread awareness about burnout in your organization. The APA also has a toolkit, manual, and flyer to help you address the burnout needs in your workplace.
- The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ): AHRQ’s guide on physician burnout shows the causes of burnout and lists research-backed interventions for clinician burnout.
Where Iris Telehealth can help
At Iris Telehealth, we strive to make implementing a telepsychiatry solution for your organization as easy as possible. We take care of the paperwork, credentialing, and licensing for providers. Iris can work alongside you every step of the way to help take the burden off of providers and your organization. Contact us today to see if our telepsychiatry services can help your providers and organization provide high-quality care for your patients.