Clinical Burnout: Combatting Clinical Fatigue with Technology That Actually Helps
The Joint Commission has released a Sentinel Event Alert warning healthcare providers about burnout and trauma during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Read it here: Joint Commission – Pandemic Special Edition.
Time pressures, complicated patient conditions and disjointed or incomplete communications are often cited as major contributors to clinical burnout. These issues can result in turnover, mental exhaustion, physical illness and even suicide. Researchers in an AHRQ-funded study “found that more than half of primary care physicians report feeling stressed because of time pressures and other work conditions. More than half of the physicians reported experiencing time pressures when conducting physical examinations. Nearly a third felt they needed at least 50 percent more time than was allotted for this patient care function. In addition, nearly a quarter said they needed at least 50 percent more time for follow-up appointments.”
Nurse leaders can play an important role in recognizing signs of compassion or alert fatigue and burnout among Nursing staff by understanding how to recognize the signs and intervene with one-on-one mentoring programs and support structures. Reports that unfamiliar and overly-complex technologies contribute to feelings of burnout are not uncommon. Burnout can have a detrimental impact on patient-clinician communication, which can lead to unintended consequences.
What can be done to help? Clearly clinicians and Nurses need additional support to combat the many pressures they face, but how can technology play a role to help mitigate stress and clinical burnout, particularly now as they respond to the global coronavirus pandemic?
An Investment in Effective, Collaborative Communication
First, social connection appears to be vital for clinicians and Nurses to fight burnout. The American Medical Association recommends establishing group or team Wellness Programs for clinicians that include building social relationships, participating in enjoyable group activities and physical activity to help combat feelings of stress and burnout. For Nurses, one-on-one training and making sure training resources are available and scheduled for new technologies. Second, Administrators and Nurse Leaders can seek out the kind of technology that will support team collaboration without overly-complex use parameters. Thankfully, many hospital systems are considering and researching systems and tools that help reduce burnout and turnover, establish better patient-clinician communication and achieve higher HCAHPS scores to secure reimbursements. In fact, 91% of hospitals are planning to enhance operational efficiencies in a “five year plan.”
Digital Hospital Whiteboards as a Tool in the Fight Against Burnout
One such system to help increase effective communication and reduce communication errors that can lead to burnout is a digital whiteboard system. When integrated across the EHR, RTLS and other intra-facility systems, digital whiteboards can save time and steps for Nurses and clinicians by speeding rounds and making accurate patient data available to Care Teams in real-time, with secure, one-touch recordkeeping and minimal training. They can be tied to RTLS systems to eliminate manual check-in/check-out boards. Digital whiteboards can pull PAC system images directly to a patient room and reduce the amount of time spent chasing after film jackets. From a central Nurses’ Station, clinicians and Nurses can push health education content and specific messages directly to patients on their TV or bedside tablet and monitor preparations for discharge.
The Journal of Hospital Medicine reports that “despite differences in practice patterns of nurses and physicians in using whiteboards, our findings suggest that all providers value their potential as a tool to improve teamwork, communication, and patient care.”