Across the world, people have been joining in the Great Resignation, seeking better work-life balance and better pay. According to new findings in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the Great Resignation has not left medicine untouched. At least 1 in 5 physicians plan on resigning within the next two years, and 1 in 3 doctors and other health professionals plan on reducing their work hours within the following year.
Burnout and Excessive Workload
The findings show that burnout and excessive workload are important drivers leading doctors to want to quit their jobs. As the report states, if just a third to half of the nurses and physicians sampled go through with intention to resign or reduce their work hours, the United States will have a massive staff shortage.
Medical and nursing assistants had the biggest levels of Covid-related stress in the medical profession. This has made it hard for health care establishments to fill medical assistant positions. Already, we are seeing clinics with critical staffing shortages, which has put even more pressure on existing staff.
Workers Feel Unappreciated
Doctors around the world feel as if they are unappreciated and not paid enough. For instance, in British Columbia, Canada, physicians working in hospitals are not paid according to the same fee-based model as family physicians. Instead, they are paid according to salaries, fees, and alternative payments. The result has been that they are largely underpaid compared to family physicians.
Pay is not everything. For many doctors, their work conditions leave them feeling undervalued. This can be corrected without having to raise salaries significantly. Data on the Great Resignation has already shown that feeling valued is more important than the raw salary workers receive. Workers who feel valued are less likely to leave their places of employment, and that goes for physicians too. The best primary care physicians operate in environments that actively work to make staff feel valued. One way this can be done relates to the first point: finding ways to reduce staff hours. Overall, management is encouraged to be transparent in their communications, provide child care support, and employ rapid training to ensure that staff can be quickly deployed to unfamiliar domains.
To help with burnout and stress, staff should be provided with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) and a supportive environment to work in, where they can access confidential mental health services. Teamwork should be improved to reduce workloads. Finally, interventions should be done from a system-level perspective, focusing on organizational culture and efficiency.
More still needs to be done to assess the conditions that doctors work in and develop cogent solutions. Without solutions, the country’s already great staffing shortage will become unmanageable.
Fundamentally, organizational culture has to improve and provide support for workers so they feel valued rather than exploited.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has already begun an initiative, the AMA STEPS Forward program, aimed at helping to reduce physician burnout. More initiatives like that are needed.