The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching an effort to help hospitals address workforce burnout and support the mental wellness of their employees.
Led by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation, the initiative includes resources for hospitals to identify areas for improvement in employee well-being and training for frontline leaders to help foster a better work-life balance among staff.
“Many of the current approaches [to burnout] have been directed at individual health workers, asking them to become more resilient, as opposed to changing the environment where these stressors are actually occurring,” said Dr. Casey Chosewood, director of the Office for Total Worker Health, part of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Around 56% of nurses and 47% of physicians reported burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an American Medical Association survey of more than 43,000 healthcare professionals published in March by the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Industrywide issues like inadequate staffing, increased clinical workload and negative employer-employee relations remain the primary causes of burnout among healthcare workers, leading more to unionize or announce their intentions to leave healthcare.
The initiative will focus on offering health systems long-term solutions to widespread burnout and suggesting changes to policies, workflows and systems of mental health support, Chosewood said. Another component is a worker well-being questionnaire that hospitals could use to determine the main struggles at their institution.
The initiative builds on a 2021 CDC campaign to raise awareness of the mental health burdens on clinicians and educate industry leaders on best practices, policies and interventions to prevent burnout.
A number of healthcare worker advocacy organizations have sounded the alarm on clinician burnout, and some legislative efforts have been made to address the issue with funding.
In 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which allotted $135 million over three years to hospitals and the Health and Human Services Department to encourage mental health treatment and prevent suicide among healthcare workers. About $20 million from the law, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, went to the institute to fund research and other work in the clinician mental health space, Chosewood said.