National Academy of Medicine Releases Report on Clinician Burnout

In a newly published report, the National Academy of Medicine called for systematic changes from health care organizations, educational institutions, and all levels of government to prevent and mitigate clinician burnout tied to professional and academic environments.

“The work system – including the physical environment, the technologies in use, and how care team members interact with each other – deeply influences clinicians’ professional well-being,” said Pascale Carayon, PhD, who co-chaired the committee responsible for producing the report. “To provide the best patient care possible, health care organizations must create a work environment that fosters clinicians’ safety, health, and sense of fulfillment.”

The report acknowledges that burnout is not an individual issue, and personal stress management strategies are not sufficient to address the issue of clinician burnout in the setting of a dysfunctional work environment. Instead, it outlines six goals that health care stakeholders – including universities, health care organizations, and state legislatures – should pursue at the systems level:

  • Create positive work environments that promote high-quality care, job satisfaction, and social support, starting at the executive leadership level, and ideally with an organizational executive whose role is dedicated to clinician well-being.
  • Address burnout in training and at the early career stage by monitoring workload (including preparation for licensure examinations and required training activities), implementing pass-fail grading, improving access to scholarships and affordable loans, and building new loan repayment systems.
  • Reduce tasks that do not improve patient care, including those related to regulations and standards for payment, health information technology (IT), quality measurement and reporting, and professional and legal requirements for licensure.
  • Improve usability and relevance of health IT by reducing documentation demands and automating non-essential tasks, as well as developing the infrastructure that enables shared decision-making between clinicians and patients.
  • Reduce stigma and improve burnout recovery services (such as peer support programs and mental health providers) to combat the high rate of clinicians who do not report burnout because they fear the potential consequences, including loss of licensure.
  • Create a national research agenda on clinician well-being by the end of 2020 led by federal agencies including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“System-level solutions aimed at reducing or preventing burnout for clinicians of all types, across all workplaces and career stages, are essential to supporting a high-functioning health system and satisfactory patient experience,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau, MD. “Health care leaders at all levels must take urgent action to uphold clinician well-being as a fundamental value that is essential to the fulfilment of their missions.”

Source: National Academy of Medicine, “Taking Action Against Clinician Burnout: A Systems Approach to Professional Well-Being (2019).”