Community health organizations recognize the problem; stress, burnout, and job turnover are key issues plaguing the American medical safety net. It is particularly rampant in community health settings. The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) reports 68% of health centers lost up to 25% of their workforce in the past six months and 15% reported turnover as high as 50%. Stress and overwork played a key factor in these numbers. Finding the right mix of clinical to administrative responsibilities is much harder with these turnover numbers. So, too, is the difficulty inherent in establishing staff work/life balance in these critical healthcare centers that are so vital to the communities they serve. But we must find balance or run the risk of higher numbers next year.
Here’s what your community health center can do right now to support the mental health of your provider team.
Eliminating Burnout in Your Community Healthcare Team
Some of the elements contributing to our collective stress levels include:
- Overwork and caseload
- Care team integration issues
- A lack of consistency in training
- Unfilled Positions
While nurses and administrative staff turnover is currently high, they are not the only frontline workers struggling with the demands of the job. Allowing rest and relaxation time right now for the Chief Medical Officers, Medical Directors, Site Medical Directors, or other key administrators is a real issue right now. From our perspective, the issues are work-life balance and a reasonable clinical to administrative ratio for provider leaders. This used to be 15%-10%:85%-90% patient work to administrative time. With all of the pressures on this type of position, it should be closer to 10%:90%. Most provider leaders (clinical, behavioral health, dental) will facetiously say it is now 30%:95%! What can be done at every level of the organization to provide immediate support?
Recognize mental health issues.
The Association of American Medical Colleges says, “Recognizing burnout is the first step toward finding solutions. While most community healthcare centers deal with mental and behavioral healthcare in patients, it’s the rare organization that manages to promote the issue internally. Establishing peer-to-peer coaching and voicing our shared experiences can normalize our embrace of self- and system-sponsored mental healthcare approaches for our teams.
Approximately 42% of physicians report they do not seek treatment for their mental health issues, in part because they have no workplace support to deal with it. Normalizing the resources you make available could perhaps alleviate some of the stigma and reluctance to pursue treatment. This starts by creating a list of outreach treatment programs, anonymous psychological testing and services, or even creating workplace groups to deal with trauma, burnout, and grief. Many healthcare workers at every level of your organization will take advantage of these resources. But many will also avoid seeking out treatment publicly. It’s important to establish both public and private support channels for your staff.
Train team leaders.
Organizational leadership must be trained in how to recognize and obviate the signs of burnout in their staff. Supervising with an empathetic ear toward the stresses your team experiences will help support them. It will also create a culture where active engagement around issues of stress, burnout, and mental health is the norm. From orientation to senior tenure, every employee in your organization should be aware of the mental healthcare resources that are available to them. This awareness begins with your management team.
- Establish wellness teams.
The community healthcare environment is tight-knit in most facilities. You can leverage these close relationships by forming provider wellness committees to shift your culture toward better mental health awareness. For example, work within the various domains of the facility to select a wellness champion that is respected by their peers. Each of these individuals can meet regularly to establish cultural changes to promote better mental health. These committees can establish stress-free zones in the workplace that eliminate electronic devices and give people the space to decompress. The wellness team can establish new company policies that promote work/life balance.
While these are just a few examples, you can also work with UHC Solutions to provide additional clinical and administrative team members that promote better work/life balance for everyone. Call on us.