Negative Effects of Healthcare Provider Burnout Not Lost on Patients

June 26, 2019
Tracey Walker
Tracey Walker

A new survey has revealing findings about public awareness surrounding burnout among healthcare professionals.

There is a high degree of public awareness that burnout among pharmacists, physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals can lead to impaired attention and decreased functioning that may result in medical errors and reduce patient safety, according to a new survey.

A Harris Poll survey, conducted on behalf of ASHP (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists), was conducted online among 2,007 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. It shows Americans are concerned about burnout among their healthcare providers, but they are often reluctant to mention it for fear of adding to their stress.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Americans are concerned about burnout among healthcare professionals. This is an issue among hospital pharmacists as well-with one in four Americans saying they think hospital pharmacists (26%) are often burnt out and affects how patients feel about the care they’re receiving. Seventy-seven percent reported that when they see their clinician is feeling burnt out, they become concerned about their own care and safety and 80% believe burnout diminishes quality of care.

“It’s important for healthcare executives to recognize clinician burnout among healthcare professionals, like pharmacists, and take steps to help reduce the burden while simultaneously advancing a resilient workforce,” says Christina Martin, PharmD, MS, director, ASHP Membership Forums. “Healthcare executives play a critical role in advocating for their staff to ensure that teams are taken care of and performing at optimal levels to protect patient safety.”

Related article: Surprising Way Workplace Stress Affects Patients with Diabetes

The survey suggests that healthcare professionals may be conveying signs of burnout without knowing it. U.S. adults said they can tell when healthcare providers feel burnt out if they seem tired (60%) or rushed (56%).

In addition, a majority of Americans encourage healthcare professionals to take care of themselves, with 91% saying it is important that healthcare professionals do whatever they can to avoid burnout. Nearly half of U.S. adults said they would avoid asking questions if they thought their healthcare professional appeared burnt out because they would not want to add to their stress.

According to Martin, ASHP encourages healthcare organizations-including healthcare executives-to boost resilience by: 

  • Recognizing the presence and risk of burnout in the workplace

  • Identifying burnout risk factors

  • Forming a committee to explore burnout causes and resilience solutions

  • Evaluating changes to confirm an increase in employee resilience

  • Celebrating and sharing positive improvements

ASHP has, for a number of years, provided resources, tools, and community connections to help its members develop solutions to combat burnout. In 2017, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) recognized the urgency of burnout among healthcare professionals, and ASHP became the only pharmacy organization sponsor member of NAM’s Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience. The goal of the Action Collaborative is to assess and understand the underlying causes of clinician stress, burnout, and suicide, and advance solutions to prevent it. Unfortunately, this issue continues to plague clinicians and ASHP wanted to better highlight the issue for pharmacists, other healthcare professionals and the general public.