Staff shortages have long plagued the healthcare industry, and the situation has only further devolved in recent years, with Mercer projecting shortages across many healthcare professions and an estimated lack of nearly 30,000 Nurse Practitioners by 2025 (Duquesne University, 2023). A few factors play into the shortages the healthcare field is experiencing—namely, aging populations, lack of faculty, the COVID-19 pandemic, and burnout.
Aging Population- according to the US Census Bureau, by 2030, 21% of the US population will be 65+ years old (USC, 2023). Older people are more likely to have chronic illnesses requiring more long-term care, causing more stress on the healthcare industry.
Lack of Faculty- between 2019 and 2020, nursing colleges alone turned away over 80,000 applicants (USC, 2023). This was mainly due to a lack of qualified instructors and appropriate infrastructure to bring in new students.
COVID-19 Pandemic and Workplace Violence- COVID-19 profoundly affected the healthcare industry; many professionals left the field or retired after such a tumultuous time. This exodus led to even greater staff shortages, resulting in less consistent care and ultimately disgruntled patients. For additional information on this trend, please see our piece, Workplace Violence in Healthcare Increases 115% Since 2021: Mitigating the Growing Risk.
Burnout- burnout is a persistent feeling of emotional and mental exhaustion brought on by work, and according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 40% of doctors and 49% of nurses reported feeling burnt out in 2022 (USC, 2023). Burnout can play a huge role in a healthcare professional’s decision to leave the workforce.
Disconcertingly, staff shortages further exacerbate burnout rates, and burnout has already been identified as a leading cause for professionals to leave. While burnout can be experienced in any role, some groups are experiencing it more acutely than others. These include:
"Emergency medicine – 62% reporting burnout
Hospital medicine – 59% reporting burnout
Family medicine – 58% reporting burnout
Pediatrics – 55% reporting burnout
OBGYN – 54% reporting burnout
Internal Medicine – 52% reporting burnout”
Nurses – 49% reporting burnout
What To Do About Burnout?
Combating burnout must be a priority to improve the quality of life for providers and prevent future staff shortages. Burnout symptoms include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased feelings of achievement (Berg, 2023). Small changes can help providers feel more valued and less isolated. These smaller measures can include offering recognition and appreciation for their work or increasing connections between team members to develop a better sense of community. Things like setting up monthly luncheons or other social events could help foster a sense of camaraderie. While these smaller steps can improve connectedness, they will not be enough to provide the overhaul the system needs to address burnout.
The American Medical Association (AMA) created the Joy in Medicine Health System Recognition Program, which focuses on six key factors in improving physician burnout.
1. “Monitor physician burnout using an assessment tool.
2. Establish a well-being committee or office.
3. Commit to measuring time spent on the EHR after work.
4. Promote leadership development.
5. Measure teamwork metrics.
6. Establish peer support programs.”
Practice managers and physicians are not alone in combatting this ongoing issue of burnout. PRA’s partner insurance carriers provide resources and support to their insureds regarding burnout. Please get in touch with your PRA agent to learn more about the tools available to you with your carrier.
AMA. (June 7, 2023). Advocacy in action: Reducing physician burnout. Article [Website]. Retrieved from: Advocacy in action: Reducing physician burnout | American Medical Association (ama-assn.org)
Berg, Sara. (August 29, 2023). These six physician specialties have the most burnout. Article [Website]. Retrieved from: These six physician specialties have the most burnout | American Medical Association (ama-assn.org)
Berg, Sara. (July 25, 2023). Focus on these six areas to boost physician well-being. Article [Website]. Retrieved from: Focus on these six areas to promote physician well-being | American Medical Association (ama-assn.org)
Duquesne University. (2023). The Shortage of Healthcare Workers in the U.S. Article [Website]. Retrieved from: The Shortage of Healthcare Workers in the U.S. | Duquesne University School of Nursing
USC University of Southern California. (March 13, 2023). A Public Health Crisis: Staffing Shortages in Health Care. Article [Website]. Retrieved from: A Public Health Crisis: Staffing Shortages in Health Care | USC MPH