Dr. Bonnie Clipper, DNP, MA, MBA, RN, CENP, FACHE
Fall is a time of many conferences and events for nurses, physicians, and other clinicians. After reflecting on the many keynote speakers, panel discussions, break-out sessions, and shared stories that I have recently experienced, a common theme has emerged that validates much of what we hear about clinician burnout. This theme is a trend among nearly all organizations, inpatient, outpatient, large or small, academic or community-based. It is a sense of a lack of value and respect shown to clinicians (and often by colleagues towards each other) for their work in providing care. In conjunction with the conference information, the recent study on clinical wellbeing (NAM, 2019) has grabbed my attention due to the staggering statistics, including the fact that “between 35% – 54% of U.S. nurses and physicians have substantial symptoms of burnout” (NAM Study Highlights, 2019, para. 2). How is this good for clinicians or for patients for that matter?
Factors such as meaning and purpose in work, as well as organizational culture, are contributors to burnout (NAM, 2019) yet not impossible to positively impact. Hard – yes, impossible – no. The good news is that with some work, these factors can be changed. Imagine the impact of sharing gratitude more regularly for the care that is provided and expressing thanks to team members for a job well done. Sounds soft, right? Not really. How do you feel when someone thanks you for doing your job? Warm, fuzzy, grateful? Consider the impact of how nurses, physicians and other members of the care team would feel if patients were able to directly recognize or thank them for their work in real-time. According to the recently released National Academies of Medicine study (NAM, October 2019) feeling appreciated and valued go hand-in-hand.
The significance of this is that it isn’t hard to express gratitude to clinicians to reinforce the importance of their contribution and provide validation for the meaningful nature of this work. If we know that sharing recognition and gratitude can reduce burnout, provide validation and demonstrate the value that clinicians bring to the patient care ecosystem, why don’t we do more of it? After all, we know that “Meaningful recognition has been acknowledged as a component of a healthy work environment” (AACN, 2017).
For some reason in healthcare, we have a hard time creating a culture built on the “positive” and an even more difficult time maintaining this kind of work environment. Using the tools that we have available will help us to build healthy cultures and positive work environments. According to the work done by the AACN (2017) “… meaningful recognition can influence a healthy work environment…” (pp. 443).
What if we are making this too hard? Working together and finding ways to recognize clinicians for their efforts will incrementally improve the work environment which is highly likely to reduce burnout and promote retention. This is the perfect time to incorporate technologic tools to help us build muscle memory and make it easier for expressing gratitude and demonstrating recognition to accomplish our shared goal of reducing burnout.
AACN Standards for Establishing and Sustaining Healthy Work Environments. (2018). AACN standards for establishing and sustaining healthy work environments. Accessed on September 30, 2019. Accessed from https://www.aacn.org/nursing-excellence/standards/aacn-standards-for-establishing-and-sustaining-healthy-work-environments.
Clinical Well Being Study. (2019). National Academies of Medicine Study. Accessed on November 5, 2019. Accessed from nam.edu/ClinicianWellBeingStudy.
NAM Consensus Study Report. (October, 2019). Accessed on November 8, 2019. Accessed at https://nam.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/CR-report-highlights-brief-final.pdf.