The realities of our healthcare system are driving many health workers to burnout. They are at an increased risk for mental health challenges and choosing to leave the health workforce early. They work in distressing environments that strain their physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. This will make it harder for patients to get care when they need it.
The USA is facing high levels of burnout among health care workers, which could lead to serious shortcomings in patient care, a new report from the U.S. Surgeon General has found.
Key takeaways from the Surgeon General’s Advisory
Causes of burnout
Workplace systems cause burnout among health workers, not individuals. There are a range of societal, cultural, structural, and organizational factors that contribute to burnout among health workers. Some examples include: excessive workloads, administrative burdens, limited say in scheduling, and lack of organizational support.
Physician demand will continue to grow faster than supply, leading to a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,000 physicians by 2033. The most alarming gaps are expected in primary care and rural communities.
Differential impacts on health workers
Burnout, resource shortages, and high risk for severe COVID-19 infections have unevenly impacted women and health workers of color. This is due to pre-existing inequities around social determinants of health, exacerbated by the pandemic.
Health worker burnout harms all of us
If not addressed, the health worker burnout crisis will make it harder for patients to get care when they need it, cause health costs to rise, hinder our ability to prepare for the next public health emergency, and worsen health disparities.
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