Burnout has become commonplace in the healthcare industry, which is a big problem for just about everybody. Healthcare providers suffering from burnout are shown to deliver lower quality care and increased risks of patient safety issues, according to the British Medical Journal. Other effects from burnout include significantly reduced office hours and even ceasing to practice medicine altogether.
Of course, it’s not just physicians who are in danger of burning out: Front office staff also feel the effects of overwork, which can have major ramifications for healthcare practices.
How can healthcare providers recognize burnout among staff members when they themselves are feeling the crunch? Here are three signs of burnout to watch for and a few ways providers can help front office staff feel less strain.
Signs of Front Office Burnout
Much of the work on identifying occupational burnout — whether physician, nurse, or front office staff — can be traced back to the work of psychologists Christina Maslach and Susan E. Jackson. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is a standardized assessment featuring 22 signs of burnout clustered around three major groupings.
These three groupings are the major warning signs that someone is suffering from burnout.
1. Emotional Exhaustion
Emotional exhaustion is when someone feels constantly drained by their work, feeling in over their head, constantly overextended and unable to get ahead. Does a front office employee feel like they are constantly treading water?
The second sign of burnout is “depersonalization.” This is when employees distance themselves from work through sarcasm or cynicism. Are your front office staff uncaring or unsympathetic towards the needs and wants of patients?
3. Lack of Professional Accomplishment
The third and final major sign of burnout is suffering from a lack of professional accomplishment. Do your staff feel as though their work benefits patients? Do they feel competent, intellectually challenged, like they have the tools and resources to contribute to the practice’s strategic success?
How Providers Can Reduce and Prevent Staff Burnout
Healthcare providers who are worried about front office burnout should make any adjustments to help those showing early signs of burnout. The following three strategies can help combat staff burnout. Implementing these strategies could go a long way to ensuring happy and healthy staff members.
First, healthcare providers need to delegate responsibility effectively so that they are only doing what they are uniquely trained to do: care for patients. In doing this, they create a waterfall where front office staff are given more responsibility for the overall success of the practice.
This might seem as if it would cause front office burnout, but it actually provides a better sense of professional accomplishment for everyone because it creates the belief that a patient’s well-being is a team-based effort.
2. Automate Routine Tasks
Second, automate routine processes for frontline staff so that the added responsibilities delegated to them don’t create an overwhelming feeling or the feeling of treading water. Tasks such as appointment reminders, patient satisfaction surveys, online reputation management, and even scheduling patient visits can be automated through medical software.
3. Require Time Off
Studies show U.S. workers are bad at taking vacations to emotionally recharge themselves. By mandating front office staff take ample vacation time, it forces them to step away from their jobs to spend time with family, travel, check-off items on their personal to-do lists, and more. This in turn provides a source of energy to return to work with new vigor.
If practices can create an environment where front office staff are emotionally engaged with their jobs and the role they provide to patients’ health, then there is a better likelihood they won’t suffer from burnout.