Improve staff retention by tackling burnout

Dissatisfaction with electronic health records also tied to clinician turnover

Could addressing causes of burnout help to reduce turnover among clinicians? Results of a recently-released survey suggest that it might.

In 2020 health IT consulting firm KLAS Research began asking members of its ARCH collaborative—a group of healthcare organizations working to improve the EHR experience through surveys and benchmarking—how likely they were to leave their employer in the next two years. The goal was to identify which clinicians were most likely to leave and what health care organizations could do to improve clinician retention.

The survey found that feelings of burnout, and the intensity of those feelings, correlated most closely with plans to leave their job. Sixty percent of respondents who reported feeling “completely burned out” said they were likely to leave, compared with only 9% who reported no feelings of burnout and 12% who said they felt “under stress.”

Those citing burnout as the reason for wanting to leave point to a wide variety of factors contributing to their feelings of burnout. Chief among these were “chaotic work environment” (47%), “too much time spent on bureaucratic tasks” (46%), “lack of effective teamwork in my organization” (38%) and “no personal control over workload” (37%). “The common attribute of these contributors, along with several other leading responses, is that they can all be influenced by the organization’s governance structure,” the authors note.

After burnout, EHR-related factors were most closely associated with intent to quit. Fifty-six percent of respondents who were “very dissatisfied” or “dissatisfied” with their EHR said they planned to leave, versus 29% of those were “satisfied” or “very satisfied.”

The takeaway here, according to the study’s authors, is that “when clinicians feel the EHR is a help rather than a hindrance, they are more likely to want to stay at their organization,” therefore “health care leaders should focus on improving the areas of EHR satisfaction with the most room to improve.”

One of those areas for improvement, according to the survey, is time spent in after-hours charting.About one in four survey respondents who spent more than 25 hours per week charting after hours said they planned to leave their job in the next two years, compared with 16% of those who spent from zero to five hours charting after work hours.

Another effective EHR-related strategy for improving retention is to tailor EHR training to a clinician’s role in the workflow. Thirty-one percent of clinicians who strongly disagreed that their training was specific to their workflow planned to leave their jobs, compared with 14% who strongly agreed that they received training customized to their role in the organization’s workflow.

This article was originally published by sister publication Medical Economics.