Tips to Help Providers and Staff Avoid Holiday Burnout

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The holiday season is constantly vacillating between cheer and stress, and that emotional whiplash can be exhausting. Add that on top of already stressful occupations, like those of healthcare providers and their support staff, and you may find yourself on the fast track to burnout. Burnout often presents itself as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and moral distress, and it can have an impact on every aspect of your practice from the care you give to the retention of your staff.

Medical practices are built on a foundation of hard working physicians, nurses, administrators and more, so this holiday season, make sure to show the same care to your staff that they show to their patients. Though it may go without saying that you are grateful to your staff, the holiday season is the perfect time of year for outward expressions of gratitude.

Recognize Your Staff’s Hard Work

Hard work gone unnoticed can be devastating on morale, especially during the holidays when physicians are sacrificing time with their families. Moreover, healthcare workers have been working through the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two years now. Make sure to acknowledge that they are performing a difficult job under stressful conditions, and celebrate their achievements.

This can come in the form of sincere recognition, time off, rewards or a festive holiday meal and celebration for the whole staff. When employees believe they will be recognized for their dedication, they are 2.7x more likely to be engaged in the workplace, so spread some holiday cheer at your practice with some sincere, outward appreciation of your staff.

Schedule Flexibility and PTO

Some healthcare environments more naturally lend themselves to a flexible schedule than others. Healthcare emergencies do not work around holiday schedules, so ER doctors and nurses might unfortunately have fewer opportunities to make it home for the holidays than, for example, a private practice dermatologist.

The AMA found that getting creative with scheduling is a powerful way to reduce burnout. This can be achieved by modifying work schedules, but there appears to be fairly negligible proof that limiting work hours has a helpful effect on physician burnout. In fact, limited hours can put doctors under pressure to overperform through a compressed scheduling.

However, if your medical practice has the ability to offer PTO, let your staff take advantage of that during the holiday season to ensure that they have time to spend with family and decompress.

Utilize Scribes

One way to reduce burnout is to create a wider spread of work across doctors and support staff. Specifically, having doctors work with scribes to manage all of the documentation during appointments has been proven to positively impact burnout. Studies targeting this type of workflow intervention have shown to decrease self-reported feelings of burnout from 43% to 14% over a four month period.

If your practice can provide extra support such as medical scribes, the high stress holiday season is a perfect time to start lightening that load. If your practice does not have any additional budget for any new headcount, you could consider a digital scribe tool to automate that work.

Assess Your EHR and Practice Management Software

It is well known that American physicians are spending an inordinate amount of time toiling away in their EHRs. One study found that physicians could be spending up to 10.4 hours working in an EHR after hours. Naturally, working with such an inefficient system will contribute to burnout over time.

That is why it is essential to dedicate time to assessing your EHR system to understand how it contributes to burnout at your practice. What features is it lacking? How many workflows require persistent, redundant data entry? Does your electronic health record software include time-saving practice management and medical billing features? If the answers to these questions are not satisfactory, it may be time to upgrade your software for the betterment of your staff.

The best EHR software will have a large suite of features bundled into a user-friendly interface, backed by structured implementation and support. Look for a cloud-based EMR that allows providers to handle clinical notation and medical billing workflows from the web or from their iPhone, iPad or other mobile device.

To make life easier on your administrative staff, make sure that software has practice management features like online appointment scheduling, appointment reminders, online intake forms, a patient portal and more. Medical billing and coding are also heavily time-consuming tasks, so search for an EMR vendor with integrated billing software that automates some of the more mind-numbing processes. If you are in the position to outsource your billing to a revenue cycle management service, that could have a dramatic impact on not only your revenue, but the workload of your staff.

Physicians and healthcare workers are already under a significant amount of stress due to their jobs which is why it is essential to attempt to mitigate that as much as possible. The holiday season comes with its own stressors that, if left unchecked, can accelerate burnout. Take care of your staff, and you will turn this holiday season into something to be enjoyed rather than endured!