As we head into the third year of the pandemic, burnout is top of mind. It seems as ubiquitous as COVID itself, affecting people of every generation, gender, and race. Like many challenges of the pandemic, burnout is impacting healthcare professionals (HCPs) with greater intensity than other populations. It has become a widely recognized crisis, with highly publicized reports of worsening mental health, compassion fatigue, demoralization, and mass resignations.
While burnout among HCPs isn’t new, its rapid acceleration is forcing us to address it with a new level of urgency and empathy. Just to keep up the changing demands of their day-to-day lives has required more agile problem-solving and more innovative ways of connecting. With two years of pandemic experience, we’re proactively planning for the cognitive, emotional, and contextual realities of burned-out HCPs and designing our engagements to reduce friction so they yield the greatest impact and the best outcomes.
Our work is far from done, but we’re already seeing signs of progress and we’re excited for the possibilities of the year to come.
Investing in resiliency: In November 2021, the United States Department of Health and Human Services dedicated $103 million to address burnout among healthcare professionals. The funds will be used by hospitals and academic institutions to educate providers on burnout and build out more robust “workforce resiliency programs.”
Retail healthcare support: Between March and mid-July of 2020, 41% of people reported foregoing medical care. Preventative care and outpatient general medical appointments were the most skipped. Now that vaccines are widely available, people are trying to catch up and they’re facing difficulty booking appointments and longer time in the waiting room. Major retailers like CVS Health and Walmart have expanded their offerings to include basic preventative care, chronic disease management, and virtual telehealth services, helping to offset increased demand for healthcare and address patients’ limitations to accessing outpatient office care.
Telemed ed and “webside manner”: Medical schools are coming up with innovative solutions to meet the demands of the remote world. At Kaiser Permanente’s Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine, students can practice heart dissections virtually using 3D models and augmented reality. Weill Cornell is helping students prepare for a future of virtual visits by providing technical training and teaching them how to connect with patients and express empathy on camera.
Healing with creativity: The Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis has launched a new initiative for healthcare workers called The Things They Carry Project. Through the initiative, workers can join free writing workshops that are designed and led by writers and clinicians, with the aim of helping them process the trauma and emotional exhaustion of the pandemic.