Jeffery Davis, author of the American College of Emergency Physicians’ (ACEP) excellent Regs & Eggs blog posted Surgeon General Issues Advisory Addressing Health Worker Burnout: Gamechanger?
Mr. Davis provides this summary:
On Monday, the Office of the Surgeon General issued an advisory formally acknowledging the mental health crisis amongst health workers. The 70-page document affirms what ACEP members already know firsthand: that the pandemic magnified and amplified the societal, cultural, structural, and organizational factors contributing to burnout. It identifies groups of health workers whose health and well-being have been disproportionately impacted both before and during the pandemic, including health workers of color, immigrants, women, and those in rural settings. Overall, the advisory estimates that the financial impact of workforce turnover amongst physicians is $6 billion.
The advisory also outlines factors leading to severe burnout and the pathway to mending these challenges with workforce preservation in mind. These guidelines include:
- Protecting the health, safety, and well-being of all health workers;
- Eliminating punitive policies for seeking mental health and substance use care;
- Reducing administrative and other workplace burdens to help health workers make time for what matters;
- Transforming organizational cultures to prioritize health worker well-being and show all health workers that they are valued;
- Recognizing social connection and community as a core value of the health care system; and
- Investing in public health and our public health workforce.
Although the advisory won’t improve the situation on the ground immediately, I’m hopeful that it will build on the momentum we achieved through the passage of the Lorna Breen Act and that it will help pave the way for the changes we desperately need. The advisory also isn’t sitting alone in a vacuum. Simultaneous to this advisory, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) released a draft National Plan for Health Workforce Well-Being. ACEP has provided feedback on this plan and is exploring opportunities to take an active role in some of the initiatives that are included within it. We have also been partnering on a national level with the ALL IN: Wellbeing First for Healthcare Coalition (started by the Lorna Breen Foundation) and will be working hand-in-hand with that coalition to devise a game plan of how we can actually implement some of the policies included in both the advisory and NAM’s national plan.
… and this call to action:While it is great that the Surgeon General is making this issue a priority, it is important to treat the advisory for what it is and to understand its limitations. It is truly a call to action and includes some great ideas about what specific steps different stakeholders (government officials, health insurers, technology companies, health care organizations, and health workers themselves) can take to “invest in health workers and safeguard their wellbeing.” The advisory also highlights some previous accomplishments from this administration, suggests best practices, and provides useful resources.
The team at ACUTE CARE, INC. will closely monitor and continue to support this, and other important initiatives aimed at supporting provider health and wellbeing.
Chief Operating Office