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Combatting Employee Burnout: What You Can Do to Slow the Healthcare Exodus

In: Industry Insights

Updated: Thursday, June 9, 2022 @ 2:39pm

Combatting Employee Burnout: What You Can Do to Slow the Healthcare Exodus

The healthcare field has lost a large number of employees due to the coronavirus pandemic, with some states even receiving a stern warning that if they don’t act soon, current staff shortages will only get worse.1 One reason behind the overwhelming healthcare exodus is employee burnout, forcing healthcare employers to find ways to combat this effect in an attempt to retain staff.

Healthcare Worker Burnout and Industry Exodus

A 2020 survey of almost 21,000 healthcare workers from 42 different organizations found that 43% of the respondents felt overloaded at work and 49% had burnout.2 Positions with the highest stress scores were nursing assistants, medical assistants, and social workers.

If overload, stress, and burnout become too much, employees may decide to quit, and some are doing just that or, at a minimum, thinking about it. In a January 2021 survey of healthcare workers, 11% indicated that they had already resigned from their job and another 36% had considered leaving their positions, 14% of whom would also consider leaving the healthcare industry entirely.3

This comes at a time when the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects healthcare occupations to grow 16% from 2020 to 2030, a rate that is much faster than average for all occupations combined.4 If you’re in charge of healthcare organization staffing, finding ways to retain employees can impact your ability to continue to provide goods and services. Based on the numbers mentioned above, combatting employee burnout is a good first step.

How to Combat Employee Burnout

While burnout can be caused by a variety of factors, there are some things that you can do to help reduce the risk that your employees will begin to feel overwhelmed and stressed to the point where they want to quit. Here are a few to consider.

Make Your Employees Feel Valued

Interestingly, the 2020 survey found that when healthcare employees felt valued by their organizations, their chances of burnout reduced by 40%.2 The job search site Indeed adds that other benefits of increasing employees’ feelings of value include greater trust in the company, better brand reputation, increased productivity, boosted morale, and lower turnover rates.5

How do you make your employees feel valued? Options include:

  • Offering fair pay combined with additional benefits, such as those related to retirement, flexible scheduling, and transportation reimbursement
  • Helping employees develop good work-life balance by offering wellness days or allowing remote work when it’s a possibility
  • Recognizing employee contributions to and achievements within the workplace
  • Providing professional development opportunities to your staff
  • Promoting from within
  • Celebrating important events, such as work anniversaries and other milestones
  • Asking for your healthcare team’s feedback – and acting on it

Encourage the Use of Vacation Time

The U.S. Travel Association reports that, in 2019, roughly 55% of American workers didn’t use all of their days off, resulting in 768 million unused vacation days – almost one-third of which wound up being forfeited completely.6

Taking time off not only gives people time to decompress from work, but also allows them to reconnect with their family. This also helps protect against burnout as research has found that social support helps prevent and combat worker burnout.7

One way to encourage the use of vacation time is to ask employees to provide the tentative dates that they want off during the year. This gets them thinking about their vacation time well in advance while also enabling you to make sure certain positions are covered during the employee’s upcoming absence.

Create a Workplace Focused on Wellness

Corporate Wellness Magazine calls workplace wellness programs “shock absorbers” for professional stress and a key action for reducing burnout.8 This involves implementing programs that provide paid mental health days, along with offering training on effective stress management techniques and how to do exercises to improve mindfulness.

Michigan State University also recommends promoting wellness within the workplace by doing things such as:9

  • Setting up a quiet place where employees can go to relax, pray, or get some time alone
  • Creating a less stressful work environment, such as with plants and pictures
  • Investing in more inviting office furniture

Teach Your Managers How to Recognize Burnout

Your management team is in a position where they can often identify when burnout seems to be rearing its ugly head, also providing an opportunity to keep it from going too far. Teach them how to recognize when burnout might exist in their healthcare staff, then provide the steps they can take to stop it in its tracks.

Signs of burnout can include:10

  • The healthcare worker is growing increasingly cynical or critical
  • The worker is more impatient or irritable with patients and other staff
  • The employee has more physical problems, such as complaining frequently about headaches or gastrointestinal issues
  • The worker seems less energetic or has difficulty concentrating

If a manager sees any of these things, they may request a one-on-one with the staff and ask about whether they are feeling burnt out. If they are, find ways to reduce these feelings by implementing the strategies above – making them feel more valued, encouraging the use of time off, and sharing the organization’s wellness programs.

Recognizing and reducing healthcare employees’ feelings of burnout may improve your ability to retain staff, also helping protect your organization against the exit that many healthcare workers are deciding to take from their jobs, if not the field entirely.


1 The Pew Charitable Trusts. Health Worker Shortage Forces States to Scramble. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2022/03/25/health-worker-shortage-forces-states-to-scramble

2 Prasad K, et al. Prevalence and Correlates of Stress and Burnout Among U.S. Healthcare Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A National Cross-Sectional Survey Study. The Lancet. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/eclinm/article/PIIS2589-5370(21)00159-0/fulltext

3 Morning Consult. National Tracking Poll #210101. https://assets.morningconsult.com/wp-uploads/2021/01/24220044/210101_crosstabs_MC_HEALTH_HEALTH_CARE_WORKERS_Health_Care_Workers_v1.pdf

4 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Healthcare Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm

5 Indeed. 15 Ways of How to Make Employees Feel Valued at Work. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/valued-employees

6 U.S. Travel Association. National Plan for Vacation Day. https://www.ustravel.org/sites/default/files/media_root/document/NPVD19_FactSheet.pdf

7 Gabriel K, Aguinis H. How to Prevent and Combat Employee Burnout and Create Healthier Workplaces During Crises and Beyond. Business Horizons. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0007681321000392

8 Okhifun G. Employee Burnout: How Managers Can Curb Workplace Stress. Corporate Wellness Magazine. https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/employee-burnout-how-managers-can-curb-workplace-stress

9 Michigan State University. 12 Ways Managers Can Reduce Employee Stress and Burnout. https://www.michiganstateuniversityonline.com/resources/leadership/12-ways-managers-can-reduce-employee-stress-and-burnout/

10 Mayo Clinic. Job Burnout: How to Spot It and Take Action. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642


The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.

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