Burnout occurs when care teams experience physical, mental and emotional exhaustion stemming from their long hours, stressful work environments and responsibilities. These stressors can translate into a poor patient experience, higher risk for medical errors and increased staff turnover.
Recent studies show longer shifts for hospital nurses significantly raise their levels of burnout, which in turn increases patient dissatisfaction. A survey of workers in four states showed nurses working shifts of ten hours or longer were up to two and a half times more likely to experience burnout, job dissatisfaction and intent to leave the job than those working shorter shifts. Patient satisfaction dropped as reported burnout increased, suggesting patients can pick up on stressed providers throughout their clinical experience.
By increasing overall staff satisfaction in healthcare facilities, communication technology can reduce the risk of burnout.
2. Alarm Fatigue
In a healthcare setting, machines are constantly emitting alerts and notifications to providers. Studies show these alarms can overwhelm staff, often exposing them to hundreds of alarms per day, many of which are false or do not need immediate attention.
According to the Joint Commission, 85 to 90 percent of alarm signals do not require clinical intervention. Many patient care areas also have numerous alarm signals, and the resulting noise and displayed information tend to desensitize staff. When that happens, providers are more likely to miss, ignore or disable alarms, potentially jeopardizing the quality of care for each patient. Individual alarm signals can be difficult to detect, making it hard for staff to differentiate alerts based on sound alone.
Since many alarms are intended for communication, upgrading this technology with a more comprehensive and effective solution is a great way to start. Adopting a better system will lead to an increase in healthcare staff satisfaction with communication and alarms that are clear and useful.
3. Health Concerns
Taking care of people is a demanding job at all levels of healthcare, and the stress can build up over time, potentially leading to long-term health problems. In the healthcare industry specifically, the shift work aspect of the job can take a toll on providers and create safety concerns in the workplace.
When working long hours or night shifts, providers' internal circadian rhythms get disrupted, causing chronic sleep deprivation.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, lack of sleep increases staff's risk for the following:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Other harmful illnesses
Likewise, healthcare workers face many other health risks, including bloodborne pathogens, biological hazards, potential chemical and drug exposures, waste anesthetic gas exposures and respiratory hazards, along with a variety of ergonomic hazards related to an active workday. As a result, the healthcare industry has one of the highest rates of work-related injuries and illnesses. The U.S. Department of Labor revealed that nursing aides, orderlies and attendants had the highest rate of musculoskeletal disorders of all occupations in 2010 due to the physical demands of the job.
When employees are unhealthy or facing mental health concerns, they will be dissatisfied at work. The job satisfaction of hospital nursing staff members directly impacts their ability to care for patients, as does their personal health.
4. Workplace Violence
Healthcare providers put themselves on the frontlines of violent situations each day. Even when individuals think they can handle it, the accumulated stress eventually harms overall employee satisfaction. Healthcare facilities may not be able to reduce the risk of violence. Still, it is imperative to shield employees from it as much as possible and provide the necessary support when violent situations occur.
The U.S. Department of Labor defines workplace violence as an action that is verbal, written or physical, and intended to control or cause harm or death to people or property. Factors contributing to these safety risks include working directly with people who have a history of violence or may be delirious or under the influence of drugs. From 2002 to 2013, the Department of Labor reported that the rate of serious workplace violence incidents was more than four times greater in healthcare than in private industries on average, with healthcare accounting for nearly as many serious violent injuries as all other industries combined.
Improving communication in a facility makes it easier for staff to report incidents of workplace violence and call for assistance.
5. Inefficient Work Environment
With the advancement of electronic medical records (EMRs) came more requirements for healthcare providers in terms of documentation. One study found physicians spend 27 percent of their day with patients compared to 49 percent on EMR and desk work. In fact, providers need to fill out an average of 20,000 forms every year. Sometimes, insufficient information can also increase the time spent on a computer versus with a patient. Since most people enter this field to help others, the job satisfaction of hospital nursing staff dramatically decreases when there is less time to spend with patients.
According to another study, 70 percent of specialists rate the patient referral information they receive from other providers as fair or poor. Healthcare employees want to make a difference in other people's lives, not just input data — which requires an efficient work environment. When staff spends less time documenting, tracking people down or struggling to send notifications to the right person, they can spend more time providing care to patients. Having an effective communication solution in place can make all of these processes easier, improving employee satisfaction. In healthcare facilities, this could also increase efficiency across the board.
6. Lack of Teamwork
Modern healthcare offers sophisticated, complex treatments for a wide array of health concerns. These treatment plans often involve more than one provider or service, each with unique demands and requirements. It is imperative for strong communication to remain steadfast throughout a patient lifecycle — from admission and evaluation to handoff to another provider and eventually discharge — to avoid errors or inefficiencies.
When gaps in communication or information transfer occur, the flow of patient care can be disrupted. The Joint Commission reports that 80 percent of all serious medical errors involve miscommunication during care transitions. These miscommunications can result from interactions with multiple providers or lack of patient understanding. The Institute of Medicine found that the average elderly patient sees seven physicians across four different practices each year, while the average surgery patient is seen by 27 different healthcare providers while in the hospital. In addition, another study showed that patients only recall 40 percent of the information they receive, and almost half of what they remember is incorrect.
When providers don't work together, patients tend to suffer the consequences. When patients are unhappy, it also leads to a decline in healthcare staff satisfaction. With communication technology solutions, providers can dramatically improve their ability to work as a team.