Healthcare changes that burn me out — and burn me up

Here’s my latest article on McKnight’s Long-Term Care News:


Healthcare changes that burn me out — and burn me up

I was recently required to take an online training module on burnout for physicians and allied professionals. It was the first time in 20-plus years that I’d received a formal message about self-care from any long-term care institution (aside from yearly staff appreciation barbecues and survey completion parties).

While I was impressed and grateful for the focus on caregiver well-being, a couple of points bothered me.

The questionnaire asked readers to select the phrase they most associated with provider burnout. There were options such as “workplace dissatisfaction” and “challenging patients.” I chose “changes in the healthcare system,” which triggered a pathway specific to that option.

I was guided through a series of vignettes discussing issues old-timers might have trouble with, such as adapting to the electronic medical record. Following the vignettes, helpful strategies were offered to manage stress.

Then came the part I found disturbing: The details of the “changes in the healthcare system” choice included “the emphasis on the healthcare experience of consumers” and “the shift from volume to value.” Let me explain why that irks me.

The experience of healthcare

Regarding consumer experience, most of my direct care team members and I have been very focused over the years on accommodating the needs of residents. It’s become more difficult, however, to maintain care quality and orderly surroundings in a healthcare environment where financial pressures have led to staff reductions and increased turnover amidst higher acuity residents.

Trying to deliver a decent customer experience without the necessary tools is part of the change in the healthcare system that induces my feelings of burnout — not the “new” attention to perceptions of consumers.

I’d be gratified to see a genuine, top-down focus on the healthcare experience of residents and their families — complete with Resident Experience Officers in every long-term care facility (sign me up!). Such an emphasis would realign resources with a mission of care that can stabilize staffing and sustain facilities over time.

Volume to value

“The shift from volume to value” stresses me in a different way.

Part of my role as a psychologist in the “volume” approach has been to aid residents in negotiating their illnesses and treatments.

If necessary, I could help them stop a lucrative but unwanted onslaught of painful medical interventions by fostering communication with their physicians and families.

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Healthcare changes that burn me out — and burn me up

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