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‘Redesign the environment’ to relieve burnout for physicians and support staff


Leader of the Dr. Lorna Breen Foundation discusses latest efforts to tackle burnout among the health care workforce.

upset doctor physician burnout: © Maridav - stock.adobe.com

© Maridav - stock.adobe.com

In 2022, the “Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act” was landmark legislation drawing national attention and devoting financial resources to burnout among physicians and other clinicians.

But the work is not over when it comes to improving workplace conditions that drain the physical and emotional energy of workers in health care.

The first bill was dated in 2021 and was authorized for three years, meaning current programs under the bill expire at the end of September 2024. A new version of the bill, the “Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Reauthorization Act,” is pending in Congress and would extend programming for five years starting in October this year, said J. Corey Feist, JD, MBA, co-founder and CEO of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation.

On March 12, the bill gained approval of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. A full Committee vote is expected soon, then deliberations by the House, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and the Senate.

© Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation© Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation

J. Corey Feist, JD, MBA
© Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes' Foundation

There are two elements to the bill, in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which oversees health care workplace safety under the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Feist spoke to Medical Economics about the foundation’s latest efforts to fight physician burnout, what’s happening in Congress, and the newest tool for health care leaders to address the problem. He discussed the issues in anticipation of the inaugural national Health Workforce Well-Being Day, which is March 18, 2024.

This transcript has been edited for lengthy and clarity.

Medical Economics: This month the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee had a markup session that included the “Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Reauthorization Act.” Why is that bill so important?

Corey Feist, JD, MBA: This bill is the only bill that was considered in the slate of bills (March 12) by the subcommittee that was focused on the workforce. All the other bills were very important. They're all focused on different types of medical conditions. But none of those medical conditions are treated unless the workforce is vibrant and can do their job best. And so, in some ways, our bill and the programs enable the rest of the programs to be implemented, that the committee was hearing. So, really excited about this progress, really excited about the momentum we have and the need is incredibly great, so we've got to make sure that everyone steps in right now, understands what their role is, whether you're in Congress or whether you're in a hospital system, and make sure that the workforce is supported.

Medical Economics: What exactly would the bill do, both for awareness and funding of programs that aim to counter burnout among physicians and other clinicians?

Corey Feist, JD, MBA: The two main elements of the “Lorna Breen Act” are to create grants that go to hospital systems to implement programs and then that go to implement a nationwide education program for health care leaders to help them learn how to redesign the environment. That campaign is called the Impact Wellbeing campaign. What the law would do, going back to that first group, is it would fund additional programs this time more heavily focused on eliminating and reducing the administrative burden, which is the primary driver of burnout of the health care workforce. It would be focused on programs in hospital systems that creatively do that, that then can be scaled to the rest of the country. It will then also continue this very important Impact Wellbeing campaign that is currently being run by NIOSH, which is the occupational safety arm of CDC. We're partnering with them as a foundation to roll out multiple phases of this campaign, but the one that's coming up is the Leader Guide, which is a step-by-step self-guided starter kit for health care leaders to begin the process of changing the operational environment so that the workforce can thrive. So, these two critical programs need to continue. They've just really all started their work and the workforce is in desperate need of change. And so we've got to have the “Lorna Breen Act” extended, and we're thrilled that it actually can be focused on reducing that that administrative burden and focusing on extending the Impact Wellbeing campaign to get it into the hands of every single health care leader in the country.

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