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NIOSH unveils campaign to reduce hospital employee burnout

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Article

Agency provides resources for improving working conditions, easing stigma around seeking mental health support

Discouraged doctor in hospital hallway ©New Africa-stock.adobe.com

©New Africa-stock.adobe.com

Amid growing concerns about burnout among people in health care occupations, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is launching a program aimed at combatting it among hospital employees.

The program, known as Impact Wellbeing, is designed to provide resources for hospital leaders to use to strengthen policies and practices that reduce burnout, normalize help-seeking and strengthen professional wellbeing, according to a NIOSH news release.

“Even before the pandemic, health care workers faced challenging working conditions that lead to burnout,” NIOSH director John Howard, MD, said in the release. “Hospital leaders need support to implement organizational changes. Practical adjustments can reduce burnout and strengthen professional wellbeing within their hospitals.

NIOSH provides several resources hospital leaders can consult to implement practices and policies for reducing burnout, including:

  • The NIOSH Worker Well-Being Questionnaire (NIOSH WellBQ), an integrated assessment of well-being across multiple spheres, including individuals’ quality of working life, circumstances outside of work, and physical and mental health status,
  • A guide to help hospital leaders reduce the stigma of seeking mental health support by sharing their own stories of doing so, and
  • A 2021 NIOSH blog post, “Supportive Leaders Drive Organizational Improvements and Employee Health and Well-being,” which includes information about evidence-based training programs designed to improve managerial support for facilitating improvements in employee health, safety, and well-being.

In addition, NIOSH recommends that hospitals stop including mental health questions on credentialing applications. “Auditing and changing hospital credentialing application questions…sends a clear message to health care workers that their hospital supports their wellbeing and mental health,” the agency says. It notes that the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation has developed a three-step guide hospital leaders can follow to make it safe for employees to seek mental health care.

“Although some causes of burnout may take time to address, there are many feasible ways to champion a healthy workforce and hospital system,” said Casey Chosewood, MD, MPH, director of the Office for Total Worker Health at NIOSH. “By identifying and implementing practical operational adjustments, hospital leaders can help healthcare workers continue doing what they do best—delivering the highest quality patient care.”

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