Clinician Burnout 2021
COVID-19 is just one of many factors that clinicians say are contributing to their burnout. This report examines key findings regarding clinician burnout and how it is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 Increasingly Cited in Rising Burnout
The Arch Collaborative’s first look at clinician burnout after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed levels of nurse and physician burnout to be only slightly elevated. However, these numbers have continued to rise as the pandemic has trudged on and healthcare professionals have had to face challenges such as the Delta variant, vaccine reluctance and misinformation, and hostility from patients and their families. This report examines key findings regarding clinician burnout and how it is being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Note: To measure burnout, the Arch Collaborative uses a single question from the American Medical Association (AMA) Mini Z burnout survey. The question reads:
Using your own definition of burnout, select one of the answers below:
- I enjoy my work and have no symptoms of burnout
- I am under stress and don’t always have as much energy as I used to, but I don’t feel burned out
- I am definitely burning out and have one or more symptoms of burnout (e.g., emotional exhaustion)
- The symptoms of burnout that I am experiencing won’t go away, and I think about work frustrations a lot
- I feel completely burned out, and I am at the point where I may need to seek help
As of Q4 2021, almost 20% of clinicians who report at least some level of burnout cite COVID-19 as a top contributor.
Other Top Contributors May Also Be Related to COVID-19
COVID-19 is just one of many factors that clinicians say are contributing to their burnout, but other frequently mentioned contributors are likely being magnified by the pandemic. Many other top contributors are mentioned with more frequency now than before the start of the pandemic (see chart below), and during 2021 specifically, all have increased in frequency, and the rate of increase has escalated. In the past six months, the largest changes have been reported by nurses—every contributor to burnout is now reported by a larger percentage of nurses compared to earlier in 2021.
The contributors that have seen the biggest jump in frequency since the start of the pandemic differ between physicians and nurses. Physicians are increasingly likely to attribute their burnout to a chaotic work environment, while nurses are now more likely to blame after-hours workloads than they were before COVID-19; both factors have potentially been worsened by the pandemic.
This increase is larger than the increase observed for other clinician roles, and it has worsened even in just the last six months, increasing in that time period from about 20% to about 25%.
Reported Contributors to Burnout Are Now More Potent Predictors of Severity of Burnout
As noted above, all reported contributors to burnout are now mentioned by a higher percentage of respondents than they were in 2020. In addition, the correlation between these contributors and the severity of a clinician’s burnout has also increased. For physicians, there are some specific contributors that are now more indicative that a specific physician is experiencing a higher degree of burnout: after-hours workload, personal control over workload, number of bureaucratic tasks, and chaotic workplace.
One notable trend among nurses is that since the pandemic began, EHR-related contributors have become less potent indicators of the severity of a nurse’s burnout. This means that much of the increase in nurse burnout is being caused by other, non-EHR-related factors. This is not surprising given that nurses have been on the front lines of the pandemic, dealing with chaotic work environments, loss of control over their work conditions, and increased workloads that spill over into their personal time.
What Is the KLAS Arch Collaborative?
The Arch Collaborative is a group of healthcare organizations committed to improving the EHR experience through standardized surveys and benchmarking. To date, over 250 healthcare organizations have surveyed their end users and over 240,000 clinicians have responded. Reports such as this one seek to synthesize the feedback from these clinicians into actionable insights that organizations can use to revolutionize patient care by unlocking the potential of the EHR. To participate in the Arch Collaborative, go to https://klasresearch.com/arch-collaborative.