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Almost Half of Healthcare Workers Burnt Out during Pandemic

by | Apr 11, 2023 | News, Open Content

A recent study revealed burnout rates of 49.9 percent among healthcare professionals during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In news that isn’t really news to medical laboratory professionals, a recent study involving more than 200 healthcare organizations found high rates of burnout among various healthcare professions during COVID-19.

The study involved a cross-sectional survey of nurses and physicians, as well as other clinical and non-clinical staff, done between April and December 2020. The survey focused on three key measures: burnout, work overload, and intent to leave (ITL), with the study exploring how these measures differed among various healthcare professions. The 43,026 respondents (who had a mean response rate of 44%) were made up of:

  • 35.2% physicians
  • 25.8% non-clinical staff (which included laboratory staff)
  • 25.7% nurses
  • 13.3% other clinical staff

The survey results revealed a high overall burnout rate of 49.9 percent among healthcare professionals, with nurses having the highest rate of burnout at 56 percent, followed by the “other clinical staff” category at 54.1 percent. The non-clinical category, which included lab workers, showed the lowest burnout rates of 45.6 percent.

In terms of ITL, nurses, non-clinical staff, and other clinical staff reported the highest rates, at 41 percent, 32.6 percent, and 32.1 percent, respectively. Overall, healthcare staff reported ITL 28.7 percent of the time. Other clinical staff had the highest rates of “perceived work overload” at 47.4, which the study showed to be “significantly associated with burnout.”

While the study findings were limited by the fact that the survey was voluntary, the authors concluded that “[p]roactively addressing work overload across multiple role types may help with concerning trends across the healthcare workforce,” which “will require a more granular understanding of sources of work overload across different role types, and a commitment to matching work demands to capacity for all healthcare workers.”

Stephanie Whitehead, MBA, MPH, MLS (ASCP), who serves as the executive director of pathology and laboratory services at a large health system in San Antonio, Texas, recently offered some advice on dealing with burnout in a recent Q&A with G2 Intelligence. She offers the following five steps to help address burnout among lab staff:

Dealing With Burnout in Medical Labs

  1. Increase communication with staff through rounding, huddles, or touchpoint meetings
  2. Investigate opportunities to lighten the load on your staff through sending out testing (where appropriate for turnaround time and budget) or cross-training current staff
  3. Monitor staff morale and look for ways to improve work culture and employee engagement
  4. Leverage diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) approaches
  5. Investigate ways to offer work-life balance such as atypical schedules, working from home (in specific job roles), and offering wellness activities

Read the full Q&A in our April 2023 Diagnostic Testing & Emerging Technologies briefing.