Hospital understaffing and poor work conditions associated with burnout

A new study from Penn’s School of Nursing finds that physicians and nurses experienced adverse outcomes during the pandemic and want significant improvements in their work environments and in patient safety.

Physicians and nurses, even at hospitals known to be good places to work, experienced adverse outcomes during the pandemic, and want hospital management to make significant improvements in their work environments and in patient safety, according to a new collaborative study from Penn’s School of Nursing.

The study, published in JAMA Health Forum, suggests that solutions to high hospital clinician burnout and turnover are not resilience training for clinicians to better cope with adverse working conditions, but organizational improvements that provide safe workloads and better work-life balance.

Two masked medical professionals seated on the floor looking burned out.
Image: iStock/Ivan-balvan

Researchers at Penn Nursing’s Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research (CHOPR), in collaboration with the U.S. Clinician Wellbeing Study Consortium, sought information in 2021 from 21,050 physicians and registered nurses in 22 states. Forty-seven percent of nurses and 32% of physicians experienced high burnout. Twenty-three percent of physicians and 40% of nurses said they would leave their jobs if possible. Less than 10% of physicians and nurses reported experiencing joy in their work. Not having enough nurses to care for patients, having little control over workloads, lack of confidence in management to resolve problems in patient care, and concerns about patient safety were all associated with higher burnout, job dissatisfaction, and intent to leave among both nurses and physicians.

Lead author Linda H Aiken, a professor of nursing and sociology, founding director of the Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research, and senior fellow of the Leonard Davis Institute for Health Economics says “physicians and nurses largely agree about what hospital management could do to address their burnout, job dissatisfaction, and plans to leave their current jobs; they want improved staffing, modern working conditions in which they can spend more time in direct patient care, greater control over their workloads and work schedules, and a higher priority on patient safety.”

Read more at Penn Nursing News.