What is Causing Burnout in Home Healthcare Workers?
Updated: Mar 2, 2022
Many of us have heard the term burnout at some point in our lives, but what is burnout? The World Health Organization (WHO) classified burnout as a result "from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” (WHO, 2019). Burnout is both physical and emotional exhaustion caused by continual periods of stress (Kelly, 2021).
Burnout accelerated by the pandemic
Before the pandemic, a research team at Toronto General Hospital conducted a survey that included nurses, physicians, and allied health employees and indicated high burnout rates.
Now with the pandemic, burnout rates have been accelerated. COVID-19 has caused a shortage of healthcare workers, and many in the healthcare field are exhausted. What the healthcare workers have gone through during this pandemic has been traumatic, and according to a poll from Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation, it indicated that
“6 in 10 say the pandemic has burned them out” (Romero & Bhatt, 2021 ).
A survey of 1,327 workers from hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and home health care agencies showed that 62% had felt stress related to COVID-19 (Sudo, 2021). Personal Support Workers (PSWs) have dealt with burnout throughout this pandemic. Many are overwhelmed and exhausted.
Individuals who have contracted the virus might require home care. Employees from home care are afraid and stressed that they are potentially spreading the virus to their loved ones, co-workers, and patients.
What causes burnouts in home healthcare workers?
A survey conducted by Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation that included 1,327 frontline healthcare workers based in the US revealed that 55% of these workers experienced burnout (Kaushik, 2021). In general, some of the top reasons that cause burnouts are unfair treatment, heavy workloads, unclear roles, little to no communication from the manager, and unreasonable time frames.
Many home healthcare workers are both physically and mentally exhausted and are overworked. One of the components of home healthcare is to visit the patient’s home. As a result, many of these employees feel isolated, with very few opportunities to work as a team. Home health nurses often have to work alone. For many healthcare workers working in a hospital, that environment is there to help support that worker, but in the patient's home, workers have to conform to their new environment, which is one reason that can lead to burnout. Home health aides face the challenges and stresses that come with this particular job. Many sick patients are often unhappy, and the patient’s family can create conflict for the home health aide. Many are often involved with family dynamics.
Stress is often one component that leads to burnout. Half of all the caregivers working in the home healthcare industry are estimated to experience burnout at some point in time. Professional caregivers are vulnerable to burnout because they want to help and take care of their patients, but they often forget about themselves. Additionally, caregivers are the ones that see others suffer from pain, and they watch their patients decline in their health, leading to caregiver burnouts. Many home healthcare workers have to multitask, make decisions, and the physical demand is extremely taxing. Many caregivers have to travel long distances to get to their patient’s homes, and their schedules are packed.
Symptoms of Burnouts
When it comes to the symptoms of burnout, it includes, but are not limited to:
Feelings of negativity
Headaches, fatigue, body aches
Withdrawal from loved ones
Loss of interest in things that were once enjoyed
Unable to sleep/concentrate
A change in appetite
Burnout affects everyone
Many may think that burnout only affects that particular individual, but that is false.
A study by the American Psychological Association shows that employees with burnouts "are 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job, 63% more likely to take a sick day, and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room” (Moss, 2019).
Additionally, burnout experienced by the employees impacts the worker's performance and the quality of care provided to the patients. Employees with burnout increase the likelihood of making mistakes. An error in the treatment or the medication for the patient can be life-threatening.
How we can help
To reduce burnout, asking questions that are relevant and timely is crucial. Employers can prevent employee burnouts by asking their employees what they value and need. Gaining insights from employees through questions provides data that is valuable. Surveys are a great way to deploy these questions to their employees and understand what factors make employees feel motivated, and what doesn't.
Pulse surveys are short, frequent surveys that can be tailored to specific topics to assess their change over time. Pulse surveys allow staff members to see the impact of their changes in real-time. The frequent nature of pulse surveys means the information management and staff member sees will always be current. Examples of good question topics include overall job satisfaction, work-life balance and flexibility, employee recognition, total compensation, manager, and career growth and opportunities.
It is not hard to believe that a “business owner knows that his or her company is only as good as the staff members he or she employs" (O'Flynn, 2020). Employees are the ones that are running the machine, and whether or not it runs smoothly depends on them.
Retainify is an employee engagement software that offers a unified solution that allows you to track employee sentiment and measure engagement in real-time. Proactively identify issues that are preventing them from being their best at work. Improve business outcomes by improving the employee experience, and enhance company culture one feedback at a time. Turn Feedback into Action.
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