Healthcare Staff are Burned Out, and Patients are Feeling the Pain, Too.

So how do we improve the patient experience? How do we ease the load on healthcare staff and reduce burnout?


Sonja Swanson


April 22, 2024

One of the biggest hurdles currently facing the Healthcare industry is staff burnout. Burnout among healthcare staff has seen a major increase since the pandemic. In fact, the Physician’s Foundation 2023 survey shows that for the third year in a row, six out of 10 physicians and seven out of 10 medical students feel burnout. There is no doubt that the pandemic had a major impact on healthcare workers, and when your staff is struggling, the patient experience will suffer, too. 

Our team sat down with Deana Sievert DNP, RN, CNO at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, to discuss the ongoing issues in healthcare and potential ways to improve the experience for both healthcare workers and their patients. 

Feeling the Effects of Burnout

More than half of physicians and nurses have noted that staffing shortages are a significant contributing factor to their burnout. When current staff have to fill in the gap for the shortage, it utilizes more of their energy and resources, leading to increased burnout. And the burnout only hurts retention. But it isn’t just the frontline workers that are feeling drained from the shortages - the administrative staff are struggling to hire candidates to fill in those gaps as well. “I mean, we don’t really have the financial bandwidth anymore to recruit more employees as operating margins continue to decline,” said Sievert. The burnout has a snowball effect that impacts the entire hospital, which in turn reflects into the patient experience. 

Especially in the emergency department, patients are experiencing the effects of the staff shortages. Sievert has seen wait times of up to 12 hours. “I don’t think there’s an emergency department (ED) that is not experiencing this,” she said, “but when you go to the ED most of the time you are going to be waiting for a long time. And unfortunately, the pandemic has just tilted right now.” 

Sievert expressed the importance of solving this issue, “we’ve got to really all drill down and figure out what we’re going to do about this problem. So how do we improve the patient experience? How do we ease the load on healthcare staff and reduce burnout?”

“We’ve got to really all drill down and figure out what we’re going to do about this problem. So how do we improve the patient experience? How do we ease the load on healthcare staff and reduce burnout?”

Keeping Patients First

The first suggestion from Deana, as well as other CNO’s we’ve spoken with, was aligning with the mission and maintaining a patient-first approach. Understanding the meaning behind the work and the impact staff can have on patients is key to creating a patient-first model. Sievert elaborated further on what causes the focus to shift from patient experience as “[staff] can get so dragged into the day-to-day things, which creates frustrations. Our mission is to improve people's lives and pull in what their ‘Why’ is.” Connecting staff to their why, increases their connection to their patient and simultaneously reduces feelings of burnout. Having the mission in the forefront will be reflected in the patient’s experience, especially with their initial interaction at clinics.

The first interactions with patients in the ED are critical and should be a focus for clinics. When patients arrive, they want to feel like they are important. “We have to get the patient experience right,” said Sievert, “because if you can get that win at the very beginning with that patient, it’s actually going to allow the patient to be a little bit more forgiving if things don’t go according to plan.” By prioritizing the first interaction and making a great first impression with patients, it will likely ease the process as a whole for both patients and staff. 

By improving those first impressions and relieving the workload for staff, clinicians and nurses are allowed to make meaningful connections with patients, and those connections are a great reminder of their why

Bringing Humanity Into Technology

Technology can also be a great tool to supplement staff shortages and reduce burnout if implemented correctly. Sievert mentioned that leaning into technology is one strategy to help with some of their challenges impacting not only the healthcare industry, but other industries as well. She believes that supporting staff with tech resources will, “percolate through and impact every other part of the patient journey.”

And while technology is a great resource, keeping a patient-first focus is the first priority. When evaluating what technology to implement, healthcare professionals like Sievert need to ask themselves, “How do we empower our teams with technology while maintaining that human-centered care. How do we balance the two?”

Sievert gets perspectives from both clinicians and patients to determine if the technology is actually benefiting everyone. When talking to clinicians, improving workflows and patient engagement come to mind. “How is this going to impact workflows? How is this going to impact your relationship (with patients)? What is going to help you be more interactive with the patient?” These are some of the questions she asks her staff. 

Photo of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center on Campus
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Ultimately, an organization’s most valuable resource for feedback is their patient. “Whenever we have a lot of new technology, we take that right to our patient family advisory council,” said Sievert. She appreciates that patients are honest and willing to share their experiences with technology, sharing, “It’s such a great way to help you get so much information from them because they’re there to help you improve.”

The post-pandemic environment has exasperated healthcare workers, and patients have felt the brunt of it; finding solutions to reduce burnout will only improve the patient experience. As technology is further embedded into workflows, we want to make sure that it ties back to healthcare’s human-centered missions. “It’s all about innovation, ingenuity, and just roll up your sleeves and get down at it,” said Sievert. From staff workflows to a patient’s first impressions, tech solutions are where many clinics are looking to solve their challenges.

Kipsu is a software solution where healthcare professionals can engage in conversations with their patients through digital messaging. To learn more about our messaging solutions, schedule a conversation with us today!

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