Health Tech

To Fix Burnout, Providers Must Think Beyond Monetary Rewards

Many of the efforts to address healthcare’s burnout crisis have centered on money, such as hiring and retention bonuses, but that isn’t sustainable. Providers don’t have the means to keep throwing money at the problem forever, so they should focus more on creating a workplace culture where employees feel valued and supported.

Excessive burnout and workforce shortages are plaguing healthcare providers across the country, forcing some providers to shut their doors. During a session on Monday at RSNA 2022 (the annual radiology and medical imaging conference in Chicago), half of the room of about 100 people raised their hands when asked if they had to close clinics due to staffing shortages.

Many of the efforts to address this crisis have centered on money —hiring bonuses, retention bonuses, student loan repayments and so on — but that isn’t sustainable, according to Jennifer Clayton, program director for diagnostic imaging at Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon. 

Providers don’t have the means to keep throwing money at the problem forever, so they should focus more on creating a workplace culture where employees feel valued and supported, she said during the session she led on addressing burnout. 

Efforts such as building guaranteed breaks into schedules, giving gym memberships to staff, conducting regular one-on-one check-ins, and teaching employees how to set boundaries for extra shifts are effective solutions to mitigate burnout and workforce shortages, Clayton pointed out. But she said healthcare has unfortunately not prioritized or incentivized these types of initiatives.

These types of efforts build a more comfortable and positive work environment — one that staff members feel more inspired to keep showing up to. An organization’s leadership is in charge of building a positive company culture from the top-down, and they’re also in charge of stepping in when needed to make their workers feel safe and appreciated, according to Clayton.

“Organizations need to support technologists when patients are verbally or physically abusive — we’re seeing a big increase in this,” she said. “But if organizations step up to support technologists or imaging professionals and let patients know that that behavior is not tolerated, there is a direct link to better job satisfaction.”

Ensuring that kindness is baked into an organization’s leadership culture is imperative. Clayton pointed to a method that Mayo Clinic uses. The health system assesses its leaders based on five factors related to kindness: including, informing, inquiring, developing and recognizing.

“Including” refers to the idea that healthcare providers should treat all their staff with respect and nurture a culture where all employees feel welcome. The “informing” factor is used to certify whether leaders are being transparent with their team and sharing all relevant information with them. Delivering regular, honest updates is an essential part of creating a collaborative work environment, Clayton said.

The “inquiring” factor ensures that leaders consistently solicit input from their staff and are ready to have open discussions. “Developing” refers to healthcare providers’ efforts to nurture and support their employees’ professional development. Some ways that providers can do this is by giving staff the opportunity to gain new modality training or earn continuing education credits.

Finally, “recognizing” is included in these factors so that leaders can express appreciation and gratitude to employees authentically and regularly.

“There’s been a lot of discussion around the idea that pizza doesn’t fix burnout. And I would agree, but it also doesn’t hurt. Don’t overlook those small acts of kindness. Buying your staff lunch, treating them to extra things, recognizing them on tech week — these are essential ways to make your staff feel valued,” Clayton declared.

Photo: SDI Productions, Getty Images