Latest Findings Healthcare Professionals’ Well-Being

Vital WorkLife sheds some light on how our nations healthcare professionals

In its “2024 Healthcare Trends and Insights,” Vital WorkLife sheds some light on how our nation’s healthcare professionals are doing in terms of their relationship with themselves and their loved ones, their work, and community. The findings reveal the continued stress on healthcare professionals in our post-pandemic period and what measures are helping them achieve an improved well-being.

What’s Affecting Their Primary Well-Being?

The nature of their roles and long work hours are major contributors to physicians’ high levels of stress. “Medscape’s 2023 Physician Compensation Report” found that it is typical for physicians to work over 50 hours a week with an extra 28 minutes per day spent with patients’ Electronic Health Records. Specifically, physicians allocate almost two hours to EHR management and other desk work for every hour they spend on direct clinical patient care. For physicians, this ratio can cause them to become disconnected from their patients rather than what they want which is a strong connection with their patients. This leads to increased anxiety, burnout, and so-called compassion fatigue. These feelings have increased from pre-pandemic to post-pandemic years. In 2018, 40% of physicians surveyed reported feeling burnout versus 60% in 2023.

Meeting Family Needs

All working parents feel a degree of stress relating to balancing their parenting role and family needs with their work obligations. This is true also for healthcare professionals who often find it difficult to make time for their families. Their long hours notwithstanding, the stress of their jobs also makes it hard for them to switch mental gears to, for example, play with their children, attend  sporting events and music concerts, go on relaxed date nights with a spouse, or plan a family vacation. It was found that female physicians are more challenged in this area than their male counterparts. It is, however, a big problem for physicians of both genders with 62% of physician parents with children under 18 and 42% of those without children under 18, reporting that “No one understands how stressed out I am.”

One way this problem is being addressed is through parent coaching whereby parents are taught effective parenting skills, communication approaches, and discipline to achieve improved work-family life balance.

Social Supports

In addition to parent coaching programs, other measures being used to help physicians gain a better well-being include:

  • Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to perform some of the more non-clinical, tedious and time-consuming tasks (e.g., EHR data entry, using natural language processing for real-time dictation and reporting).
  • Developing improved workflows.
  • Supporting medical students in forming more trusted connections within their field.
  • Achieving improved well-being by removing burdens of qualities and conditions that create stress on physicians such as deity-like and perfectionism qualities, isolation, and no work hour limits.
  • Introducing new measures that support physicians such as setting new standards for innovative peer support solutions and broad access to well-being services for healthcare professionals’ spouses, children, partners, and other family members.

Currently, physicians, residents and medical students believe there is a stigma associated with mental health problems and are seeking help to address them. Research has shown that with the right support burnout among healthcare professionals can be reduced, while professional satisfaction and productivity can be increased.