The well-being of healthcare workers has become a national crisis. A record 63 percent of doctors reported at least one symptom of burnout in a Mayo Clinic study, and U.S. nurses reporting burnout symptoms has risen to 62 percent, according to a American Nurses Association survey. Doctors and nurses are also at a higher risk for suicide ideation and dying by suicide. And one in 5 physicians and 2 in 5 nurses in another Mayo Clinic survey reported that they plan to leave healthcare.
The well-being of healthcare workers is central to the work and mission of The Arnold P Gold Foundation and its Gold Corporate Council (GCC). Both the nonprofit organization, which champions humanism in healthcare for all, and the council of six leading global companies are committed to addressing this critical issue.
Together, the members of the GCC – BD, CVS Health, Henry Schein, Medallia, Quest Diagnostics, and Siemens Healthineers – have about half a million employees around the world. Collectively, the council’s employees, products, and services touch about 10 million patients every single day.
Each of the Gold Corporate Council member companies is a global leader and expert in system-level implementation that has shown its commitment to humanism in healthcare. We know the power of designing processes and products/services that support a certain outcome, and we pledge to use our expertise to help find solutions to this urgent problem. Over the course of 2023, we will collaboratively investigate, and as appropriate, test, implement, and share our findings.
In addition, the Gold Foundation will be hosting a series of live, interactive workshops to foster well-being, a yearlong initiative led by the Gold Humanism Honor Society. The Gold Foundation will also be compiling tools across its vast community of corporate partners, learners, clinicians, and schools into a resource hub on its website.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy’s national advisory warning of the risks to healthcare workers’ well-being drove home the urgency of this issue: “The stakes are high,” he wrote.
“If we fail to act, we will place our nation’s health at increasing risk. Already, Americans are feeling the impact of staffing shortages across the health system in hospitals, primary care clinics, and public health departments. As the burnout and mental health crises among health workers worsen, the public’s ability to get routine preventive care, emergency care, and medical procedures will not fare well… Equally as important, we will send a message to millions of health workers and trainees that their suffering does not matter.”
The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory offers an expansive definition of healthcare worker: “all the people engaged in work to protect and improve the health of individuals, communities, and populations, including those who assist in operating health care facilities.”
“Burnout” has been defined as a workplace issue that manifests on the individual level in three symptoms: 1) high emotional exhaustion, 2) depersonalization (detachment, cynicism) and 3) low sense of accomplishment (“I can’t do anything right.”).
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines a related idea, trauma, as an event that results in harm and lasting adverse effects on well-being.
What many healthcare professionals have been through during the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and social injustice is undoubtedly trauma.
Dr. Sadie Elisseou, an international expert in Trauma-Informed Care, a Veterans Affairs physician, a Gold Humanism Honor Society member, and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine, presented the broader benefits of Trauma-Informed Wellness to the Gold Corporate Council as one way that healthcare team members’ well-being could be supported at the systems level.
To begin to respond to this crisis, each of the GCC members are redoubling efforts to address the impact of trauma not only on patients, but also on employees and clinicians. No one organization can fix this. It takes all of us focusing our attention, investigating the causes and solution, and acting separately and together to counter this tide and create a better future for everyone. For example, as noted earlier, the Gold Foundation will be hosting well-being workshops, Henry Schein is implementing a robust plan to drive a culture of wellness for its employees, and Quest Diagnostics has created multiple internal resources to bolster the well-being of its clinicians.
True humanism in healthcare for all depends on ensuring that every healthcare team member has the support in place to thrive. As Dr. Murthy wrote: “Addressing health worker burnout is about more than health. It’s about reflecting the deeper values that we aspire to as a society—values that guide us to look out for one another and to support those who are seeking to do the same.”
These values are rooted in humanism, which we define as compassionate, collaborative, and scientifically excellent care. They are at the core of the mission of both the Gold Foundation and its Gold Corporate Council.
Collectively, the GCC is leading the way to helping reverse this crisis, not only for their own employees, which number about half a million globally, but informed through discussions as part of the GCC, also to the broader healthcare community. The Gold Corporate Council will be sharing case studies and the results of its initiatives in the future, in hopes that these efforts can truly help foster better well-being for clinicians and a more humanistic healthcare system for all.