Recap of Surgeon General’s Plan for Building a Thriving Health Workforce

The current priorities of the U.S Surgeon General are COVID-19, health misinformation, healthcare worker burnout, and youth mental health. Each of these areas deserves immediate attention and amelioration. But what is so significant about health worker burnout can be summarized with this statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office website: “Our health depends on the well-being of our health workforce. Let’s take care of those who are always there to care for us.” This is the premise of Dr. Vivek Murthy’s advisory, “Addressing Health Worker Burnout.” In his public announcement, he calls for urgent awareness and action regarding this sometimes-deadly phenomenon of burnout that disrupts, discourages, and diminishes the healthcare workforce.

At Healing Breaths, our mission is “to nourish and energize healthcare professionals with self-care programs that strengthen resilience and restore a sense of purpose and community.” Over 100 independent studies on our SKY program have demonstrated reduction in clinical anxiety, depression, and increase in quality of sleep, social connection and overall well-being. To learn more, click here to speak with one of our wellness experts

The Cause for Alarm

Healthcare workers during the pandemic often placed their own and their families’ health in danger by working long hours and extra shifts to treat, soothe, and protect patients. Health professionals and the communities they serve face a mental health and burnout crisis that the pandemic has exacerbated. The healthcare industry and its workers’ families have endured a horrific ordeal due to the spread of COVID-19. But many nurses, physicians, community health workers, and public health employees were pushed to the edge by long hours, increased administrative demands, and a lack of resources with which to deliver needed care.

Public access to primary care, urgent care, and surgical procedures will decline as the burnout crisis escalates. This recommendation from the Surgeon General sheds light on the issues at hand and offers suggestions for moving forward. It’s not only due to health concerns that we need to address burnout among healthcare workers. It’s for the purpose of showing that we care about one another. We back those trying to reflect the more profound ideals we strive for as a society. This advisory outlines collaborative strategies that various relevant parties can use for addressing healthcare provider burnout.

The Surgeon General’s advisory suggestions are not meant to be all-inclusive. In this text, the term “health worker” is intended to include many professions that aim to safeguard and enhance individual, community, and population health. 

Dr. Murthy says, “We have a moral obligation to address the long-standing crisis of burnout, exhaustion, and moral distress among health workers… Health workers have had our backs during the most difficult moments of the pandemic. It’s time for us to have theirs.”

The National Academy of Medicine reports that physician and nurse burnout has reached “crisis levels” in the United States. Reduced time spent by providers with patients is one of the ways burnout negatively affects patient care and safety. A countrywide shortage of over 3 million low-wage health workers is predicted during the next five years. Care providers in all sectors of the health system need to have comprehensive preparation. To a great degree, depersonalization and emotional tiredness exemplify the symptoms of burnout, a condition associated with certain types of work.

Anxiety and depression are two of the mental health problems that are linked to burnout, although burnout itself is not a diagnosis. Healthcare professionals in the United States may face a higher suicide rate than their international colleagues. Moral harm, the result of prolonged moral distress, has been related to intense emotions of guilt, humiliation, and rage, among other adverse psychological outcomes. A Mercer analysis estimates a need for over 3 million minimum wage healthcare employees throughout the country. 

In the aftermath of the pandemic, researchers have shown that non-clinical health professionals had significant rates of burnout and mental health difficulties. To keep their doors open, several hospitals have had to eliminate positions, postpone patient care, and hire temporary staff to cover gaps created by departing nurses. Increased patient needs and unfavorable working conditions have resulted in a high number of health professionals who have resigned or stated their intention to do so. During the pandemic, at least 300 health department heads left their careers due to threats, intimidation, a lack of financing, and a lack of support from politicians and government authorities.

Systemic Advice for Healthcare Organizations

Healthcare organizations should adopt a preventative, evidence-based strategy to deal with suicide risk, including detection and intervention in the workplace. Integrate care for employees’ well-being and safety into the everyday operations of healthcare facilities. The National Academy of Medicine’s Resource Compendium for Health Worker Well-Being provides access to various measures for gauging staff satisfaction and fulfillment

The Community of Practice and Safety Support (COMPASS) initiative is a good example, as it protects home care workers from harm and improves their health and quality of life. Organizations may use cutting-edge technologies to meet the ever-growing need for interdisciplinary teamwork and healthcare decision assistance. Care providers may better assess and meet the community’s public health needs by using Community Health Needs Assessments and Community Benefit Funding.
Thousands of healthcare workers have benefited from Healing Breaths’ self-care and resilence programs. If you are having a hard time coping with grief or experiencing anxiety or depression, Healing Breaths’ evidence-based SKY program may be able to help. The SKY program has demonstrated reduction in clinical anxiety and burnout factors in just 3 days. Click here to speak with one of our wellness experts.

Actions That Health Insurers and Payers Can Take

Delays in medical delivery, poor health outcomes, and healthcare provider burnout have all been linked to administrative procedures like prior authorizations. Health professionals sometimes must pay exorbitant medical, mental health, and drug abuse treatment fees. The administrative load of approving previous permission requests and keeping records for various reports may be reduced with modern technology.

The 2020 CAQH Index, which monitors electronic administrative transactions for HIPAA compliance and other purposes between healthcare providers and health insurers, estimates that prior electronic authorization may save $417 million annually. When managerial procedures are standardized on a state level, it benefits patients and reduces the workload of healthcare practitioners and organizations. Adjusting rules to allow for activities with patients in between visits, such as encrypted texting, is one example.

Recommendations for Loved Ones and Communities

Physically and mentally stressed workers in the healthcare industry are not immune to the stresses and disruptions felt by the rest of American adults. An increased likelihood of emotional discomfort due to the pandemic, like physical stress, may negatively affect the body and mind. 

While tackling health worker burnout will require institutional changes, family members and the community can do all they can to help the health professionals. The loved ones of healthcare workers can help by providing them with a means of maintaining contact, even if only in a digital setting. Don’t be shy about asking, “What do you need right now?”

Recognize the value of encouragement from loved ones. Have them find their coworkers and remain in touch with them. Encourage creative outlets such as painting, music, storytelling, writing, and other forms of expression.

Proposed Approaches to Burnout Prevention

The healthcare industry is susceptible to burnout symptoms, but there are steps employers and employees can take to reduce the likelihood of it happening. Any sustainable shift must be supported by both the workplace and the larger community. Be aware of the warning signs of emotional discomfort, mental health issues, and burnout so that you and your coworkers can get help if necessary. To begin, ask yourself or someone else, “How are you doing?” Adopt some tried-and-true healthful routines.

Advocate locally, statewide, or nationally by joining a health professionals’ association or specialty group. Form relationships with others outside of work who may be going through the same things you are. Speak out for the things you believe in, whether it’s at your job, at school, or in your neighborhood.

Knowing the signs of stress and taking active measures to strengthen your tolerance to it is crucial. How you deal with these feelings may significantly impact your health and the quality of care and service you can provide to others. Constant stress at work and exposure to horrific situations may also lead to compassion fatigue and burnout. Talk to your colleagues, managers, and staff about how you feel. Be honest about how your mental health struggles influence your performance.

Whenever feasible, maintain a regular daily schedule to enhance your sense of personal agency. Seek assistance if you worry that you might have a problem with drug or alcohol use. Participate in activities that help you become more present in each moment through deep breathing or meditation, as you can learn with organizations like Healing Breaths.

Final Thoughts

Excessive job demands, hectic schedules, and a lack of professional resources contribute to burnout. Understaffing in the profession has been linked to burnout, dissatisfaction on the job, and poor treatment of patients. For example, on average, clinicians spend 4.5 hours daily using the EHR during clinic hours and an additional 1.4 hours per day outside clinic hours. 

To reduce the prevalence of burnout in the healthcare industry, institutions must implement systemic changes to their organizational culture and procedures. Educating leaders and coworkers about moral injury and distress is the first step in creating a culture that appreciates and facilitates talks about these issues.

Peer support groups may help normalize discussions of traumatic experiences and bring about societal change. Organizational treatments were shown to be more successful than individual ones in trials that assessed burnout. Care providers may use Community Health Needs Assessments and Community Benefit funding to engage with socioeconomic determinants of health and disease prevention. Also, evidence-based treatments focusing on mindfulness, stress management, and collaborative problem-solving in small groups showed tremendous potential for alleviating symptoms of burnout.

How Healing Breaths Can Help

Healing Breaths is here to help hospitals and individual healthcare professionals as they strive to cope with and address issues of burnout, grief and isolation. We diligently focus on your well-being, ensuring a positive culture where you and your peers can connect and heal. Our work is grounded in proven, measurable results.

Through our evidenced-based SKY Program, Healing Breaths emphasizes the importance of wellness for health workers and leaders. Thousands of individuals have benefited and recovered from burnout, lessened sleep deprivation, improved poor stress management, and prioritized self-care. To learn more about our programs, click here to speak with one of our wellness experts or you can email us at