The COVID-19 pandemic led to a major influx of patients, overworked providers and ultimately major turnover in many specialties. While the pandemic did not impact oncology as much as it did certain specialties, staff burnout has been and continues to be an issue, not only for staff members and practices but for patients too.
When providers are satisfied in their position, they may be more engaging and improve the patient care experience. Providers who are dissatisfied, overwhelmed and exhausted may be less engaging and have a greater risk of making errors.
We spoke with two leading oncologists and a PatientPoint expert to learn how you can handle staff burnout in your own office.
We asked Dr. Debra Patt, oncologist, breast cancer specialist and executive vice president, Texas Oncology, how she uses information to help reduce staff turnover and burnout, while also creating a culture that her team wants to be a part of.
Dr. Patt said, “We have newsletters that go out to all employees that touch on many strategic initiatives for the organization. We have regular town halls for the whole organization. We have smaller meetings, site meetings every month. We have executive committee meetings for the physicians every month.
“I wish there was one right answer for how to communicate effectively within an organization, but we use many different modalities because trying to make sure that everyone is aware of the different initiatives that we’re trying to push forward and reinforcing our culture in that way, I think takes many different initiatives.”
Dawn Simonds Ramirez
Our subject matter expert, Dawn Simonds Ramirez, has noticed how practices are adding content to their back off screens specifically to combat staff burnout.
“Our work with medical practices shows us that the rate of burnout is rising among clinicians of all levels. Medical personnel tend to give constantly and continually absorb the difficulties patients and caregivers face. It’s critical for clinicians and staff to acknowledge this difficult work and to integrate small ‘offsets’ into their day. You’ll notice that wellness content plays a significant role on our professional platforms. Our job is to support the back office teams who advocate for patient health all day, every day.”
When asked how he so successfully handles staff burnout at his practice, Dr. Kashyap Patel, CEO, Carolina Blood and Cancer Care Associates, said, “We’ve done so many things. For example, we take our employees out on a retreat.”
Dr. Patel understands that supporting his team is an important component of providing optimal patient care. And this includes not only showing providers appreciation but also explaining to them why certain practice policies are necessary rather than simply telling them to follow these policies.
“We help our employees understand that we are not trying to check the box, that the interventions we are carrying out are really meant to improve the delivery of care. For example, shared decision-making is one of the processes that we show them that by helping patients be involved with the choice of their treatment regimen, patients also understand side effects profiles, and then maybe they can actually call us when they have to.”
These efforts are what lead to greater satisfaction among patients. “These are actually some of the information that’s helping and when patients are happy, when they are well informed, there’s less risk of them being upset with the employees and less risk of them complaining and less risk of them creating an issue. These are some of the benefits we have from having much better communication with our employees and then better-educated patients.”
Hear more from Dr. Patel and his thoughts on preparing your team for the new Enhancing Oncology Model in “Interview: The Pros and Cons of EOM with Dr. Kashyap Patel.”