How to Prevent Clinician Burnout and Turnover

The What

Any healthcare administrator who has seen a lot of clinician turnover knows how much time, energy, and expense is required to replace and train new-hires. And burnout is almost exactly correlated with attrition. In one survey we conducted across a variety of healthcare organizations, 68% of physicians who were completely burned out were either likely or very likely to leave, and 41% of physicians who had symptoms of burnout were likely to leave. 

Here at KLAS, we are diving deep to uncover the top contributors to clinician burnout and offer the best research on how to prevent and combat burnout and attrition. This is one of many goals of our Arch Collaborative, a KLAS initiative designed to help providers unlock the potential of the EHR in transforming patient care. At our recent Arch Collaborative virtual summit, we disclosed our most recent findings on burnout. We published those results in our 2020 Arch Collaborative Guidebook

The Why

In our interviews with burned-out clinicians, we have discovered that their top three reasons for burnout are that they are spending too much time on bureaucratic tasks, their after-hours workload is too high, and the EHR and other tools are hurting their efficiency. 

These findings are fairly consistent across the board and are not dependent upon the use of any one EHR or software tool. Rather, many of these reasons are more about organizational practices surrounding the EHR. In other words, healthcare organizations have more control around clinician burnout than they realize. 

What is the number one predictor of burnout and attrition for both doctors and nurses? Efficiency. Why would that be the case? Perhaps the answer relates back to the reason these professionals went into the medical field in the first place: they like to help people. The more time clinicians can spend helping patients and coworkers, the more opportunities they will find for meaningful interactions and outcomes, and the higher their job satisfaction will be. Conversely, more time spent documenting on the computer leads to less job fulfillment and potential burnout.

Multiple factors affect burnout and attrition. The EHR and the tools surrounding it are often just one factor. We recommend that you adopt the Swiss cheese model when addressing these issues. However, if you want to keep your clinicians longer, chances are that building EHR efficiency is a great place to start. 

The How

How would an organization go about building that efficiency? You might start by offering effective software trainings that are specific to the needs of your organization. That training might come from your software vendor, a third party, or the superusers in your organization. 

Perhaps you are reading this and saying to yourself that training isn’t the issue. You may be saying that the issue is the software itself or the number of government hoops that your clinicians have to jump through just to document a single visit. We recognize that technology and red tape can be serious barriers to progress. However, you might be surprised how much training may help your organization to reduce clinician burnout and turnover. 

In our research, we discovered that clinicians who didn’t have good initial training were almost twice as likely to leave as those who did have good training. But the buck doesn’t stop there. Organizations that have already had bad initial training can solve provider issues with ongoing training. 

In our report The Science of Improving the EHR, we revealed that many provider organizations that implemented new improvements significantly improved EHR satisfaction. Organizations that participated in two studies in a row saw further increases. Furthermore, other research has revealed that both initial and ongoing training can multiply efficiency levels as much as 11 times. It is very exciting to discover just how much control a healthcare system has over improving the lives of their clinicians.

One case study that future organizations can model was the pioneering initiative of Memorial Health System. They created three informatics labs that were always staffed with IT professionals with at least six open computers for physician use. Physicians could come in and document in those labs anytime. They could ask questions, collaborate, and fix problems in real time. This engendered trust not only in the EHR but also between physicians and the IT department. Memorial Health System hit the ninety-sixth percentile for EHR satisfaction and the ninety-ninth percentile for trust in the EHR. 

Need More Help?

We have detailed many other case studies in our guidebook as well as some best practices on how to build strong trainings. If you are interested in getting more tangible, specific guidance, our KLAS Experts are here to help. 



Photo Credit: Adobe Stock, Tino Neitz