Healthcare workers are in high demand, especially those in the behavioral health field. But the fact is, there are not enough available workers to keep pace with demand.
Stretched Thin and Stressed
In the wake of the pandemic, it’s predicted the demand for mental health workers will increase 10% by 2026. And by 2030, demand for nurse practitioners will increase 15%. However, it’s also predicted that 400,000 mental health professionals will leave their roles for good in the next three to four years.
This resource imbalance, coupled with increased pressure to provide a greater volume of care, is creating an epidemic of burnout among behavioral health workers — both full time and contingent.
A Call to Care for the Caregivers
Between 35%-54% of clinicians already report at least one symptom of burnout. More obvious culprits like increased patient loads, understaffing and an inability to take daily breaks definitely contribute to their stress and exhaustion. But so do other circumstances related to their roles, responsibilities and rewards. This is where those who staff behavioral health workers can have an impact.
To fill roles and meet demand, it’s crucial that healthcare talent gets as much help as possible in overcoming circumstances that contribute to burnout. They need advocates in their corner, and it starts with those responsible for hiring them.
How Those Who Hire Can Signal Support
If clinicians are unable to put their best foot forward, productivity, efficiency and quality patient care are all impacted. This can have a ripple effect across a health system.
The need to prioritize the clinical experience as part of optimizing health system performance has been recognized for years. Originally conceived as a framework with the triple aim of better outcomes, lower costs and improved patient experience, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement updated its framework in 2014 to include improved clinical experience.
Now known as the quadruple aim, it highlights that to truly optimize healthcare performance, the clinician perspective must be accounted for. That’s why it is imperative that behavioral health workers are equipped to have the best work experience possible. The first step toward achieving this is for workers to believe their needs are being considered and addressed.
Those responsible for hiring and staffing healthcare positions must demonstrate a commitment to prioritizing clinicians’ needs, which includes acknowledging the value of work-life balance. This means finding ways to better augment full-time staff with contingent workers in order to prevent FTEs from becoming overburdened. It also means providing perks and value-adds that make the employment experience better.
By taking into account the current world, industry and financial circumstances today’s behavioral health professionals face, you can create an employment environment that lays the groundwork for a less stressful work reality. To this end, those hiring healthcare workers should consider expanding employment offerings to include:
- Employee assistance programs
- Mental health days
- Volunteer days
- Enhanced PTO policies
- Increased compensation
- Coaching and wellness programs
- Flexible scheduling options
Those hiring should also consider adding contingent workers to better distribute the division of work and give FTEs breathing room to care for their mental well-being.
While revising employment policies, procedures and hiring practices won’t eradicate all sources of stress and burnout, little changes like these can go a long way toward providing space and time for behavioral health workers to regroup and focus on their own wellness.
Better Clinician Experience, Better Health System Experience
When a clinician’s experience and needs are front and center, health system performance cannot help but improve.
Fewer behavioral health workers suffering from burnout means fewer are likely to leave. This directly impacts care quality. A workforce that isn’t strained is more likely to be attentive, present and able to fully attend to each patient in the best possible way.
Those hiring healthcare talent, especially in the behavioral health space, can serve as an important starting point when it comes to lessening the burdens today’s workers face.