Burnout among clinicians is a concern for healthcare organizations across the country.
Leaders are searching for ways to address the crisis as growing evidence shows a burned out workforce leads to higher turnover.
“We can't change the environment—healthcare is very complex and rapidly changing with a significant amount of ambiguity,” said Jeff McFadden, chief growth officer of Life Cross Training.
An industry under the constant threat of disruption, a rise in administrative tasks and a stronger sense that they've lost professional autonomy is burning out healthcare workers. About half of U.S. physicians and roughly 35% of hospital nurses experience symptoms of burnout.
Studies show burnout raises the risk of medical errors and increases the odds that clinicians will leave the workforce or reduce hours, contributing to the physician and nursing shortages. One survey found 50% of nurses have considered leaving the profession, largely because of feeling overworked. Another concluded higher levels of emotional exhaustion among physicians were associated with a 43% higher likelihood of reduction in work.
Life Cross Training, or LifeXT, offers digital tools designed to train individuals to better handle stress. Users complete a questionnaire that assesses the individual's level of stress and its causes. The survey is scientifically validated and asks questions like “In the last month how often have you felt that you were unable to control the important things in life?”
Taking into account the user's responses, LifeXT then provides online courses that offer things like meditation, which improves concentration and decreases tension. The courses are short, and meant to encourage users to integrate the lessons into everyday life like a “habit,” McFadden said.
Each of LifeXT's programs runs for four months. Every month, certified coaches at LifeXT connect with users via video chat to assess improvement.
At Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, leaders liked that LifeXT can be used anytime, said Mike Anderes, the system's chief innovation and digital officer.
“We wanted something scientifically based that could be used by people at their own time and meet them where they are,” Anderes said. “People can use it throughout the day and hardwire some of the behaviors that will develop into better resiliency.”
Froedtert rolled out LifeXT in November to about 60 clinicians in the hospital's Level 1 trauma center and at two of the system's clinics. These staff members, who volunteered to try the service, were targeted based on previous research Froedtert conducted to find out which employees have been hit the hardest with burnout.
So far, Froedtert's clinicians seem to like the service. Written testimonials have been positive. One clinician said it was making her “already start to feel better.” Data show that about 90% of the clinicians who started the program in November continue to use it. Anderes said that's a “pretty good sign” considering the busy schedule of healthcare workers.
Eric Langshur, co-founder of LifeXT and CEO of hospital consulting firm Avia, said the programs have been successful. “People stay with it because they are starting to feel better and people experience them better too,” he said.
Anderes emphasized that LifeXT is only one part of Froedtert's strategy to address burnout since the issue doesn't have a single solution. He said the health system is finding ways to improve work flows and decrease redundancies to make their clinicians' work lives easier.
“There are a lot of components to burnout; asking people to be more resilient isn’t the only thing that’s going to fix this,” Anderes said.
LifeXT offers annual subscription packages for its suite of services. The prices, which LifeXT declined to disclose, vary based on the specific business and its budget, McFadden said. About one-third of LifeXT's clients are healthcare organizations.
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