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Human Resources: Simple Steps to Address Burnout

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Dawn Murphy, senior vice president of human resources at Saint Luke's Health System in Kansas City, MO, attributes much of burnout to workplace "broken processes."

"Burnout, if you look at it in its simplest form, is driven by employees being frustrated because they aren't able to accomplish the goals for themselves," Murphy says. "Our challenge is to find out what the cause of that is and put structure and process and resources in place so they can accomplish what it is they want to accomplish."

Murphy believes that a current comprehensive review of patient care delivery at Saint Luke's will correct or alleviate many of the job frustrations and broken processes around patient care coordination that were complained about by the 1,800 registered nurses at the 11-hospital system. Improved technology has played a major role in improved processes.

The use of EMRs, for example, has accelerated Saint Luke's "paperless" movement, facilitates admissions, and returns the focus to care coordination and interaction with patients.

"Nurses will tell you they spend too long on documentation and hunting and gathering, and they really want to work smarter, not harder," Murphy says. "They appreciate us as an employer trying to eliminate those roadblocks so they can spend more time with the patients, which is why they went to nursing school in the first place."

Saint Luke's Hospital in November began a reorganization of nursing support staff that brings more certified nursing assistants to the bedside to work more closely with RNs, with the renewed emphasis on patient care. "That is good news for the nurses. They can be more involved in the care coordination," Murphy says.

Fixing or creating new processes that emphasize coordinated care not only addresses burnout now, but will also help with staffing in coming years, as the nursing shortage is expected to intensify.

"Obviously, not having enough staff leads to burnout," Murphy says.

John Commins

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