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How CEOs Can Combat Stress, Burnout Among Younger Workers

Analysis  |  By Jay Asser  
   June 06, 2024

For young clinicians, the emotional toll of discrimination in work settings can be significant.

Without addressing the generational differences between healthcare workers, hospital CEOs will have a harder time maintaining a sustainable workforce.

When it comes to younger workers, leaders must recognize that creating a more equitable, inclusive environment can go a long way in attracting and retaining staff.

Specifically, tackling racism and discrimination in the workplace can help mitigate stress and burnout for workers ages 18 to 29, according to a blog post by the Commonwealth Fund analyzing a recent survey.

Conducted by the African American Research Collective, in partnership with the Commonwealth Fund, the survey fielded responses from 3,000 younger clinicians—doctors, nurses, dentists, medical assistants, and others—in early 2023.

Findings revealed that younger workers agree that racism or discrimination based on race or ethnicity against patients is a major problem (67%) more frequently than workers overall (52%).

Younger clinicians also reported witnessing patients face racism or discrimination based on their race or ethnicity (64%) more often that all workers (47%).

These experiences are weighing more heavily on younger workers, with 30% of respondents reporting feeling "a lot of stress" from dealing with racism or discrimination, compared to 16% for workers overall.

Due to workforce shortages, clinicians are already under a lot of duress to meet the demands of the profession. When CEOs consider how to alleviate the burden that is being placed on their staff, they must also consider how they can solve for the emotional challenges workers are contending with, in addition to the mental and physical ones.

That was a point of emphasis at the recent HealthLeaders CEO Exchange, where dozens of hospital leaders from across the country came together to share ideas and best practices. Attendees discussed how to improve the experience for their workforce by focusing more on aspects such as relationships and culture to ensure they're doing everything they can to keep their staff happy.

To address racism and discrimination, the Commonwealth Fund suggests that leaders create an environment in which workers feel comfortable reporting those instances. Nearly half of younger workers surveyed (48%) said that they worry about retaliation or negative consequences if they were to report racism or discrimination in the workplace. Having reporting protocols in place for these situations would not only put workers more at ease, but it would also encourage reporting on these issues and show a commitment to stamping them out.

Additionally, the Commonwealth Fund posits that decision-makers institute more equity-centered hiring and retention practices to create more diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Making workers feel like they belong and are valued in their organization can greatly aid in the fight against employee turnover.

Jay Asser is the contributing editor for strategy at HealthLeaders. 


Hospital CEOs strategizing against workforce turnover should resolve the ramifications of racism and discrimination in the workplace, particularly on younger generations.

Having reporting protocols in place for instances when employees deal with discrimination can create a safer environment for staff and show them that their voices are heard.

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