The Great Resignation - a Pandemic in Itself - in conversation with Susan Leggett-Johnson

The healthcare industry has faced indescribable challenges in the past year. The pandemic has challenged every aspect of the industry and has tested the highest level of endurance of each person in the healthcare community. Further, fast-evolving government regulations, technological innovations, heightened patient expectations, and now the great resignation — running and maintaining a successful medical practice has become more than just treating patients.

We are in conversation with Susan Leggett-Johnson, a physician and healthcare consultant. She is sharing what the healthcare industry lacks today, and how we can combat those challenges.

There is often talk about the staggering consequences of neglecting the needs of the clinical workforce. Large-scale resignation, a not-so-great image of the medical profession for generations to come has posed an issue. Attracting new, and retaining the existing clinical workforce is a huge issue. There is already a shortage of doctors, nurses, and that will only increase after COVID. What can we do to turn this trend, where do we start?

“The pandemic has accelerated the shortage of healthcare workers in the U.S. and around the world. Physicians, advanced practice providers, nurses, and other health care practitioners are exhausted from the demands resulting from the pandemic. This additional pressure piles onto a system already under stress and past due for reform.

“Since the pandemic began, the face of the medical profession has been painted one color — that of pain, stress, and discomfort. Although also termed the nation’s heroes, frontline workers have endured much more than one can imagine — long hours, depleted resources, inadequate staffing, insufficient leadership skills to address the related trauma- just to name a few.

“The Great Resignation, a phenomenon having to do with high levels of turnover due to related stressors, has gravely impacted the healthcare industry. The high number of nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers reporting burnout has reached an all-time high with 96%. Healthcare organizations, and the healthcare community in general, need to actively address clinician burnout to get ahead of massive turnover rates that will affect business and more importantly, patient health. The experience of being a physician needs to be made better. Recognizing the all-consuming nature of practicing medicine is a good start. To improve the experience of health care professionals, administrators must address resource allocation, mental health challenges including PTSD, the impact of EMR, among other things. According to Dike Drummond from The Happy MD, burnout is not a problem to solve but a dilemma to address.

“My approach to this issue is that each individual needs support- which brings me back to mentorship and allyship. During this difficult time for the healthcare industry, and the lacking resources for the entire community, feeling supported and having someone in your corner goes a long way. I think it is important to note that relying on personal actions alone isn’t enough to address burnout among health professionals. Placing the responsibility solely on the shoulders of the individual for not being resilient enough, is irresponsible. Organizations have a leadership responsibility to address burdens placed on health care practitioners, such as resource issues. They must ask and listen to those working in the trenches to ensure the right process improvements are put into action. Building a culture of inclusion and belonging and developing a supportive work community is a good place for administrators to start. This would include mental health support and openly discussing burnout causes and impact.”

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