Nurses feeling burnout symptoms, but EHRs not a major factor, says KLAS

In its Nurse Burnout 2020 report, KLAS’ provider-led Arch Collaborative finds that one in four nurses are feeling stress and exhaustion – but shows that time-consuming tasks and lack of teamwork are more to blame than IT challenges.
By Bill Siwicki
11:33 AM
Nurses feeling burnout symptoms, but EHRs not a major factor, says KLAS

Nearly one in four nurses (24.6%) report symptoms of burnout, according to a survey of 37,440 U.S. nurses in new research from the Arch Collaborative, a KLAS initiative.

These nurses agreed with one or more of the following three statements: they are definitely burning out and have one or more symptoms of burnout (for example, emotional exhaustion); their symptoms will not go away and they are thinking about work frustrations a lot; or they feel completely burned out and are at the point where they may need to seek help.

The vast majority are OK

Meanwhile, three in four (75.4%) of the nurses surveyed for the report, Nurse Burnout 2020, say they’re not feeling burned out, the research showed. These nurses agreed with one or both of the following two statements: they enjoy their work and have no symptoms of burnout; or they are under stress and do not always have as much energy as they did, but do not feel burned out.

The Arch Collaborative focuses a lot of its work on EHRs. There is a slight, negative relationship between EHR satisfaction and nurse burnout, suggesting that as nurses become burned out their EHR satisfaction declines.

However, it is important to note that the quantitative relationship is quite weak – only about 5% of the variation in an organization’s Net EHR Experience Score can be attributed to burnout rate, the Arch Collaborative reported.

The significant factors

So what factors do have a significant impact on burnout? Nurse respondents to the survey most commonly cited a chaotic work environment, time-consuming bureaucratic tasks and a lack of effective teamwork.

EHR-related contributors, however, despite often being correlated with burnout, were among the least frequently selected. This suggests that the EHR as a whole may not be a significant factor in nurse burnout, and organizations should focus most burnout-reduction efforts on other areas, the collaborative suggested.

Despite the weak relationship between nurse burnout and EHR experience, The Arch Collaborative data has revealed that some practices that increase EHR satisfaction also lead to reduced burnout among nurses.

For example, nurses who feel their documentation requirements are reasonable are less likely to be burned out. This suggests that reducing the documentation burden on nurses can help alleviate feelings of burnout.

Are leadership and IT providing good support?

Another metric from the Arch Collaborative survey that impacts nurse burnout is how strongly nurses agree or disagree that their organizational leadership and IT department have implemented and supported the EHR well. This falls under the area of shared EHR ownership, where respondents are asked to rate three EHR stakeholders: themselves, their EHR vendor and their organizational leadership/IT.

Ratings for their organization’s leadership and IT are most closely correlated with a nurse respondent’s likelihood of being burned out. Only 12% of nurses who strongly agree that leadership and IT deliver well experienced feelings of burnout, well below the collaborative average of 25%. Conversely, 41% who strongly disagree report being burned out. Thus, organizations that focus on improving nursing trust in leadership and IT may see reduced levels of burnout.

Overall, the key takeaways for healthcare organizations to draw from the collaborative’s report are:

  1. The majority of nurses do not appear to be experiencing burnout. While this is good news, there is still room for improvement for the 25% of nurses who do report symptoms.
  2. There is only a small correlation between nurse burnout and EHR satisfaction, suggesting that organizations should focus most of their burnout-reduction efforts on other areas.
  3. Decreasing nurses’ documentation burden and increasing their trust in organizational leadership and IT may help reduce their feelings of burnout.

This week, Healthcare IT News launched a new feature story series on burnout in healthcare in the age of COVID-19. Click here to read the first feature, on consumer burnout, in this series that will span coming months.

Twitter: @SiwickiHealthIT
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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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