IHI 2016: Nip burnout in the bud with team building

ORLANDO, Fla.—Job burnout has become rampant in the healthcare industry, leaving physicians and nurses emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted.

Indeed, a recent study finds that nearly half of critical care physicians suffer from severe burnout and 81% of critical care nurses in the ICU report at least one symptom of burnout.

Nurses complain inadequate staffing has resulted in excessive workloads and not enough time with patients. They are tired before they start their shifts at work. Physicians have similar complaints and are often frustrated that the time spent on electronic medical records and administrative tasks leaves them little time to spend with patients.

But inexpensive, creative team-building can help ease some of the stresses that leave clinicians dissatisfied at work, according to speakers from Northwell Health Tuesday at  the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) 28th annual National Forum on Quality Improvement in Healthcare in Orlando, Florida.

“Team-building improves morale, communication and increases trust, which improves teamwork and productivity. Once you have trust, you have greater moral. And once you have greater trust and morale, you have better communication and when all three are working you have better teamwork and productivity,” said Carly Bushman, M.D.

The objectives behind team-building exercises are to enhance communication, increase creativity, and create a climate of cooperation and collaborative problem solving.

Northwell has focused its attention on its three-year residency program, which means a third of the group leaves every three years and is replaced by new members. Every July when the new residents join the program, leaders conduct a team-building activity, such as a ropes course, within the first week they start.

“We found that it promotes comradery and that’s what we want in the beginning. We want new people to get to know everyone else,” said Maureen Grissom, Ph.D., director of behavioral science, Hofsta Northwell School of Medicine.

Tochi Iroku-Malize

Past team-building events included visits to a trampoline park, laser tag, go karts and karaoke. And in January residents will visit an escape room where they will have to work together as a team to figure out clues in order to find a key to escape the room.

“Some of the activities are physical, others are mental and some are both. But they learn that the residents will cheer them on and they will cheer you on at the hospital,” said Tochi Iroku-Malize, M.D., chair, Department of Medicine, Northwell Health.

And knowing that they can depend on one another in life-and-death situations is crucial, she said. “In our industry we talk about patient satisfaction but the big thing now is employee satisfaction. People are feeling burned out. We all think we are super people and sometimes this is to our own detriment and we forget to take care of ourselves. As a leader, I know this is important to me and I want my team to be okay,” Iroku-Malize said.

The organization typically conducts three to four activities throughout the year. The biggest barriers to doing more activities are time and money. But Iroku-Malize said the events don’t have to cost a lot of money. A 30-minute activity with pizza, salad and soft drinks can still accomplish the same goals as a big-budget item, she said.