In the 1960s, the U.S. surgeon general issued a now-familiar advisory warning of the health hazards of smoking. In May 2022, a similar statement was released, this time sounding the alarm on health worker burnout.
The field was facing a crisis in worker burnout even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, due in large part to how the American health system is structured, explains Suzanne Brockman, R.N., senior program administrator for Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Office of Well-Being. A health care worker’s day includes many administrative tasks that take time away from why they went into medicine in the first place; the pandemic only exacerbated the problem.
“Now we’re faced with staffing shortages, people feeling increasingly disillusioned by the medical system, and increases in people personally struggling with their mental health challenges,” Brockman explains.
A $100,000 gift from the Virginia-based ManTech International Corporation, a national security company, will support efforts in the Office of Well-Being and the Department of Nursing at the Johns Hopkins Health System to reduce health care worker burnout.
“Our ethos is really to go where our customers are, which is often on the front lines of conflict. Johns Hopkins has always been at the forefront in the battle against the pandemic,” says Brian McHugh, ManTech’s chief of staff. “Those on the front lines serving the needs of our country deserve our support, not just during the pandemic but every day. And that’s the nurses, the doctors, the whole profession that’s been hit particularly hard.”
Half of ManTech’s gift will support tackling daily workplace inefficiencies, and the Office of Well-Being will partner with clinical departments in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to fund pilot projects to fix what Brockman calls “pebbles-in-the-shoe.” The funds will be split into $10,000 grants.
“These projects tend to be expensive because they’re about making system changes,” Brockman says. “Because this is a relatively new field, the solutions aren’t already there. So we want to bubble up the ideas and also honor the individuals that are living this day in and day out and give them the autonomy and choice to tell us what will be most impactful.”
While individual resiliency skills and resources like mindfulness and yoga were emphasized during the pandemic, Hopkins, along with a consortium of 30 academic medical centers, is now working to collect and benchmark data related to health care worker burnout in order to design and implement system level changes.
One goal, Chief Wellness Officer Lee Daugherty Biddison, MD, MPH, says, is lowering the amount of work outside of the workday. Research has shown that for every hour a physician spends spend in the clinic, they’re spending double that in the medical records.
“It’s hard on your personal life — impacting relationships and overall health, and it’s just exhausting in and of itself, setting aside other impacts. We’re interested in creating an environment where people who are passionate about and good at what they do can sustain it over time because the environment in which they’re working is supporting them,” she says.
“That’s one of the reasons that we’re excited about this ManTech gift. Our goal is really to move those funds into innovative, creative opportunities to improve workplace efficiency. As a relatively new focus in academic medicine, employee well-being is an area that does not receive a great deal of donor support, despite the staggering need. We are extremely grateful to ManTech for their vision and generosity, which will certainly have an impact on our health care teams.”
The other $50,000 of the gift will fund the delivery of biologically-based resiliency skills training using the Community Resiliency Model (CRM)®, developed by the Trauma Resources Institute. CRM skills training has been used in 75 countries; in war zones (including Ukraine), and after natural disasters, as well as with victims of sexual trafficking and abuse, and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. Recent studies have found that brief CRM skills training has been effective in increasing resiliency among nurses in clinical settings, and emergency responders before and during the pandemic.
“People still experience all sorts of emotions,” says Carolyn Cumpsty-Fowler, PhD, MPH, NBC-HWC, senior director for Nursing Well-Being for the Johns Hopkins Health System and a certified CRM teacher, “but they are more able to experience these sensations and remain in their resiliency zone.”
The gift will fund CRM teacher training to ensure each of the six Hopkins hospitals have at least two certified CRM teachers. CRM teacher training involves five days of intensive study followed by a six-month mentoring process. Once trained, CRM teachers can help health care workers track their responses to stress, and learn simple biologically-based well-being skills, that can help them reset and stabilize their nervous system.
“Well-being is not just the absence of burnout. Well-being is about our ability to thrive at work, to do the work that is most meaningful to us, to grow, and to work at the top of our potential while also being able to preserve a sense of balance between our personal and our professional lives,” she says. “We greatly appreciate ManTech’s investment in our work to build capacity to equip health care workers with Community Resiliency Model skills. Although the return on investment isn’t as immediate, this gift’s potential to impact healthcare workers’ well-being is significant.”
Topics: Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Strengthening Partnerships
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