The risk of burnout in the medical space is now at its highest since it was first tracked in 2018. Over 42,400 NHS staff voluntarily quit their jobs in quarter two of last year. Those in the NHS will know that the intensified pressures and responsibilities make many workers feel they are physically at breaking point.
A recent survey by the UK Medical Defence Union has found that 44% regularly feel “exhausted in the morning at the thought of another day at work”. Side effects of sleep deprivation reported by doctors include poor concentration (64%), decision-making difficulties (40%) and mental health problems (30%).
Such symptoms are inevitably harmful, as these side effects can cause potentially substandard patient care. Ultimately, navigating burnout’s role in driving compromised patient safety can be difficult to tackle, given the deep-rooted political and resource factors that have exacerbated struggles from the pandemic and before.
However, medical device experts Owen Mumford have shared insights on data surrounding burnout-induced substandard care and how medical device innovation can potentially play a role in alleviating pressures on NHS staff.
The consequences of burnout are at their worst in acute healthcare environments, including emergency departments and intensive care units, with patients tending to be at their most vulnerable in places where burned-out healthcare professionals are twice as likely as their peers to be involved in patient safety incidents.
The effects of burnout in the medical profession, such as tiredness and low morale, are not going away in the short term, especially as the pandemic lingers. Access to safer sharps is an important factor in decreasing the amount of needlestick injuries and ensuring as simple as possible processes for already stretched healthcare professionals.
Even though this is starting to be slowly incorporated into specific healthcare settings across the UK, a more sophisticated online system capable of in-person and virtual consultation (i.e., follow-ups) or administrator systems can establish whether the patient needs a physical presence. For example, non-urgent speciality follow-scheduling automation system can group virtual visits onto a specific day – streamlining workflow. This opportunity would allow GPs to vary their schedules and use a quiet home setting that may help prevent burnout.
The RCN report prescribes access to safer sharps as an essential contributor, and medical device manufacturers are responsible for creating safe and practical devices that support healthcare professionals and patients, particularly during this period of burnout.
Tracey Sainsbury, Group Product Manager at Owen Mumford,says, “As a leading manufacturer of medical devices for blood sampling, point-of-care testing, and medicine administration, we believe that innovation has a vital role to play in keeping both practitioners and patients as safe as possible. Fresh ideas, new materials and thoughtful design can help to minimise mishaps, especially in stressful circumstances. They can also help to deliver better clinical experiences and promote sustainability across the healthcare sector.
We do not pretend we can solve the burnout problem in medicine. Still, we can help alleviate some of the pressure with solutions designed to protect healthcare professionals and improve clinical experiences to allow them to provide the best possible patient care.”