Clinic Operations

Compassion Fatigue: Support Your Staff and Combat Risks to Patient Experience

Compassion Fatigue: Support Your Staff and Combat Risks to Patient Experience

There are so many factors happening in healthcare right now that could lead to compassion fatigue at your office: high patient testing needs, schools are starting back up, people are traveling more, the CARES act requires provider visits for reimbursement on COVID tests, and many clinics are short-staffed. 

Compassion fatigue is prevalent in healthcare, and throughout the pandemic it’s coming even more to the forefront of conversations. Compassion fatigue can lead to breakdowns in patient care, disease prevention among staff (breakthrough infections), and documentation integrity. 

As we head into flu season, and the high volumes continue, what can operators do to get ahead? While you can be proactive about the things that come with high patient volumes—you may need to take a step back and take care of yourself and your staff.

How does compassion fatigue affect patient care?

When compassion fatigue becomes a problem, providers and staff are not at the top of their game. This may look like data entry errors, decreased patience, and snapping at others. Patients see and feel the energy from your staff, and their experience is affected.

Patients who feel the effects of compassion fatigue from your staff may not comply with treatment plans, or they might share their concerns with other patients. The risk is really unknown.

Same on the revenue side: the risk of a bad patient experience is unknown. We know reviews are king, so when consumers seek out care, they are looking at reviews first and foremost. When employees are fatigued, they’re giving less care to patients, and that will reflect in reviews.

How does compassion fatigue affect medical staff?

Compassion fatigue is mental and physical exhaustion, which produces an emotional withdrawal. It’s usually due to prolonged caring for or about someone else’s stress. It’s different from burnout in that it’s directly related to what you are doing while you are working.

Clinical and administrative staff are bone-tired. They’re frustrated from being asked to work overtime, from getting screamed at by patients, from being constantly second-guessed by members of the community, and from dealing with people who chose not to get vaccinated or wear a mask.

Julie Hoff, chief nurse executive at OU Health in Oklahoma, via AP News
Julie Hoff, chief nurse executive at OU Health in Oklahoma, via AP News

The patient experience is negatively affected when your staff is tired, unhappy, and irritable. Combine that with today’s heightened patient volumes, and a lack of proper staffing, and you have a perfect storm that negatively impacts the patient experience—and frustrates your staff even further.

So, how do we care for our staff?

Recently Solv's Director of Partner Success, April Gillam, and seasoned family medicine physician, Linda Halbrook, MD, discuss the ways to identify and address compassion fatigue—and how to support exhausted staff while still providing patients with a high-quality experience.

Watch this on-demand webinar where they define, recognize, and distinguish the health risks of compassion fatigue and the short-term solutions your office can start doing. You’ll also understand the risk factors for the development of compassion fatigue, and get tips for creating a great patient experience despite stress & high volumes. 

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