November 2, 2023

NIOSH Addresses Increasing Burnout among Health Workers

A new campaign launched by NIOSH on Tuesday is a federal effort to support hospitals in addressing burnout among healthcare workers. According to the agency, “Impact Wellbeing” provides resources that hospital leaders can use to help them improve workplace policies and practices to reduce burnout. The campaign also focuses on ways to help staff feel safe when seeking help for mental health concerns and approaches to strengthening professional well-being in hospital settings. Campaign resources include the NIOSH Worker Well-Being Questionnaire, or WellBQ, which is intended to help employers and others measure worker well-being and target interventions to improve it; a guide to help hospital leaders share their stories of seeking support for mental health concerns in order to normalize help-seeking among staff; and NIOSH’s Total Worker Health strategies, which can help staff balance work and home responsibilities.

As part of the Impact Wellbeing campaign, NIOSH is also encouraging hospital leaders to remove intrusive mental health questions from hospital credentialing applications. The agency describes these questions as “one of the most substantial system barriers to healthcare worker wellbeing” and explains that many healthcare workers fear that seeking mental health care may cost them their jobs. A toolkit (PDF) developed by the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes’ Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing burnout among healthcare workers and improving their well-being, is one resource hospital leaders can use to help staff feel safe to seek care.

These resources and additional information can be found on NIOSH’s Impact Wellbeing campaign website.

The launch of Impact Wellbeing follows the publication of a CDC report that found that health workers in the United States “continued to face a mental health crisis in 2022.” Researchers from CDC and NIOSH analyzed data from the Quality of Worklife module of the nationally representative General Social Survey. According to the report, health workers reported a larger increase in the number of days of poor mental health and burnout in 2022 compared with 2018 than did essential and other workers. In 2022, 45.6 percent of U.S. health workers reported feeling burnout often or very often. Just under 32 percent of health worker respondents fell into this category in 2018. Health workers reported 4.5 poor mental health days during the previous 30 days in 2022, up from 3.3 poor mental health days in 2018. Agency researchers also examined how workers’ perceptions of working conditions affected survey respondents’ odds of reporting anxiety, depression, and burnout.

The full report was published on Oct. 24 in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.