The healthcare industry is a dynamic field, with ever-increasing demands for safety and efficiency. The home health care sector faces unique demands, with caregivers expected to provide compassionate, accurate care despite many challenges. Among the many challenges home health care providers must contend with is that of staff burnout; caregivers are expected to do more with less, and that has led to a dramatic upheaval in the industry. It has also led to the rise of significant health and safety risks, both for staffing agencies and patients alike. While insurance for home health care providers is an important part of the risk management portfolio, reducing employee burnout and managing high-stress environments is the key to protecting staff and the patients that depend on them.
Health Professional Burnout: A Patient Safety Risk
Throughout the healthcare field, high stress levels and emotionally-taxing situations take their toll on caregivers. Many healthcare facilities face staffing shortfalls, leading to remaining staff members to becoming overworked and exhausted, both physically and mentally. In the home health care field, employee burnout is all too common; caregivers must travel long distances, keep packed schedules, and provide complex and challenging treatments for their many patient clients. When stress levels can no longer be managed, burnout occurs. It is estimated that up to 50% of all caregivers in the home health care sector will experience burnout at some point during their careers.
Burnout is characterized by several factors, including:
- A sense of detachment from fellow employees and patients.
- Extreme fatigue that cannot be improved by rest.
- Inability to face the demands of the job.
- Careless mistakes in medication delivery, treatment schedules, and routine tasks like repositioning patients.
It is this last factor that represents a serious risk, both to staff members and their patients. A mistake in medication or treatment can mean a life-threatening health complication – or worse. Failing to take safety precautions in patient handling may result in an injury to the caregiver and/or the patient involved. Musculoskeletal injuries are already common among home health care workers, and an injury complicated by burnout can mean significant expenses in terms of claims and lost productivity.
Recognizing Burnout and Reducing its Impact
Home health care staffing agencies need to understand that burnout can create substantial risks, especially in terms of medical expenses for affected workers as well as in the potential for legal claims filed by patients and their family members. Insurance for home health care providers is designed to alleviate many of the financial risks, but recognizing burnout is the first step in managing risks. Burnout can manifest itself in many ways, but the primary warning sign is an increase in client complaints about a particular caregiver. Errors and mistakes become common if a staff member is burned out, thus leading to complaints by patients and their family members.
Staffing managers must be able to gauge their employees’ interactions with each other and with the patients they care for. Staffing agencies should implement a communication system where caregivers can speak with supervisors or staffing coordinators. This can allow staff and managers to better understand the demands being placed on the caregiver, and also allow stakeholders to take the next steps in reducing burnout.
From the caregiver perspective, asking for help with challenging or difficult patients is a great way to reduce the likelihood of an injury or medical error that puts patients’ lives at risk. Taking the time to engage in enjoyable activities is another stress-reducing step; a “mental health day” can help to reset one’s attitudes about workloads and patient demands.
Staffing agencies should also explore wellness programs for their staff. Exercise, healthy eating, and stress-reduction training pay big dividends when it comes to taking care of staff members. If caregivers believe that their wellbeing is a priority, they are far more likely to be able to manage the demands placed on them. Finally, the role of insurance for home health care provides cannot be overstated. This specialized form of insurance protects against both common and unforeseen risks, offering coverage that ensures continued success for staffing agencies and their employees.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at 877.226.1027.