How administrative staff burnout impacts the patient experience—and four strategies that can help

Burnout is one of the leading causes of administrative staff turnover. That's why it’s crucial to combat burnout before it happens.
Patient Experience Staffing

Think about the last time you went to a restaurant that was short-staffed. Your server probably looked exhausted and desperate for a break. You probably waited longer than usual for your meal. Perhaps you made a mental note: Don’t come back here again.  

The same thing happens in healthcare when administrative staff turnover is high. When patients are dissatisfied with their healthcare experience, they may look elsewhere for care. And since burnout is one of the leading causes of staff turnover, it’s crucial to combat it before it happens. 

Consider how administrative staff burnout can negatively impact the patient experience: 

Longer wait times

Burnout is often a symptom of demanding workloads. When staff are bogged down by manual tasks, patients shoulder the burden. Lengthy wait times for check-in and appointment scheduling can inhibit patient access. Organizations that fail to address these frustrations could lose up to 48% of their patient base in a year, and that doesn’t account for patients who may avoid your organization after reading negative reviews online about long wait times. 

Inability to get questions answered

Your patients have questions. Does your staff have time to answer them, or are they too overworked? When administrative staff appear overwhelmed and distressed, patients may avoid asking questions entirely, limiting your ability to provide the proactive care they expect.  

Feeling overlooked and underappreciated

When administrative staff are busy answering phones or photocopying documents, they have fewer opportunities to focus on building relationships and fostering trust with your patients. Healthcare is, at its core, a caring profession. When staff are burned out, it becomes nearly impossible for them to care for others, which can hinder retention, leave patients feeling neglected and discourage them from seeking care. 

Despite these challenges, there are proven ways to alleviate administrative burnout and improve the patient experience, even when you’re short-staffed. Here are four strategies you can implement today: 

1. Learn how to spot burnout  

Healthcare leaders need to investigate how administrative staff are feeling and determine whether they need more support. Make sure your leaders and managers know how to identify telltale signs of burnout: exhaustion, absenteeism, disengagement, heightened sensitivity and isolation. Burned-out employees may lower their standards, interact with colleagues in disrespectful ways and express cynicism or feelings of inadequacy. Identifying staff burnout is the first step toward reducing turnover and delivering the empathetic, whole-person care patients need. 

2. Help staff feel connected to your mission  

Understanding whether you’re paying a competitive rate is essential for navigating the current labor environment. But given how tight most healthcare organizations’ budgets are, raises may not be possible. Luckily, there are other ways to retain staff and help them feel connected to their work. 

Staff feel a sense of loyalty to your organization and mission when they can clearly understand how their work affects patients. To cultivate a mission-driven mindset amongst your administrative team, be sure to discuss patients’ stories and highlight how their efforts translate to positive patient outcomes.  

3. Express your appreciation  

Even small gestures can go a long way in combating burnout. To express gratitude to your team, consider sending handwritten thank-you notes or giving each staff member a gift card for a free coffee.  
It’s equally important to recognize and celebrate your team’s accomplishments. Reflect on specific examples of how each staff member went above and beyond—and be sure to elevate their successes to senior leadership. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to show your staff how much you value their hard work.  

4. Embrace healthcare technology  

Need a surefire way to alleviate burnout for administrative and clinical staff alike? Start by making their jobs easier. 
Implementing healthcare technology—like mobile intake, self-scheduling and contactless payments—can help your staff spend less time on manual tasks. The end result is more efficiency, fewer data-entry errors and more time for staff to focus on the patient experience.  
Technology also benefits patients by enabling them to take a more active role in their care. Engaged patients are more likely to show up for their appointments, pay their medical bills at the time of service and schedule the follow-up and preventive care they need. 

Learn how Phreesia can help you combat administrative burnout and deliver the modern, convenient experience your patients and staff expect, even while short-staffed.