Mayo Clinic Study Shows Decrease In Work Effort Among Non-Physician Employees

25 Aug, 2021 F.J. Thomas


Sarasota, FL ( – More employers are working to address mental health issues, with many implementing some form of employee assistance program. Just recently, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced funding of $103 million to address the issue of the mental health crisis in healthcare workers. The program is aimed at creating a culture of mental health wellness among healthcare employers, especially those in rural areas or that may be under-served. A new study published earlier this month in JAMA Network Open suggests that the efforts put forth by employers to address mental health issues in non-physician healthcare workers could result in better employee satisfaction, but also effort extended on the job.

Some of the top contributing factors to burnout and mental stress in the healthcare industry include excessive workload, administrative burdens and regulations, lack of leadership, limited flexibility and inadequate technology. Given the industry shortage prior to the pandemic, and an increased exodus in healthcare due to the pandemic, the effects of those stress factors could increase tremendously.

In 2015 and 2017, researchers from Mayo Clinic surveyed non-physician employees from Mayo clinics in Minnesota, Arizona, Florida, and community based health care facilities in the Midwest. The pool of respondents included clerical support staff and business professionals, housekeeping, security personnel, as well as all levels of nurses, therapists, pharmacists, and technologists. In 2015, 84.1 percent of the employees responded, totaling 26,292 responses. In 2017, the percentage increased to 84.4 percent with 31,158 responses.

A total of 26,280 employees completed surveys for both years. Of those, 77.1 percent were women, and ages 45 to 54 comprised 27.8 percent of the respondents. Employees who had worked 15 or more years made up 30.9 percent of the employees, and those that had worked less than 5 years totaled 32.6 percent. Nurses made up a quarter of the total respondents at 25.1 percent.

The survey used 2 of the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) criteria to determine and score emotional exhaustion and depersonalization, which have shown to be critical elements in professional burnout. The survey also included satisfaction ratings using the Likert scale, with employees asked to rank their overall satisfaction with the Mayo organization.

Overall, 21.9 percent reported high levels of emotional exhaustion, and 23.8 percent reported overall burnout at baseline. Depersonalization was reported in 9.2 percent of the employees. A total of 26,108 workers reported their satisfaction at baseline, with 35 percent stating they were very satisfied, and 51.1 percent just satisfied with the organization. Nine percent responded that they were neutral in their satisfaction, 3.6 percent stated they were dissatisfied, and .6 percent stated they were dissatisfied.

The researchers determined work effort from payroll records. Of the 2015 respondents, those that had burnout were more likely to reduce effort. Overall burnout, high emotional exhaustion, and high depersonalization were associated with reduction in work effort at 95 percent. The results showed a dose-response association of reduction in work effort for burnout and satisfaction. For each point increase in emotional exhaustion or depersonalization, the higher the odds of a decrease in work effort. The same correlation was found in satisfaction levels. The researchers found that approximately 1 in 12 reduced their work efforts during the 2 year period.

A total of 8.2 percent showed they had reduced their work efforts between 2015 and 2017, with 42.2 percent at younger than 35. Of those that reduced their work efforts, 89.7 percent were women, and 42.4 percent had been on the job less than 5 years. Nurses made up the majority of those who reflected they had reduced their work efforts at a total of 51.4 percent, which equated to 15.6 percent of all nurses. The mean reduction in work effort was 21 percent, and among nurses was 18.7 percent.

The researchers concluded that addressing stress factors could be a very important component of keeping workers and reducing costs. While this particular study revealed less work effort based on payroll data, it would be interesting to see the ultimate impact on not only patient care, but effort in accuracy during workflows that potentially could result in greater costs.

Coaching that addresses stress and wellbeing of physicians has been shown to significantly improve emotional exhaustion and burnout by 5.2 points, according to a 2019 Mayo clinic study of 88 physicians.The results of another 2019 study showed that the overall cost of reduced clinical hours and physician turnover caused by burnout is $4.6 billion. When viewed at an organizational level, the cost is $7600 per employed physician.

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    About The Author

    • F.J. Thomas

      F.J. Thomas has worked in healthcare business for more than fifteen years in Tennessee. Her experience as a contract appeals analyst has given her an intimate grasp of the inner workings of both the provider and insurance world. Knowing first hand that the industry is constantly changing, she strives to find resources and information you can use.

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