New Surgeon General Advisory Sounds Alarm on Health Worker Burnout and Resignation (2023)

During Mental Health Awareness Month, Surgeon General’s Advisory Highlights the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Health Workers, Who Already Faced Crisis Levels of Burnout Prior to the Pandemic

There is a Projected Shortage of More than 3 Million Essential Low-Wage Health Workers in the Next Five Years and a Projected Shortage of Nearly 140,000 Physicians by 2033

Today, United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a new Surgeon General’s Advisory highlighting the urgent need to address the health worker burnout crisis across the country. Health workers, including physicians, nurses, community and public health workers, nurse aides, among others, have long faced systemic challenges in the health care system even before the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to crisis levels of burnout. The pandemic further exacerbated burnout for health workers, with many risking and sacrificing their own lives in the service of others while responding to a public health crisis. Promoting the mental health and well-being of our nation’s frontline health workers is a priority for the Biden-Harris Administration and a core objective of President Biden’s national mental health strategy, within his Unity Agenda.

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The Surgeon General’s Advisory Addressing Health Worker Burnout lays out recommendations that the whole-of-society can take to address the factors underpinning burnout, improve health worker well-being, and strengthen the nation’s public health infrastructure.

“At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and time and time again since, we’ve turned to our health workers to keep us safe, to comfort us, and to help us heal,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “We owe all health workers – from doctors to hospital custodial staff – an enormous debt. And as we can clearly see and hear throughout this Surgeon General’s Advisory, they’re telling us what our gratitude needs to look like: real support and systemic change that allows them to continue serving to the best of their abilities. I’m grateful to Surgeon General Murthy for amplifying their voices today. As the Secretary of Health and Human Services, I am working across the department and the U.S. government at-large to use available authorities and resources to provide direct help to alleviate this crisis.”

“The nation’s health depends on the well-being of our health workforce. Confronting the long-standing drivers of burnout among our health workers must be a top national priority,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. “COVID-19 has been a uniquely traumatic experience for the health workforce and for their families, pushing them past their breaking point. Now, we owe them a debt of gratitude and action. And if we fail to act, we will place our nation’s health at risk. This Surgeon General’s Advisory outlines how we can all help heal those who have sacrificed so much to help us heal.”

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, health workers were experiencing alarming levels of burnout – broadly defined as a state of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low sense of personal accomplishment at work. Burnout can also be associated with mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. In 2019, the National Academies of Medicine (NAM) reported that burnout had reached “crisis” levels, with up to 54% of nurses and physicians, and up to 60% of medical students and residents, suffering from burnout. The pandemic has since affected the mental health of health workers nationwide, with more than 50% of public health workers reporting symptoms of at least one mental health condition, such as anxiety, depression, and increased levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Health worker burnout not only harms individual workers, but also threatens the nation’s public health infrastructure. Already, Americans are feeling the impact of staffing shortages across the health system in hospitals, primary care clinics, and public health departments. With over half a million registered nurses anticipated to retire by the end of 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new registered nurses across the U.S. Further, within the next five years, the country faces a projected national shortage of more than 3 million low-wage health workers. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects that physician demand will continue to grow faster than supply, leading to a shortage of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033, with the most alarming gaps occurring in primary care. Health worker burnout affects the public’s ability to get routine preventive and emergency care, and our country’s ability to respond to public health emergencies.

The Surgeon General’s Advisory Addressing Health Worker Burnout lays out recommendations for health care organizations, health insurers, health technology companies, policymakers, academic institutions, researchers, and communities to address health worker burnout and ensure their well-being – so that health workers can thrive and better answer their call as healers.

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Topline recommendations to address burnout in the Surgeon General’s Advisory include:

  • Transform workplace culture to empower health workers and be responsive to their voices and needs.
    • We can begin by listening to health workers and seek their involvement to improve processes, workflows, and organizational culture.
  • Eliminate punitive policies for seeking mental health and substance use disorder care.
    • Ensure on-demand counseling and after work hours care are more accessible to health workers to promote and preserve their well-being.
  • Protect the health, safety, and well-being of all health workers.
    • Provide living wages, paid sick and family leave, rest breaks, evaluation of workloads and working hours, educational debt support, and family-friendly policies including childcare and care for older adults for all health workers.
    • Ensure adequate staffing, including surge capacity for public health emergencies, that is representative of the communities they serve. This is critical to protect and sustain health workers and communities.
    • Organizations, communities, and policies must prioritize protecting health workers from workplace violence and ensure that they have sufficient personal protective equipment.
    • In a national survey among health workers in mid-2021, eight out of 10 experienced at least one type of workplace violence during the pandemic, with two-thirds having been verbally threatened, and one-third of nurses reporting an increase in violence compared to the previous year.
    • Among 26,174 state, tribal, local, and territorial public health workers surveyed across the country during March-April 2021, nearly a quarter (23.4%) reported feeling bullied, threatened, or harassed at work.
  • Reduce administrative burdens to help health workers have productive time with patients, communities, and colleagues.
    • One study showed that on average, for every 1 hour of direct patient care, a primary care provider will spend 2 hours a day on administrative tasks. That is time that could be spent with patients, in the community, and building relationships with colleagues, which is essential to strengthening the health and well-being of both health workers and patients.
  • Prioritize social connection and community as a core value of the healthcare system.
    • This enhances job fulfillment, protects against loneliness and isolation, and ultimately improves the quality of patient care.
    • This includes peer and team-based models of care to strengthen collaboration and create opportunities for social support and community.
  • Invest in public health and our public health workforce.
    • Diversify and expand the public health workforce and improve disease surveillance systems to help address social determinants of health and health inequities, counter health misinformation, and strengthen partnerships across clinical and community settings.

Surgeon General's Advisories are public statements that call the American people's attention to a public health issue and provide recommendations for how it should be addressed. Advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that need the American people's immediate attention.

Read Addressing Health Worker Burnout: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory for Building a Thriving Health Workforce at

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For more information about the Office of the Surgeon General, please visit:

(Video) Surgeon General’s Advisory Addressing Health Worker Burnout | 5.25.22


Why is burnout so common in healthcare? ›

Workplace systems cause burnout among health workers. There are a range of societal, cultural, structural, and organizational factors that contribute to burnout among health workers. Some examples include: excessive workloads, administrative burdens, limited say in scheduling, and lack of organizational support.

How do you deal with burnout in healthcare? ›

Practice stress reduction techniques including deep breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.
  1. Take time off before burnout sets in. ...
  2. Connect with friends and colleagues to reduce feelings of isolation.
  3. Keep your appointments with your regular physicians to maintain good physical and mental health.

How do hospitals prevent burnout? ›

Motivational programs, such as gratitude and thankful events, for physicians and nurses as well as professional identity development programs can increase motivation and interest in caring for patients and can improve depression, burnout, and well-being.

How many nurses are affected by burnout? ›

Burnout affects approximately 38% of nurses per year.

It is defined as emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It impacts nurses' personal lives, the patients they take care of, and the organizations they work for.

What occupation has the highest burnout? ›

Jobs with highest burnout rate
  • Physician.
  • Nurse.
  • Retail and Fast Food Worker.
  • Social Worker.
  • Police Officer.
  • Air Traffic Controller.
  • Emergency Response Worker.
  • Lawyer.
7 Sept 2022

Who suffers from burnout the most? ›

Who experiences burnout?
  • Women are more likely to suffer from burnout than men at a rate of 32% to 28%.
  • Over half of women in leadership positions say they feel burned out on a consistent basis.
  • Employees are more likely to feel burned out if they're also caring for young children.

What are the 3 components of burnout? ›

Burnout is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

How do you address an employee burnout in healthcare? ›

3 Strategies for Reducing Burnout in Your Staff
  1. Lead with care. Meeting the demands associated with a constant state of emergency has been extremely hard on front-line workers. ...
  2. Invest in psychological support. ...
  3. Look at the schedule. ...
  4. Doing Nothing Isn't an Option.

What are 4 strategies that help prevent professional burnout? ›

Here are four ways managers can help prevent burnout at work:
  • Provide recovery time. Everyone needs a break to recover. ...
  • Foster a well-being mindset. How people think about stressors has an impact on their ability to handle and recover from them. ...
  • Build social connections. People are wired to be social. ...
  • Purpose.

How does a doctor identify a burnout? ›

Among the most common symptoms of burnout are:
  1. Loss of motivation.
  2. Feeling helpless, trapped or defeated.
  3. Detachment.
  4. Increased cynical or negative outlook.
  5. Decreased satisfaction or sense of accomplishment.
  6. Feeling tired and drained most of the time.
  7. Tiredness that does not respond to adequate rest.
  8. Lowered immunity.

What are the 7 ways to avoid burnout? ›

Take a look at these seven tips.
  • Rise and shine. Sleeping in is something many of us wish we could do daily. ...
  • Disconnect from technology before bed. We get it: It's hard to unplug at night. ...
  • Schedule breaks throughout your day. ...
  • Take vacations. ...
  • Be Mindful. ...
  • Exercise. ...
  • Set boundaries.

Which type of nurse is most prone to burnout? ›

Critical care nurses tend to suffer the highest rates of burnout. Critical care specialties include the emergency department (ED) and intensive care unit (ICU). Emergency department nurses tend to experience the highest rates of burnout.

Why nurses are leaving the profession? ›

Early Retirement and Burnout

Unprecedented stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many nurses to leave the profession early and retire from their current positions. This is on top of those who are already close to retirement age.

Which nurses are most burned out? ›

Burnout is High in Oncology and Emergency Care

"Oncology, critical care, and ICU nurses tend to report the most cases of burnout due to the high-pressure environment of these specialties," she says.

What jobs have unhappiest workers? ›

If you're looking for a job that will make you and your coworkers happy, you might want to avoid pursuing these.
  • Legal assistant. ...
  • Registered nurse. ...
  • Security officer. ...
  • Driver. Bliss score: 3.206. ...
  • Cashier. Bliss score: 3.226. ...
  • Operations supervisor. Bliss score: 3.230. ...
  • Associate. Bliss score: 3.248. ...
  • Sales associate. Bliss score: 3.253.

What profession has the happiest workers? ›

The 10 Happiest and Most Satisfying Jobs
  • Dental Hygienist.
  • Physical Therapist.
  • Radiation Therapist.
  • Optometrist.
  • Human Resources Manager.

What are five symptoms a person will have if they are suffering from burnout? ›

Recognizing the signs of burnout
  • Reduced performance and productivity.
  • Anxiety.
  • Detachment.
  • Feeling listless.
  • Low mood.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Lack of creativity.
  • Fatigue.
2 Jun 2022

Does burnout cause people to quit? ›

Burnout was cited as one of the top three reasons for why young people are leaving their jobs, according to the global survey which found that some 40% of Gen Zers (ages 19-24) and 24% of millennials (ages 28-39) would like to leave their jobs within two years.

What is the number one cause of burnout? ›

Job burnout risk factors

You have a heavy workload and work long hours. You struggle with work-life balance. You work in a helping profession, such as health care. You feel you have little or no control over your work.

Should I quit my job if it is affecting my mental health? ›

While quitting a job that leaves your mental health in a poor state may sound like a clear-cut decision, it's far from it. Financial and social considerations are critical to consider, along with the commitment—warranted or not—many people feel towards their employer.

What does severe burnout look like? ›

Physical signs and symptoms of burnout

Feeling tired and drained most of the time. Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses. Frequent headaches or muscle pain. Change in appetite or sleep habits.

What are 3 personality traits that can lead to burnout? ›

Traits and Attitudes That Increase Burnout Risk
  • Perfectionist Tendencies.
  • Pessimism.
  • Excitability.
  • "Type A" Personality.
  • Poor Fit for the Job.
  • Lack of Belief in What You Do.
21 Oct 2020

What are the 12 stages of burnout? ›

The 12 Stages of Burnout
  • Excessive Ambition.
  • Pushing Yourself to Work Harder.
  • Neglecting Personal Care and Needs.
  • Displacement of Conflict.
  • Changes in Values to Validate Self Worth.
  • Denial of Problems and Shame.
  • Social Withdrawal.
  • Obvious Behavior Changes.
18 May 2016

What happens to your brain during a burnout? ›

Burnout causes the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for cognitive functioning – to thin. This happens normally with ageing but in people who are stressed for prolonged periods of time, it occurs much more rapidly. Parts of the brain that control memory and attention spans are weakened.

What can employers do to address burnout? ›

Let your employees know when work is done well—and do not let them downplay the significance of their accomplishments. Offer support. Create a culture in which seeking help is encouraged. In addition, proactively ask workers what you can do to help them perform their jobs better and avoid unnecessary stress.

What do you say to your boss during a burnout? ›

When you feel ready to go to your manager, be open about the fact that you're feeling the effects of burnout. Communicate the symptoms you have noticed – both physical and mental – and highlight some things you identified as needs for overcoming your current state.

What can HR do about burnout? ›

To help address burnout, organizations can take such measures as increasing the time and tools for employees to get the job done or creating opportunities for employees to connect in a remote or hybrid workplace, says Darcy Gruttadaro, director of the Center for Workplace Mental Health, which is part of the American ...

What is the fastest way to cure burnout? ›

14 tips on how to recover from burnout
  1. Track your stress levels. ...
  2. Identify your stressors. ...
  3. Create a habit of journaling. ...
  4. Seek professional help from a coach or therapist. ...
  5. Build a support network. ...
  6. Get enough exercise. ...
  7. Speak up for yourself. ...
  8. Learn stress management techniques.
25 Oct 2021

How do you beat burnout without quitting? ›

How to beat workplace burnout without quitting your job
  1. Own the problem. It's a cliche to say that to fix the problem, you must first accept that you have a problem. ...
  2. Know your limits. ...
  3. Set boundaries. ...
  4. Change your work environment. ...
  5. Make time for self care. ...
  6. Ask for help.
26 Jul 2022

What coping strategy is most strongly associated with burnout? ›

Coping strategies are negatively related to EE and cynicism and positively related to PA (Yin et al., 2018; García-Arroyo and Osca, 2019). DE is associated with the use of denial, mental disconnection, and avoidance. Thus, avoidance is frequently used by individuals with burnout syndrome.

How do you prove burnout? ›

Fatigue and exhaustion can also manifest in other ways, so look for signs such as: Lack of energy for tasks that require emotional or physical input. Lack of motivation for work-related and everyday tasks. Huge amount of effort needed to complete tasks.

Can a doctor book you off for burnout? ›

You are entitled to take sick leave if your stress is serious enough. “As long as a doctor books you off, sick leave is acceptable for whatever illness the doctor deems severe enough,” says Linda Gouveia, the owner of the Labour Workshop. “It is becoming more common for people to be booked off for stress.”

Which physicians are most burned out 2022? ›

The survey also suggested that some physicians were at higher risk of burnout, including those practicing emergency medicine, family medicine and pediatrics, as well as women physicians in general. Dr. Shanafelt said this might be because of the shortage of mental health services.

Can burnout be permanent? ›

Burnout doesn't go away on its own; rather, it will get worse unless you address the underlying issues causing it. If you ignore burnout, it will only cause you further harm down the line, so it's important that you begin recovery as soon as possible.

How long should you avoid burnout? ›

And Cornerstone's survey results reflect this: A three-day weekend may help reduce stress levels at work far more effectively than a long vacation. Taking a Friday or Monday off to extend the weekend every once in a while has become an increasingly popular, and possibly even better, way to reduce burnout.

How long does it take to recover from burnout? ›

Once a phase of stress or overwork has turned into burnout, it takes at least 11 weeks to recover from it. For most people, recovery from burnout takes anywhere from a year to several years. An active approach can help shorten this time as much as possible and alleviate common symptoms.

What is the hardest nurse to be? ›

Most Stressful Nursing Positions
  • Intensive Care Unit nurses (ICU) ICU is an extremely high-pressure environment and these nurses work with patients who have significant injuries and disease with added morbidity risks. ...
  • Emergency Department nurses. ...
  • Neonatal ICU. ...
  • OR nursing. ...
  • Oncology Nursing. ...
  • Psychiatric Nursing.
27 Jan 2021

What type of nurses are the happiest? ›

Let's take a look at some nursing specialties where nurses report being happiest.
  • School Nurse. ...
  • Labor and Delivery Nurse. ...
  • Case Management Nurse. ...
  • Nurse Educator. ...
  • Parish Nurse. ...
  • Travel Nurse.
26 Aug 2022

What is the hardest nurse to become? ›

Here are just a few of the specialties our readers mentioned — along with a little insight into what makes these nursing jobs so difficult.
  • Oncology. There's no surprise that this specialty is near the top of the list. ...
  • Hospice. ...
  • Medical-Surgical. ...
  • Geriatric Care. ...
  • Emergency Room. ...
  • Psychiatry. ...
  • Correctional Nursing.

At what age do most nurses retire? ›

The average retirement age is 62, but the best age for a nurse to retire depends on the individual nurse. There are 3 criteria you need to check to determine when you should retire.

How old is the average nurse? ›

The median age of a registered nurse is 52 years old. 9.4% of the RN and 8.1% of the LPN/LVN workforce are men. The number of male nurses has tripled over the past 50 years. In the Pacific region of the U.S., 30.5% of nurses are people of color, the largest percentage in the country.

What is the least stressful nursing job? ›

The 10 Least Stressful Nursing Jobs This Year (2022)
  • Nurse Educators. ...
  • Institutional Nurses. ...
  • Research Nurses. ...
  • Public Health Nurses. ...
  • Occupational Health Nurses. ...
  • Case Management Nurses. ...
  • Home Health Nurses. ...
  • Clinic Nurses.
6 Jul 2022

What is the most stressful type of nursing? ›

The most stressful nursing jobs include ICU nurse, ER nurse, and NICU nurse. In these roles, nurses work in an intense environment with high stakes. They manage emergency situations and care for critically ill patients. Other stressful nursing jobs include OR nursing, oncology nursing, and psychiatric nursing.

How do you tell if you are burnt out as a nurse? ›

What Are the Signs of Burnout in Nurses and Healthcare Workers?
  1. Constant Tiredness. It's common to associate nursing with a lack of sleep. ...
  2. Compassion Fatigue. ...
  3. Feeling Unappreciated. ...
  4. Emotional Detachment. ...
  5. Constant Anxiety Related to Work. ...
  6. Finding No Enjoyment in the Job. ...
  7. Unexplained Sicknesses.
9 Jul 2021

What group of nurses are the most disengaged? ›

Survey results showed that, nationally, nearly 30% of registered nurses (RNs) are at risk of leaving their organization. Nurses younger than 35 who have been at their current employer for less than a year are most likely to leave voluntarily.

How common is healthcare burnout? ›

More than half of health workers report symptoms of burnout,1 and many are contending with insomnia, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health challenges.

Why is burnout so common in nursing? ›

Demanding workloads and aspects of the work environment, such as poor staffing ratios, lack of communication between physicians and nurses, and lack of organizational leadership within working environments for nurses, are known to be associated with burnout in nurses.

What were the top 5 potential causes of physician burnout? ›

Here are five of the most common causes.
  • Completing too many administrative tasks. ...
  • Not having enough time with patients. ...
  • Working too many hours. ...
  • Keeping up with growing patient demand. ...
  • Worrying about online reputation. ...
  • Improve practice efficiency. ...
  • Take control of your online reputation.
13 Jul 2022

What causes burnout in medical students? ›

Some of the causes of medical student burnout are known – high academic requirements, demanding nature of the contents, heavy workload, stress of the exams [12], however there is an insufficient number of studies on predictive psychological variables of burnout in medical students.

What is the most stressful healthcare job? ›

A nurse is one of the other most stressful occupations (at the end of the day, so many of those in the medical field are). They often do just as much as doctors — especially nurse practitioners — with the addition of grunt work and being responsible for patient care.

What profession has the lowest burnout rate? ›

These are the best low-stress jobs:
  • Web Developer.
  • Occupational Therapist.
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant.
  • Computer Systems Analyst.
  • Actuary.
  • Statistician.
  • Data Scientist.
  • Software Developer.
11 Aug 2022

How do you test for burnout? ›

1 I feel run down and drained of physical or emotional energy. 2 I have negative thoughts about my job. 3 I am harder and less sympathetic with people than perhaps they deserve. 4 I am easily irritated by small problems, or by my co-workers and team.

What are 3 features of burnout? ›

Burnout is a psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job. The three key dimensions of this response are an overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

Which doctor has the least burnout? ›

The lowest rates of burnout were reported by physicians in these medical specialties: Public health and preventive medicine: 29%. Ophthalmology: 30%. Orthopedics: 34%.
Reduce stress in your practice with:
  • Expert insights on burnout.
  • Quick tips to streamline workflows.
  • Resources to improve professional satisfaction.
21 Jan 2020

Is burnout considered a medical condition? ›

Burnout is now classified as a “syndrome” with set behaviors and symptoms. That means that people can now point to workplace stress as the origin of their illness. Importantly, Burnout is an illness however it is not classified as a disease, which is great news.

Is burnout medically recognized? ›

If so, you may be on the road to burnout. Yes, burnout is real and is now a legitimate medical diagnosis according to the World Health Organization's (WHO) handbook, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), that guides medical providers in diagnosing diseases. Dr.


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