Majority of burned-out clinical support staff point to patient communications as the culprit

By | October 14, 2021

A study published this week from the patient experience vendor WELL Health found that the vast majority of frontline clinical support staff are reporting moderate to extreme burnout.  

Nearly two-thirds say they’ve considered switching jobs or quitting due to stress.  

“While much has been reported on doctor and nurse burnout, less attention has been paid to the frontline clinical support staff who have been working tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure high-quality patient care was maintained,” read the report. 

“From the massive amount of patient communication needed to make the shift to virtual care, to their extraordinary efforts in coordinating multifaceted vaccine appointments, clinical support staff are the unsung heroes of the pandemic,” it continued.  


More than half of the 320 frontline staff respondents rated their burnout on the high to extreme end, with nearly two-thirds saying patients have noticed.  

Troublingly, 58% believe their burnout has negatively impacted patient care.  

The study, commissioned by WELL and conducted by market research firm PureSpectrum, found that 82% of respondents cited the patient communications process – defined as contacting and coordinating with patients about their appointments, follow-ups, and health issues via phone, email, text, live chat or other channels – as a direct contributor to burnout.  

About half say the COVID-19 pandemic has made matters worse, and three in 10 say they aren’t discussing their stress with management. At the same time, the majority say automating certain patient communications would be useful for job satisfaction.  

Read More:  Short on Staff, Some Hospices Ask New Patients To Wait

“Attracting and retaining talent is a top priority for healthcare providers, especially during COVID-19,” observed researchers.  


Provider burnout, especially in the context of COVID-19, has become a growing concern for healthcare decision-makers.   

The causes appear to be multifaceted – making potential solutions more complex.

For example, physicians and nurses frequently cite electronic health record usability as a major burnout cause – but a recent study found that doctors who spent less time in the EHR were actually more likely to leave their jobs.  


“With providers increasingly entering value-based contracts with payers, quality of care and patient experience have never been more important,” observed report authors.

Kat Jercich is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Twitter: @kjercich
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

News from