The first thought that comes to mind when thinking of the NHI of the future is overcrowded waiting rooms at doctor’s consulting rooms, clinics and hospitals, and having to wait for hours to see a doctor or to be helped.
However, what does this picture look like from the viewpoint of the health care worker? What will their experience be like from within the NHI?
Results of a study done in the USA (read more on the study here: https://www.medicalbrief.co.za/archives/physicians-small-practices-considerably-lower-levels-burnout/) has now revealed that doctors experience dramatically fewer symptoms of burnout and stress when they practice in smaller practices where they may make autonomous and independent decisions. The incidence of burnout among doctors in small practices is about 40% less than in the case of doctors working in the public sector where they cannot work autonomously in a smaller patient environment. Burnout within the health care sector is a major reason for concern because it leads to poorer service delivery and low job satisfaction and productivity.
The study found that the biggest contributing factor to reduce burnout was the issue of autonomy. It has also been shown that a culture of safety and high-quality service delivery also leads to less burnout. Infrastructure, the environment and a doctor’s ability to deliver health care of a high standard are, therefore, all important factors in helping to reduce stress levels.
Although other factors that are stressful in smaller practices should not be dismissed, the findings of the study are very insightful. With the NHI becoming a real prospect for the future, and economic factors that will play a role, more and more doctors will probably have to become part of a bigger and busier institution. Working conditions in public health care is already stressful due to the shortage of equipment, facilities, staff, etcetera.
How will doctors be protected against burnout in the NHI environment? Has anyone taken into consideration what the effect will be on doctors and other health care practitioners?
By Nicolien Welthagen, Senior Research Scientist at the Solidarity Research Institute