J. Greenlee

Employee Burnout in Histology

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in various ways, and employees in the healthcare industry have had to bear the brunt of the impact. Histology laboratories played an important role throughout the pandemic. However, the added workload and stress of working in a high-pressure environment have taken a toll on the mental and physical health of employees, leading to burnout.

Employee burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. In the histology laboratory setting, increased workloads, staffing shortages, and aging or failing equipment, has made employees susceptible to burnout. This condition can manifest in various ways, including fatigue, lack of motivation, decreased job satisfaction, and reduced productivity.  All of these conditions result in the increased risk of laboratory errors that can jeopardize samples and the diagnosis for patients.  In addition, the effects of employee burnout can not only affect staff at work but also at home.  Stress and frustration does not just end when employees punch out to go home.  That exhaustion follows them home and begins to also negatively impact their personal and family lives.

To address employee burnout, histology laboratory managers and supervisors must prioritize the well-being of their employees. They can start by implementing measures to reduce the workload, such as hiring additional staff. This is often easier said than done, however.  Staffing shortages due to the lack of replacement of retiring histologists was an issue even prior to COVID-19, and now the problem of finding qualified staff has become even worse. 

When adding headcount is not available, reviewing laboratory processes to identify opportunities to make laboratory tasks simpler and with less risk and rework is vital.  Histology laboratories are notorious for having aging equipment.  Processing tissue on tissue processors that are more than 20 years old is commonplace for many laboratories, but with burnout at record highs, histology laboratories must finally take the step forward that other laboratory disciplines have previously done and look toward new technologies and automation to alleviate some of the burden from the histology staff.  It is essential to provide employees with adequate resources and support, such as reliable equipment, training, and mental health resources.  

Encouraging employee engagement and recognition can also help alleviate burnout. Employees who feel appreciated and valued for their contributions are more likely to remain motivated and productive. This does not mean just throwing the occasional pizza party even though it is a nice gesture.  Regular check-ins with employees to gauge their well-being and concerns can help managers address any issues before they become more significant problems that lead to a downward spiral of yet even more problems.

Employee burnout in histology laboratories after COVID-19 is a significant issue that must be addressed to ensure the well-being and productivity of staff. By implementing measures to reduce workload, providing adequate support and resources, and promoting employee engagement and recognition, histology laboratory managers and supervisors can help prevent burnout and promote a healthy work environment.
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