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Assessing and Addressing Burnout in Primary Care

Jessie S. Gerteis and Cristina Booker, Abt Global; Cindy Brach, Jan De La Mare, at Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality


April 17, 2023

Talk of burnout is everywhere in the news right now, and with good reason. People experiencing this workplace-based phenomenon endure extreme exhaustion, cynicism about and detachment from their job, and feelings of ineffectiveness. When high rates of clinicians and healthcare staff experience burnout, there’s a ripple effect. In addition to the serious toll on the individuals experiencing it, burnout among clinicians and healthcare staff impacts patients—and the system more generally—by driving up worker turnover and reducing the quality of care, which leads to lower patient satisfaction and patient safety as well as higher healthcare costs.

Primary care clinicians have even higher rates of burnout than other clinicians, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this issue. In a recent survey, 71 percent of primary care clinicians reported that their burnout or mental exhaustion had reached an all-time high during the pandemic.

This new AHRQ resource, Burnout in Primary Care: Assessing and Addressing It In Your Practice, developed by Abt Global, provides primary care administrators and leaders with information to help them understand how big a problem burnout is in their practices, and ways to address it using an organization-wide approach. This resource includes burnout reduction strategies that practices can tailor to their unique settings and needs, including strategies to reduce administrative workload; implement team-based care and integrated care; promote work-life balance; cultivate social connections; promote a culture of wellness; cultivate effective leadership and opportunities for professional development; and align incentives, payment, and other policies to support staff well-being.