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In 2015, a US study found that over 50% of physicians reported the symptoms of burnout [1]. Trusts across the UK are striving for answers to this issue, as leaders come to terms with the truth that staff disengagement and burnout is costing them billions each year in lost productivity, recruitment and litigation. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that the NHS providers with high levels of staff engagement, as measured in the annual NHS Staff Survey, have reduced levels of patient mortality and are more cost-efficient. [2]

Increasingly, employers are looking to find ways of helping staff deal with the difficulties of working in healthcare, which include disruptive shift patterns and the growing demand for high-quality patient care with ever depleting resources. Many innovative schemes have been implemented across the country, including Zumba classes, mindfulness sessions, staff choirs and tea trolleys; all designed to prevent staff burnout, and increase workplace engagement.

In 2017, the International Healthcare Institute (IHI) published a framework, promoting the idea that an important part of the solution is to focus on restoring joy to the healthcare workforce. It stated that:

“If burnout in health care were described in clinical or public health terms, it might well be called an epidemic. The numbers are alarming. A 2015 study found over 50 percent of physicians report symptoms of burnout. Thirty-three percent of new registered nurses seek another job within a year, according to another 2013 report. [3] Turnover is up, and morale is down.”

To combat this, they suggest leaders should follow four steps:

Four steps for leaders :
1. Ask staff, "What matters to you?"
2. Identify unique impediments to joy in the local context
3. Commit to a systems approach to making joy in work a shared responsibility at all levels of the organisation
4. Use improvement science to test approaches to improving joy in work in your organisation

The ImproveWell solution is perfectly placed to help leaders harness the knowledge and experience within their organisations to make changes that increase joy at work.

Here’s how our three core feedback systems can work as a direct response to the steps set out in the framework.

Step 1. Use the ImproveWell survey tool to ask staff what matters to them, and what good looks like. You can also look at commonly recurring words within the Good Day Measure word cloud to gain key insights into what makes a good day or a bad day for your team members.

Step 2. Identify unique impediments to joy in work by using the idea submission system to acquire the views of your frontline staff members on how to improve their workplace. Use these to identify the areas in which to focus improvement efforts first. Filter by department, discipline, location, or theme to draw more precise conclusions from the data and implement targeted solutions where they are most needed.  

Step 3. Closing the feedback loop will show to your teams your commitment to making joy in work a shared responsibility at all levels of the organisation. The platform encourages increased transparency, by showing the impact of the changes that are being implemented over time. Use the platform to message employees about their ideas and publish improvement reports to the whole team, letting them know what is changing in their workplace.

Step 4. The ImproveWell solution is a major step towards using improvement science in healthcare. By gathering ideas from the front line, the platform will help to identify small, easy to implement ideas, allowing you to run short, rapid PDSA cycles. By giving your team members permission to implement their ideas, improvement will become an integral part of daily work, essential to everyone’s role.

The framework also points out that regular measurement is key to gauge whether efforts to increase joy at work are effective. The problem is that there is no universally accepted measure for ‘joy’, so proxy measures, such as staff engagement, absenteeism and wellbeing, are used instead.

The ImproveWell platform helps organisations to take both system-level and local-level measures, and collects data in real-time:

  • Take system-level measures
    Use our annual survey, or create your own, to measure staff wellbeing and workforce engagement.
  • Take local-level measures
    Use the Good Day Measure to assess daily the sentiment of your work-force, to detect trends, shifts or cycles, as well as to generate word clouds that give a visual representation of commonly recurring themes.
  • Repeat measures
    Follow up the annual survey with regular pulse surveys to take the temperature of the workforce. Use these pulse surveys along with the regular GDM scores to see the improvement in staff wellbeing over time.

Find out more

Increased engagement within your workforce leads to happier employees and improved performance. ImproveWell is a digital solution focused on Quality Improvement which empowers frontline staff to drive change.

ImproveWell has three core feedback systems:

  • Staff can share theme-based improvement ideas
  • They can share how their day at work is going, helping organisations track workforce sentiment
  • Staff can also complete bespoke pulse surveys

To find out more about how ImproveWell can work with your organisation to help prevent staff burnout and improve employee wellbeing, please get in touch.


[1] Shanafelt TD, Hasan O, Dyrbye LN, et al. Changes in burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance in physicians and the general US working population between 2011 and 2014. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2015 Dec;90(12):1600-1613. 

[2] West and Dawson (2012), taken from https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/staff-engagement-feb-2015.pdf)

[3] Lucian Leape Institute. Through the Eyes of the Workforce: Creating Joy, Meaning, and Safer Health Care. Boston, MA: National Patient Safety Foundation; 2013.