Quiet Quitting in Healthcare

In healthcare, while we focus on patients, we should not forget to care for ourselves. The burnout rates among healthcare workers, are, in fact, some of the highest in the country.

The responsibility for managing the consequences of burnout ultimately falls on the shoulders of the already burdened remaining staff. This may explain the worrisome trend sweeping our nation – quiet quitting.

Today, we’ll discuss what quiet quitting is, how it jeopardizes patients and healthcare workers, and some possible solutions.

What is ‘Quiet Quitting’?

Not to be mistaken as a social media trend, quiet quitting is a real social phenomenon affecting half of all American workers.

Instead of giving their best to their jobs, quiet quitters resign themselves to the fact that their job won’t provide them a sense of fulfillment. They can’t quit— whether for financial reasons or other factors — so they stay, but barely.

Quiet quitting means being emotionally disconnected from your job and doing nothing more than the bare minimum to keep it.

Quiet quitting is being emotionally disengaged to the point of lacking goals and being uninvested in the outcome of your work.

While this is a problem in any industry, the results can be catastrophic in healthcare. Patients turn to healthcare providers for reassurance, hope, and healing. Patients sense their providers’ emotions and feel the difference proper mental attitude produces in their care.

What Does Quiet Quitting Look Like in Healthcare?

Quiet quitting produces less communication, less empathy, and less effective treatment, ultimately resulting in poorer patient care.

People who have quietly quit no longer strive to do their best — they only do whatever their contract states they must do and nothing more. But in healthcare, we know that our patients deserve so much more than the bare minimum. Patients need our undivided attention, genuine empathy, and 100% commitment and dedication to helping them live healthier lives.

Quiet quitting in healthcare parallels the same behaviors as seen in other industries, like retail. Workers show a general lack of initiative, whether it is showing up at the last minute or turning down any opportunity to do more than the minimum requirements.

Jeremey Sadlier, the executive director of the American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Administration (ASHHRA), spoke with Advisory Board about the effects of quiet quitting in healthcare.

“There’s an absolute hierarchy, and it doesn’t require someone in healthcare to recognize that when physician engagement falters, that impacts nurses, and when nurses don’t feel engaged, that impacts the rest of the staff,” he explains.

Increased workloads, staffing shortages, and limited resources have created a silent pandemic among America’s healthcare workers. Physician burnout reached an all-time high in 2022, and one-third of practitioners report feeling ‘hopeless’ in their jobs.

While some steps have been made in the right direction, physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff are still struggling. In March 2022, the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act was signed into legislation. This law aims to help reduce the risk of burnout, suicide, and mental health issues among practitioners by improving access to psychological and behavioral services.

Employers must be aware of the impact quiet quitting has in healthcare.

Quiet Quitting’s Impact on Healthcare

Let’s look a bit more closely at the impact quiet quitting has in healthcare.

Doctor Care

Doctors who quietly quit their jobs are more likely to make errors. They lack the focus and motivation required to deliver the optimal medical care that saves lives. Their patients begin to blur together, each case feeling like “just another name” on their clipboard.

In addition to the risks this poses to patients, physicians’ lack of engagement has a ripple effect in healthcare. Their colleagues, nurses, and ancillary staff all feel their lack of engagement. This, in turn, causes a toxic and destructive environment.

Nurse Care

Nurses lacking engagement find themselves counting the minutes until their shift ends. They care about their patients but simply lack the will to do more than the basics for them. Nurses who quietly quit are at significant risk of mental health problems such as depression, compassion fatigue, and stress.

A better work-life balance can help overworked nurses get some reprieve. Unfortunately, many nurses have been seen as “healthcare heroes” who can handle anything without the needed resources, space, and time they need to look after themselves.

Patient Care

While physicians and nurses suffer from the ill effects of quiet quitting, patients are the ultimate victims. Have you ever gone to a medical appointment and felt that the provider didn’t want to be there?

Imagine that feeling among every patient in a hospital, clinic, or practice. Imagine their caregivers asking questions about their loved ones, only getting half-hearted answers or non-committal responses.

Without engaged staff, patients lose access to education, resources, and the treatment they need.

How to Handle Quiet Quitting — Bringing Humanity Back Into Healthcare

The first step toward handling quiet quitting is to acknowledge it. Rather than avoid the conversation, ask staff how they are doing and what they need to feel better.

Recognize that this discussion needs to come from a place of compassion, understanding, and concern — not judgment.

That said, quiet quitting can be frustrating to employers. They cannot afford to have burnout or anything else that leads to lesser patient care. But they also can’t deny that these mental health struggles are real issues, just as deserving of treatment as any other disorder.

Please contact me today if you have been affected by quiet quitting or want to discuss how you can reinfuse your passion into your practice.

Explore my services to learn more about how I use compassionate coaching, advocacy, and leadership training to help my clients find real value and meaning within their work and the healthcare industry.