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In an APTA-supported resolution that points to "an epidemic of burnout" among U.S. health care workers, the U.S. Senate may be poised to officially back the creation of a Health Workforce Well-Being Day of Awareness — and perhaps more important, to support stepped-up efforts around mental health care, reduced administrative burden, and research on burnout in the health professions. If adopted, the resolution would strengthen advocacy efforts by APTA and other provider organizations to reverse a burnout trend that began decades ago and was made worse during the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath.

The resolution, introduced by Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., cites research that found 50% of health care workers reported burnout in 2020, as well as reports increasing rates of depression and suicidal thoughts, present-day attrition, and plans to leave the workforce in the future. Beyond the impact on individual lives, the resolution states, the combined effect of burnout "constitutes both a serious public health concern and a challenge to economic security," and raises "serious concerns about quality of care and patient safety."

If passed, the resolution would position the Senate as a supporter of efforts to combat health care workforce burnout, including the establishment of March 18, 2024, as the first annual "Health Workforce Well-Being Day of Awareness." First forwarded by the National Academy of Medicine, or NAM, the day is intended to reinforce goals — also cited in the resolution — to mobilize action at the governmental, institutional, and facility levels; invest in more research; remove barriers to accessing mental health care; and engage "effective tools and technology that reduce administrative burdens on physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals," among other aims.

The resolution cites several national initiatives and reports as well as 2022 federal legislation aimed at reducing provider burnout, as foundational elements. The initiatives — all supported by APTA — include the Lorna Breen Health Care Providers Protection Act signed into law in 2022, an advisory from the U.S. Surgeon General on health care worker burnout, and the NAM plan for health workforce well-being associated with the March 18 recognition day.

APTA Continues to Strive for a Healthier Workforce

The proposed resolution is consistent with APTA's ongoing commitment to reducing burnout both by way of greater resources for members and strong advocacy to improve the work environment for PTs and PTAs. Recent examples:

  • The association made provider self-care a central focus of its centennial programming in 2021 when it introduced its Fit for Practice initiative that offered free resources on movement, resiliency, restoration, and practice health, and now offers insights from members on how to thrive professionally.
  • On the legislative and regulatory front, APTA understands the connection between unnecessary administrative burden and burnout, and advocates for burden reductions at federal and commercial payer levels. Recent wins include improvements to prior authorization requirements in Medicare Advantage, state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program fee-for-service programs and managed care plans, and qualified health plan issuers on the federally facilitated exchange; as well as positive change around prior authorization and plans of care among commercial payers Aetna and UnitedHealthcare. Currently in the works: legislation that would reduce burden around plan of care authorization in Medicare.

"APTA has long understood that health care workforce burnout is not just harmful to the individual provider — it's a threat to our nation's ability to provide access to needed services across the entire system," said Justin Elliott, APTA vice president of government affairs. "The association is grateful to Sens. Kaine and Marshall for shining a light on this growing crisis, and for underscoring the need for a multifaceted approach to addressing it."

The need for long-term Medicare reforms addressing administrative burdens will be front and center at APTA’s Capitol Hill Day on April 15-16 in Washington DC.  Join us in D.C. and make your voice heard!

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