Staff Burnout in Flu Response: Tips from Montana

At the Montana public health laboratory, we are concerned about staff burnout. We don’t have enough staff cross-trained on the influenza test platforms, and our testing volume is highly variable depending upon the patterns of influenza and influenza-like illness circulating in the state. We are testing a representative sampling of specimens from across the state to detect seasonal influenza when it begins circulating. We anticipate that the volume of testing will increase when it becomes important–based on the different resistance patterns in seasonal influenza A–to know the influenza A subtype.

While I don’t have great suggestions for reducing staff burnout, here are some measures that have helped us to cope. We activated a limited ICS structure and dedicated a single call-in line for questions about influenza testing. We also added staff to support critical tasks (e.g., today you will run the testing, process specimens, log in specimens, take telephone calls, etc.) and rotated responsibilities so that no one person had sole responsibility or the same responsibility for days on end. In addition, we stepped up our communications to staff and clinical partners via a weekly influenza update.

Susanne Norris Zanto, CLS(NCA) SM(NRM)Montana Public Health Laboratory

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