Healthcare provider removing mask

April 26, 2022

How to Simplify Your Waste Management Process to Help Reduce Healthcare Staff Burnout

As the U.S. health system continues to face a broad staffing crisis at seemingly all levels of employment, the challenges to overcome this are not simply retaining staff right now, but also for the foreseeable future. What can we do to stop people from leaving? How do we decrease some of the pressure facing our caregivers and employees? These and many more questions continue to be asked by healthcare leaders around the world.

Even before the most recent COVID-19 spike, Stericycle’s Healthcare Workplace Safety Trend Report found that nearly three quarters of healthcare providers are burned out and exhausted from the pandemic, which has increased day-to-day stress levels.

The report identifies one way hospitals can support their staff and help reduce stresses in the healthcare environment: implement a standardized medical waste management system and protocols.

More than 90% of the healthcare providers and administrators surveyed believe that medical waste management is foundational to maintaining a safe and effective workplace. However, while nearly all healthcare providers and administrators surveyed agree that proper medical waste management is key to providing quality care, still more than half said that their institutions must invest more in waste disposal resources.

Healthcare organizations may find themselves working with multiple medical waste management service providers for different reasons, including attempts to find cost savings, site acquisitions or system mergers, and other organizational changes that affect procurement of medical waste management providers. This can incrementally increase burden on healthcare administrators and frontline staff, such as nursing and environmental service teams, by increasing the amount of vendor contacts, resulting in inconsistent waste processes and equipment, as well as requiring comprehension of varied training and educational materials. When designing medical waste management protocols, it’s important to understand how using multiple waste partners can put increased pressure on staff, and how simplifying processes with a single service provider can help.

The Increased Burden of Using Multiple Medical Waste Vendors

Although not the leading issue to resolve to mitigate employee burnout in healthcare, medical waste management policies and protocols can have an impact on the well-being of healthcare staff and patients. Contracting multiple vendors to manage healthcare waste can result in a decrease of the time healthcare staff have available to spend on other critical responsibilities.

  • Less efficient. Using multiple medical waste management providers can create inefficiencies, which causes unnecessary stress on staff. The health system’s administrative professionals may need to establish and track multiple sets of KPIs, work in varying customer service portals, connect with numerous waste provider contacts, and manage billing from multiple vendors. These inefficiencies can make even simple tasks more complicated and time consuming.
  • Not sustainable. Engaging more than one medical waste partner may increase the number of trucks used for transportation of waste, which in turn can impact an organization’s carbon footprint. Consolidating service providers can help an organization reduce its carbon footprint. Our report found that most of the healthcare workers surveyed prioritize reducing their organization’s environmental impact.
  • Increased safety hazards. When working with multiple medical waste partners, healthcare workers must manage multiple disposal procedures while also navigating busy schedules and delivering care. In an environment that requires focus and attention, inconsistent waste processes, training, and educational materials invites additional opportunity for errors, which can threaten the safety of staff and patients.

How Consolidating Medical Waste Services with Stericycle Can Help Improve Operations

Using multiple medical waste management service providers can impact a healthcare organization in many ways. It can require more time of clinicians and administrators for waste management-related tasks, result in an increase to the healthcare organization’s carbon footprint, and it can potentially put the safety of providers and patients at risk. However, streamlining medical waste operations with one service provider, such as Stericycle, can help increase efficiencies across a healthcare organization, helping to reduce stress for those directly handling medical waste in addition to those who work in business operations.

  • Single Point of Contact. Using a single medical waste service provider can help simplify the waste management process for providers, administrators, and other healthcare workers. Administrators who work with Stericycle have 24/7 access to our online portal for scheduling pickups, retrieving shipping papers, and accessing educational resources. We offer localized account management as a single point of contact for inquiries. Healthcare providers also save time by having only one set of waste acceptance procedures.
  • Sustainability. Choosing a single medical waste provider can help reduce an organization’s carbon footprint by resulting in fewer truck trips to and from the facility.
  • Reliability. Currently, Stericycle’s medical waste network includes 135 transfer sites and 153 processing facilities in North America. With Stericycle’s services, healthcare workers can focus on caring for patients without worrying about scheduling issues during periods of unexpected volumes of medical waste or other emergencies.

Learn more about Stericycle’s integrated approach to medical waste management.

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