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  • Writer's pictureBruce Cummings

CEO Turnover: Burnout Engulfs the C-Suite, Too

Updated: May 13

Clinicians are not alone in experiencing unprecedented levels of burnout.


The incidence of burnout among healthcare executives now matches or exceeds that of nurses and physicians according to a survey conducted by the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Another indicator: the rising tide of executive turnover. Indeed, according to a report by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, through the first 9 months of this year there have been 125 hospital CEO changes -- a 67% year-over-year increase.


To this former hospital CEO, this comes as no surprise. More than 30 years ago, Peter Drucker, the social theorist and consensus father of modern management theory and practice, opined that the 4 hardest jobs in the US were:

  • President of the United States

  • College President

  • Hospital CEO

  • Head of a religious community (clergy)

Hospital Chief Executive Officers


Being a hospital CEO has become even harder with the passage of time -- a result of an unceasing increase in regulations, staff shortages, rising patient/consumer expectations, unstable supply chains, dizzying advances in clinical and information technology, shrinking operating margins, diminished access to capital, varied and even perverse financial incentives, and competing demands for one's attention. Clinicians are knowledge workers. So, too, are hospital executives. Both often face daily conflicts between the dictates of their professional training and values, and work requirements that all too frequently militates against doing one's best work. Despite their differences in training and duties, clinicians and hospital executives both now must navigate their way in what has become a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment. And yet, the chasm between the c-suite and the front-lines has never seemed so pronounced; the distrust and alienation has never been greater. Indeed, I believe this unwanted, oppressive tension is itself a key driver of burnout and turnover among clinicians and executives alike. It doesn't have to be that way.


How Executives Can Close the Communication-Values-Credibility Gap

There are specific actions executives can take to close the communication-values-credibility gap:

Ready to transform your hospital or workplace?

Are you frustrated by adversarial relationships between front line clinicians and senior leadership? Organizational Wellbeing Solutions was formed to enable senior leaders to identify the specific drivers of clinician burnout in their organization; and to support leaders in designing and executing a comprehensive plan to stop clinician burnout, increase retention, and improve operating results. A hallmark of our consultancy is correcting the all-too-frequent distrust and alienation clinicians feel toward the c-suite generally and the CEO in particular. Let us help you help your organization and its clinicians develop a more trusting, aligned, and productive working relationship.

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