It’s a fact higher numbers of healthcare professionals are experiencing increased feelings of mental and physical collapse caused by overwork and stress, otherwise known as burnout. These same people who make their profession out of caring for others and coaching their own patients towards improved health and wellness are battling their own feelings of fatigue, isolation, loss of motivation, and a sense of failure. Today healthcare providers and professionals are spending more time documenting, working busier schedules, and striving to meet higher demands and expectations compared to people in this same profession even ten years ago. Numerous studies and research have been conducted yet the changes to reduce burnout have been incremental. For this reason, let’s examine the leading causes of burnout along with ways to reduce burnout. When you learn to recognize the signs, you are one step closer to stopping burnout in yourself or a co-worker.
Getting to the Root of Burnout
Work overload is a leading cause of burnout. Health professionals work in high-stress environments with daily exposure to emotionally draining experiences. Add to this the pressure of working in a place which may be under -staffed and the feelings of stress rise even higher. When both workload and high-stress elements can be reduced, patient deaths decrease and overall patient care levels increase. Ultimately, you’re in the healthcare and wellness field because you care about patients and want to give them the best of care. It’s hard to do this if you’re not taking care of yourself.
As you may expect, if someone is doing the workload designed for two, or even three, people it’s understandable this person will feel overwhelm. It is equally understandable that patient care quality will be jeopardized or to be replaced with mediocre care. Burnout can impact works in both preventative and curative care. Employers need to take notice and modify hiring practices as well as workload distribution.
While it’s good to care for your patient, if you struggle with distancing yourself at times, you are the one who will suffer. Run through this checklist to determine if you are showing the symptoms of burnout:
- Emotional exhaustion: While feeling tired is expected if you’re struggling to rebound your energy and feel you’re on a downward spiral, it’s time to make some adjustments.
- Compassion fatigue or depersonalization: If you’re being cynical or sarcastic about patients or think patients are annoying so you tend to complain more than ever, this is a sign to pay attention to. It may be hard to see it in yourself so discuss this with a trusted co-worker who will be more objective.
- Reduced personal achievement: When you begin to doubt you are making a difference in patient care and find yourself thinking “What does it matter?” this is a sign of your unhappiness.
- High turnover rate in staying at a job: If you’ve experienced the above symptoms and haven’t worked through them you may find you leave one place of employment, find another, and the same things begin to happen again. Until you work through these signs of burnout you may keep job hopping.
Putting a Stop to Burnout
Each person can put these things into practice to reduce and stop burnout in their own life.
- Pay attention to how you are feeling each day. It’s normal to have a bad day but if this feeling lingers for two weeks, it is time to speak with someone. It’s time to get assistance to sort through your feelings and come up with some alternative ways to tackle what is bothering you.
- Seek emotional support from your peers. Few others beside your co-workers will understand what you’re going through so seek out a trusted peer and talk it out. There’s much support and comfort which can be gleaned from having a coffee break with a co-worker and talking things over.
- Be intentional about taking time for yourself. Practice self-care daily. This may be taking a 15-minute break to do something you enjoy and relaxing. It could be getting into nature for a walk, sitting outside, or walking among the flowers in your yard. Whatever you enjoy, commit to doing this daily and soon you’ll start feeling the benefits of maintaining this me-time.
- Participate in a support group. Being part of a group gives you a safe outlet to express yourself plus provides an inner-support circle who understand and support you. As much as these people are helping you, you are equally helping them.
If you’re suffering, be intentional about making changes and seeking professional support, if needed. There are constructive things you can do.
Whole Health Educator™ Jennifer L. Crisp, RN, is the founder of A Bridge To Wholeness. Jennifer believes strongly in both traditional western medicine and contemporary health practices as she understands the importance of client-centered care beyond conventional medicine. A Bridge to Wholeness invites traditional and alternative practitioners to get connected (bridging the gap) so your client/patient can experience enhanced benefits and care from these connections. Prior to launching this organization, she worked in a community hospital as a cardiac nurse and has been an entrepreneur since 2011. Visit her website at www.abridgetowholeness.com to take the Intersection of Wellness Quiz and get a free report of your results.