burnout

Helping Healthcare Workers Avoid Burnout

By Stephen L. Carter

Working in the healthcare industry provides a wide range of benefits and detriments. The benefits are many. Healthcare is one of the few industries where you can genuinely improve peoples’ lives. You actually see the tangible effect that you are having, and this effect can be a motivating factor when work gets stressful. Along with this, some positions in the healthcare industry can offer extremely attractive financial rewards

All of this is well and good. Nevertheless, healthcare professionals must face their fair share of detriments. While workers ranging from physicians to nurses may offer slightly different answers, they all tend to center on one word: burnout

The healthcare industry is inherently stressful. If you aren’t careful, you can find yourself feeling overwhelmed, apathetic, and even cynical about your job. This can lead to a less than ideal situation—for you, your colleagues, and your patients. 

Therefore, you will want to be proactive in avoiding potential burnout before it occurs. By doing so, you will protect your own health and offer better work to your colleagues and patients. 

Avoiding Burnout: Basic Strategies

To start, one of the most obvious ways to avoid burnout in the healthcare industry is to identify when it is about to occur. There are several common symptoms of burnout, one being a progressive, subtle change in your mood. Often, burnt-out employees become more lethargic. It is harder to maintain a positive attitude around patients or your colleagues. Burnt out employees also become less patient—especially when they are serving patients. 

If you are feeling any or all of these symptoms, you may be on your way to experiencing burnout. Ultimately, you will want to do some more digging—whether that is through an independent evaluation or speaking with a colleague. Oftentimes, we cannot identify when burnout is near (or actually occurring). Being in the healthcare field helps in that you can speak with your professional colleagues to obtain a proper diagnosis.

Beyond simple awareness of burnout symptoms, another way to avoid burnout is to practice positive coping strategies. Some of these coping strategies include exercise, a regular meditation practice, or even deep breathing exercises. These sort of exercises can not only prevent burnout, but they can actually fight burnout if you are experiencing it. Working in the healthcare field, it can be tempting to feel like you need to be working all the time. Taking 30 to 60 minutes for exercise or meditation can feel “unproductive.” However, this time you spend taking care of yourself—no matter how unproductive it may feel—will save you significant time and stress in the long run.  

Another effective strategy is to ensure that you are taking time off. Again, the healthcare industry is demanding, so you may feel subtle pressure to avoid taking that vacation. However, according to the Harvard Business Review, clinicians’ ability to disconnect from work and recharge is a critical component of being an engaged employee. Like taking time for exercise or meditation practice, disconnecting through a vacation or some other time off will ultimately make you a more engaged (and happier) employee. In other words, taking that time is an investment in your future success at your organization.

Taking Care of Ourselves

The healthcare industry can be stressful. Patients’ lives are in our hands. We must be totally attentive and engaged with our work, yet the demands of our work can take a toll. Therefore, we must be vigilant in preventing burnout. By following some of the tips above, we can drastically decrease the odds that we become a victim of burnout. This, in turn, ensures that we deliver the best quality of care to patients.

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