Surviving Healthcare Burnout

There’s an epidemic of healthcare burnout raging across our healthcare systems. The reality is that every single healthcare worker will experience it to some degree or another, which is why it’s important to recognize its signs and know how you can personally do something to combat it.

Burnout–which can show up in various forms, such as low motivation, lack of interest to connect to patients and colleagues, or in extreme cases, the desire to leave the profession all together–is not just a healthcare problem. Others in giving professions, such as teachers, police, ministers, and non profit administrators–are also at high risk for burnout. Most people who go into these professions have an intuitive desire to help and give. However, when the impact of their work seems lost in the overwhelming need, the endless burden on these givers can wear heavy on their minds, their hearts, and their bodies.

One sign of burnout is simply not looking forward to your day or only thinking about the negative things that happened at the end of your day. Burnout can manifest itself in things like high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and addiction.

Although everyone is susceptible to burnout, there are certain personality traits that tend to be at a higher risk than others. In her article, Battling Burnout in Healthcare, Megan Malugani writes about the type of personality that is most at risk for burnout. Typically, these people:

  • Don’t know how to say “no” to demands on their time and energy.
  • Assume added responsibility when they are already working at capacity.
  • Consistently sacrifice their personal lives for work.
  • Lack control in their positions.
  • Regularly suppress their emotions.
  • Don’t discuss their problems or feelings.
  • Routinely criticize themselves.
  • Haven’t learned how to manage stress effectively.
                                                                                                -Battling Burnout in Healthcare

There are things in your control to help combat burnout, which is a very natural and common phenomenon for healthcare workers and should never be a taboo subject. That’s why it’s really important to talk about it and know signs and symptoms so that you can do something about it.

If you feel like you may be burning out, here are some things you can do to proactively combat it:

  • Learn to say no.
    • Say no to overtime. Say no to the volunteering for every activity that comes your way.  Say no to the endless after school activities for your children. Choose how you spend your time wisely, and don’t feel bad when you say no.
  • Reflect on what refreshes you.
    • When was the last time you felt refreshed and really alive?  Think back to the particular situation that contributed to those good feelings. Maybe it was exercise, a hike in nature, or wrestling with your lab in your living room. Whatever activities contribute to your overall sense of well being, purposefully give them priority in your week.
  • Talk about it with a trusted colleague. 
    • Chances are you are not alone. Talking though what may be causing burnout with someone who is a good listener can help you process through the particular demands of your role and can help alleviate stress and feelings of loneliness.

I have the utmost respect for nurses, doctors, and other givers who day  in and day out help society. In order to continuously give, they must be refreshed, renewed, and most importantly reminded of their impact they have on those they touch, whether they see it or not. Unfortunately, so much of the time they hear so much of the negative, when in all reality the good they are doing everyday is like the sun: so wonderful, so utterly important, but much of the time, taken entirely for granted.

What about you? Do you feel burned out? How do you renew so that you can continuously give back to others? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments below!

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