top of page

Burnout - Part 1


I’ve been seeing a lot of posts about burnout lately, especially with healthcare workers. Who can blame them though, right? With the demands of COVID-19 over the last several years that strained our healthcare system to its limits, it’s no wonder so many healthcare workers are feeling burned out. We learned that our healthcare system is flawed (well…maybe we already knew that). People can be rude and entitled (eh…we knew that too). People do not want to listen to authority and do the recommended things to help themselves and others (cough…wear masks…cough…get vaccinated…cough cough). Thank goodness the pandemic is over. That means everything is back to normal, right?


Ohhhh…Definitely not.


To address the burnout situation for healthcare workers, I have also seen many posts about building resilience to avoid burnout. This seems to indicate that the person who is experiencing burnout is somehow at fault, rather than the system itself. I have a problem with that. It’s insulting. It’s also focused on fixing the wrong thing. It’s focused on the worker who is broken rather than the system that broke them.


“You just aren’t resilient enough.”


“Here…Rather than fix the system that broke you in the first place, let’s do some YOGA!”


Really? Is yoga going to fix our broken healthcare system and broken healthcare workers? Hmm…I don’t think so. Not that there is anything wrong with yoga. Goat yoga looks kind of fun.


Sorry. I’m getting off topic. Let’s go back to the beginning, though. What is burnout? What does it look/feel like? Is it more than just being depressed or tired? Why are so many people in healthcare getting burned out and leaving?


Ok. So, burnout usually occurs when there is an imbalance between expectations and reality.


You start your new job full of expectations, ambitions, and goals! Look at you all fresh faced and excited about the possibilities. Yeah, you know that not everything is roses and sunshine, but maybe you can make a difference. You can change the system from the inside. You can…BAM!

Oh. That was a dose of reality. You get yourself back up. Dust yourself off. It’s ok. That was just a little setback. Remember your dreams and goals. They are still there. You can…BAM!

Oh. Another dose of reality. You can…BAM! BAM! BAM! (That…BAM!...was…BAM!...COVID…BAM!)



Next thing you know, you feel disconnected from your job. You don’t put in as much effort. You do the bare minimum. You don’t do anyone any favors. You go through the motions. You feel irritable. You may lash out at family members or coworkers. You sit on the couch night after night downing a pint of double chocolate fudge zoning out to Netflix. You get up the next morning feeling worse than the day before. As you drive back to work, you think to yourself that driving your car into that big tree is a better alternative to going to work (not to kill yourself…just hurt yourself enough to have a break). Yeah…Been there.


Get the picture?


So, employees who burn out often feel a lack of support from superiors, low autonomy (which is taking ownership of their job), unfair treatment of themselves or fellow coworkers, no downtime, increased workload without compensation, and toxic work environments.


No amount of goat yoga is going to fix that. Furthermore, healthcare workers are tired of working in a healthcare system that does not actually help their patients’ health. Most people who go into some sort of healthcare field want to help people. Really…we do! However, our system is designed to simply mask the underlying problems with symptoms control. Prescription after prescription…procedure after procedure, but does the patient feel better? No, they usually get worse. Furthermore, we have an insurance system that dictates patient care. The physician is no longer able to make decisions based on years of experience and education for his or her patients. The insurance company decides what kind of care the patient will receive (this is a lack of autonomy).


So, while individually, some of the coping mechanisms for burnout can help for a short period of time, they don’t address the underlying causes of burnout, which usually stem from a toxic work environment.


Supervisors who belittle their employees. Supervisors who show preferential treatment for some, but not others. Supervisors who ask their employees to perform unethical behavior, such as lying to a governing body. Supervisors who abuse their position of authority and do not support their employees or provide them with time off to recuperate. Coworkers who exhibit non-inclusive, sabotaging, or demeaning behaviors or words. The hardest, most resilient workers are just given more work to do, and others are not held to the same standards.


All these things create a toxic work environment that can lead to burnout and the loss of an employee. It costs companies money to train and retrain for the same positions. It is better to retain employees than replace and retrain. In the case of healthcare workers, some positions require specific training, licensing, or certification to perform, so a patient’s health and well-being may be on the line if too many workers burn out and leave. Just the burnout alone can affect patients’ health and well-being. Would you want a doctor who was disconnected from his or her job reading your test results? Someone who was just going through the motions? What would that person miss?


So, what’s the answer to addressing burnout? Is there a magic formula?


Stay tuned. I will address this in my next post.


Are you ready to PIVOT to health and wellness?


References:

De Hert S. Burnout in Healthcare Workers: Prevalence, Impact and Preventative Strategies. Local Reg Anesth. 2020 Oct 28;13:171-183. doi: 10.2147/LRA.S240564. PMID: 33149664; PMCID: PMC7604257.

Maresca G, Corallo F, Catanese G, Formica C, Lo Buono V. Coping Strategies of Healthcare Professionals with Burnout Syndrome: A Systematic Review. Medicina (Kaunas). 2022 Feb 21;58(2):327. doi: 10.3390/medicina58020327. PMID: 35208650; PMCID: PMC8877512.

Addressing employee burnout: Are you solving the right problem? McKinsey Health Institute. 2022 May 27; Addressing employee burnout: Are you solving the right problem? | McKinsey; [accessed 6/11/2023]

Murthy VH. Confronting Health Worker Burnout and Well-Being. N Engl J Med. 2022 Aug 18;387(7):577-579. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp2207252. Epub 2022 Jul 13. PMID: 35830683.

Somboonviboon D, Wittayawisawasakul Y, Wacharasint P. Prevalence and Risk Factors of Burnout Syndrome during COVID-19 Pandemic among Healthcare Providers in Thailand. J Environ Public Health. 2023 May 30;2023:5719241. doi: 10.1155/2023/5719241. PMID: 37288116; PMCID: PMC10243951.

Tamminga SJ, Emal LM, Boschman JS, Levasseur A, Thota A, Ruotsalainen JH, Schelvis RM, Nieuwenhuijsen K, van der Molen HF. Individual-level interventions for reducing occupational stress in healthcare workers. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2023 May 12;5(5):CD002892. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD002892.pub6. PMID: 37169364; PMCID: PMC10175042.


10 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page