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Burnout - Part 2


In a previous post, I discussed some causes and dangers of burnout (especially in healthcare workers). Now, let’s talk about ways of addressing burnout – both as the worker experiencing burnout and the boss, supervisor, corporation, the Grand Poohbah who may be setting up their workers for burnout.


So…is there a magic formula for addressing burnout? Nope!


The End.


Yeah right. I wouldn’t do that to you.


I alluded to some strategies for coping with stress and burnout in my previous post. Many companies focus on developing adaptability and resiliency skills in their workers, which places an emphasis on the responsibilities of the worker to manage their own stressors to reduce burnout. They offer mental health resources, yoga (maybe even goat yoga), they ask for employee feedback about their work environment (but do they really want honest feedback – or is this a trick to find the disgruntled among us?), they put on a show of valuing the opinions of their workers, but then have no follow-through.


This fails to look at the underlying causes for the stressors, which may be directly related to the work environment itself. If toxicities in the work environment are not addressed, the workers will continue to experience burnout and leave the organization.


So, step one in reducing burnout is to really listen to your employees. Create an environment where it is safe to express their true feelings. Ask for the surveys to get honest feedback and then act. Do not punish the employees who give honest answers. If employees feel that there will be some sort of retaliation for speaking out, they will leave for a safer environment. Compile the results of these surveys to find the biggest pain points and then do something about them. Low or no follow-through will lead to resentment, lower engagement, and ultimately burnout.


Maybe there is a person in your organization who acts more like a boss instead of a leader. Leaders inspire and empower their team to make decisions, overcome their limits, provide training, listen to their ideas, and act on them. They motivate their team to take ownership of the success of a common goal.


Bosses tend to make demands of their underlings, do not provide autonomy, and do not consider their feelings, time, or other commitments when making decisions for them. Bosses hoard their power and feel threated by anyone they feel may “steal” their power. Bosses rely on their position of authority to intimidate their staff into following orders, which can lead to resentment and burnout.


Step two is training “bosses” to be leaders. If they are untrainable, send them packing. It is better to lose one than the whole staff. Bosses will chase your workers off. Are you seeing patterns of a constant stream of people leaving your organization? Investigate and do something. Usually there are some toxic factors that are causing your people to leave. Act now or you will lose more good workers.


Step three is to set a good example and show appreciation. Do you get your hands dirty? Do you jump in and help in every way possible? Do you talk behind other peoples’ backs? Do you lift and empower your workers to be autonomous in their positions or do you require that they run every decision by you? Do you offer incentives for your workers to work harder? Do they have goals you expect them to achieve? Do you have expectations for their work? Do you have annual reviews, so they know they are performing to expectations? Do you offer monetary incentives (like bonuses for performance, an annual raise, profit sharing)?


Step four is live your values. Always practice what you preach. Do you have a set of core values that you want your organization to uphold? Do all your employees follow those values? Is everyone on your team living those values? If not, what can you do to make sure that actions match your words? Do you reward those workers who exemplify the core values? Are there any repercussions if a worker is not abiding by the core values?


So, let’s look at healthcare workers specifically. I mentioned in my previous post that healthcare workers are becoming frustrated with the reduced autonomy in their jobs. Insurance companies dictate care, the professional standards are to treat symptoms, and patients are not getting better. This can increase stress on the healthcare workers.


How can healthcare workers help their patients and reduce their risk of burnout? LIFESTYLE MEDICINE. Really! Lifestyle medicine looks at preventing chronic illnesses and has even been shown to reverse many of our chronic illnesses. By focusing on primary prevention instead of symptoms control, healthcare professionals can help their patients optimize their health.


Providing lifestyle medicine interventions can reignite the passion for their work, reconnect them to their patients, realign their actions with their core values, and reduce their risk for burnout. Of course, practicing what they preach in their own lives can also reduce stress, improve sleep, and increase social connections. Lifestyle medicine also focuses on healthy plant-based eating patterns and increases physical activity.


Lifestyle medicine has helped me to reconnect with why I became a pharmacist in the first place. It has helped me see a purpose in my life. How can I use lifestyle medicine to help you reduce burnout and reclaim your health?


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.

Merlo G, Rippe J. Physician Burnout: A Lifestyle Medicine Perspective. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2020 Dec 29;15(2):148-157. doi: 10.1177/1559827620980420. PMID: 33790702; PMCID: PMC7958216.

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.

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