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How to Prevent Healthcare Worker Burnout

Burnout is defined as mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged workplace stress. It leaves healthcare workers feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet the demands of their job or daily life. Healthcare worker burnout has always been a cause for concern, but the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has created an epidemic with one recent study reporting that 55% of healthcare workers reporting feeling burned out. Keep reading to learn more about preventing burnout in the healthcare industry, as well as ways to reduce burnout. 

Steps Organizations Can Take to Avoid Burnout in Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare is a fast-paced environment. With so much focus on providing the best in patient care, it can be easy for healthcare professionals to forget their own needs even as they stress the importance self-care to their patients and family caregivers.  

Organizations need to recognize the threat of healthcare worker burnout and take steps to address it. This can begin with organizations providing their staff with access to mental health resources and confidential support.  

Staff should be frequently reminded of the support for preventing healthcare burnout available to them. As well as how to access it, including: 

  • Confidential Employment Assistance Programs 
  • Local peer support programs 
  • Safe Call Now – a crisis referral service for emergency services personnel, public safety employees, and their families 
  • Crisis Text Line – 24/7 support to frontline healthcare workers from trained crisis responders 
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – free, confidential support for people in distress 
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – free crisis support hotline and resources for those impacted by substance abuse and mental health concerns. 
  • Resources are important, but healthcare employers must also create a culture that supports and sustains employee wellbeing.  

To prevent healthcare professional burnout, employers must take an active role in encouraging self-care. Managers and supervisors should be trained on supporting the mental and physical health of their employees with open dialogue.  

Leadership should also establish burnout prevention and wellness committees to review practices and foster change to improve the work environment, team, and culture. 

How healthcare workers can prevent burnout. 

In addition to administrative changes, individuals can make their own personal changes to prevent healthcare worker burnout. The first step is honest self-reflection about their current symptoms and environment.  

Symptoms of healthcare worker burnout include. 

  • Cynicism and reduced feelings of sympathy or empathy 
  • Feelings of isolation and depersonalization 
  • Chronic physical and emotional fatigue 
  • Hypersensitivity or total insensitivity when presented with emotional material 
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns 
  • Irritability 
  • Feelings of hopelessness 
  • Frequent illness 
  • Withdrawing from friends and family 

Helpful changes can include: 

  • Maintaining basic self-care including eating a nutritious diet, getting at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, and creating a good sleep routine. 
  • Practice stress reduction techniques including deep breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation.  
  • Take time off before burnout sets in. Use days off and vacation time to rest and recharge. 
  • Connect with friends and colleagues to reduce feelings of isolation. 
  • Keep your appointments with your regular physicians to maintain good physical and mental health. 
  • Speak with your supervisor if your workload or schedule is becoming overwhelming. 
  • Reach out for professional support to help you process your feelings and address concerns. 

Placing a priority on preventing and reducing healthcare worker burnout allows healthcare professionals to take better care of themselves, their peers, and their patients. If you are experiencing healthcare worker burnout, reach out to a professional for support.