Whether you are a nurse or physician or PA, whether you work in trauma surgery or primary care, burnout in the medical field is REAL.
Despite having incredibly meaningful careers, those who work in medicine can face huge stressors that contribute to feelings of personal and professional helplessness and frustration. While there are a myriad of reasons why this can be (HELLO, insurance companies and huge medical corporations and oversight and malpractice and paperwork and..on and on...), healthcare professionals are left often like little islands out there in their communities, without the support of their institutions, and feeling alone in their struggles.
Burnout can include feelings of frustration and emotional exhaustion, while also feeling like you're not being effective at your job and not achieving your goals. There is increasing evidence that burnout is not only a problem, but a full-on crisis. Physicians for example have reported significant drops in job satisfaction scores over the past decade which are attributed to increased burnout rates.
Burnout happens in part due to institutional issues, so battling those can be challenging for those physicians worried about job security. And we can feel like so much of this is out of our control. If the higher ups are interested in making a healthier work environment, then what can you do?
Thankfully, there ARE some things in our control when it comes to preventing burnout and improving resiliency.
A few tips for healthcare professionals out there wanting to prevent burnout and keep it from stealing your joy:
1. Advocate for yourself--AND your colleagues. You aren't alone. The fact that you can feel spent and overwhelmed is a reflection in part of your environment. If something needs to change, if there are issues at work that is negatively affecting the culture, give feedback to the higher-ups, and don't stop until someone really hears you and your concerns. There is magic in numbers, so even one other colleague behind you can be enough to help magnify your voice.
2. Take a long, hard look at your working hours. Are you taking more time at work than you realize? Really be honest with yourself. When was the last time you took vacation? What are the thoughts that go through your mind when you think about taking time off? Are they really, REALLY good reasons--or simply excuses? Where can you cut back your hours?
3. Reclaim your down time. Is your down time REALLY down time? Do you feel reenergized and rested when you are not at work? What could change to help you recharge those batteries in an efficient and effective way?
4. Give yourself time off. This is often crazy hard for high-achievers, but remember, you're only as good to your patients as you are to yourself. We helpers and healers need to fill our cups, too. When was the last time you took an honest-to-goodness rejuvenating break? Get something happy on the calendar, stat.
5. Breathe. Take time to be mindful and present in your daily life. There are wonderful apps and programs out there to help you, but simply being present with moment-to-moment, non judgemental attention can help decrease cortisol and get that parasympathetic system to do its good work.
6. Remember why you went into medicine to begin with. Get your mind out of the worries of today and reflect on those core reasons why you kick butt. People go into healthcare for lots of reasons, and usually it's about giving back and feeling like you're making an impact on others' lives. Reflect on your successes doing just that--think about how you've changed lives for the better. Remember why you're in this and it can fuel you--and redirect you--as you move forward.
So much of our careers can be dictated by the systems and institutions that we work for. There may be lots of reasons why work can be stressful, but burnout is preventable and curable. Get the support you need if you're feeling like work is taking the joy out of your profession.