As a healthcare professional, you are passionate about what you do… but maybe you’re tired of feeling burnt-out.
As the population is aging in the U.S., the health care system is rapidly changing in order to deliver better care and lower costs.
The changes affecting clinical practice are new payment and delivery approaches, electronic health records, patient portals, and more. This all changes how care is provided, documented and reimbursed.
Because of these changes and added pressure, many healthcare professionals experience burnout. They’re exhausted and experience depersonalization and a feeling of decreased personal achievement.
What is alarming is that more than half of the physicians in the U.S. are experiencing burnout. Physicians who are at a higher risk work in specialties like emergency medicine, family medicine, general internal medicine, and neurology. Studies have also shown that medical students and residents are experiencing a high percentage of depression and burnout.
As a Healthcare Professional, Your Burnout Affects Everyone
As a healthcare professional you may be frustrated because you are too tired and exhausted to give your patients the best and appropriate level of care. Maybe you also worry about making medical errors as a result of being so burnt-out and tired.
The healthcare system in the U.S. is creating doctors and nurses who are so exhausted that they are prone to making errors and they become apathetic towards their patients. They even try to manage their pain and frustration with alcohol or drug abuse. Some even attempt suicide.
The turnover is huge in the healthcare profession. Many people lose all interest in their careers and don’t know what to do.
Burnout isn’t the professionals’ fault. It’s the way the system is set up and the high-stress environment they work in. More care and education has to go into taking care of healthcare professionals.
The System Is Broken
The health systems across the country are taking steps to better support the well-being of healthcare providers. BUT the research on what works to reduce burnout is fairly limited.
Professionals have a heavy patient load and work long excessive hours. Plus they have to deal with mountains of paperwork and increasing clerical demands. They claim these are the top contributors to burnout.
The changes that need to happen in the system are very challenging because of those claims. It’s hard to change them because of the mandates to produce better health care at lower costs. The burden on healthcare professionals is an unintended consequence.
A healthcare professional finds it almost impossible to get ahead because of the broken system. Not only do they have to meet the demands of their patients, but they also have to deal with insurance companies, paperwork, electronic records, etc.
They feel the system works against them and they never catch a break. Therefore they feel they never get ahead of the game in order to stop the overwhelm and stress.
How to Prevent Burnout
Every healthcare professional would like to see a solution to this problem. The effects of burnout can build up over the years and cause several health, social, and work consequences.
Here are six suggestions to start to help prevent burnout.
1. Improve Workflow Design
In some healthcare practices, the physician or healthcare provider spends too much time on clerical work and filling out patient forms, etc. It would be good to delegate to another practitioner to take on some of the less pressing situations in client care. It is good to look at your workflow and see if there are others who can do the clerical work for you as well.
Figuring out how to change the workflow so everyone can make the best of their time and organizing everything may take some work at first, but it’s worth it in the long run. Each employee can then focus on the core duties of their job and the physician has then freed up their time to concentrate on patient care.
2. Use an Electronic Health Record System
Electronic health record systems can help with reducing stress and time when creating documents the traditional way. They can help with scheduling and sending out appointment reminders.
3. Develop Resilience Training
As a healthcare professional you may want to develop your resilience in handling stress. The ability to recover quickly and bounce back from the effects of adversity can help prevent burnout. Instead of burnout, you will only experience a temporary amount of stress or anxiety.
This is a training that should be offered to you and other employees in the healthcare system. It increases your emotional and cognitive strength to cope with a high-stress environment.
4. Improve the Focus on Employee Well-Being
Maybe you work in an organization that you feel doesn’t value your well-being. This belief can be dangerous because you’ll experience the negative feelings associated with burnout. And you may lose interest in your performance. A good way to help this type of problem is to start to talk to your colleagues and suggest having meetings about this topic.
Organizations need to be more responsible for the well-being of their employees. Letting their employees know that they care for them greatly affects every healthcare professional. More meetings can be held to discuss burnout and how to improve certain situations. The work-place shouldn’t be a place where people fear rejection or reprisal for wanting to seek counseling or help for their depression and stress.
5. Offer Continued Learning Opportunities
If you are an organization with several healthcare professionals working for you, offer your employees continued training on how to improve their careers. It’s easy to start feeling discouraged and give in to burnout if professionals start to feel stagnant in their job.
If you, as a healthcare professional, only have yourself to depend on for more training, don’t hesitate to take it. This will greatly improve your performance in your career and will give more meaning to the tasks you perform every day.
6. Create Social Events
Sometimes a small office party or potluck where everyone socializes can reduce stress and tension. Social connections can help build a team mentality which makes it harder for burnout to take root. Patient care is improved and the healthcare professional becomes more engaged in their work.
A Healthcare Professional Needs to Make Their Own Health a Priority
A healthcare professional may not believe that the market has a perfect solution to burnout, but there are several strategies to use to help manage their stress before it becomes too severe. It could also be years and years before newer physicians or medical students will be in an ‘ideal’ work setting where they’re allowed to practice medicine and practice self-care too.
After several years, they may still have to deal with a broken healthcare system.
A healthcare professional can do several things to help prevent severe burnout and start to take care of their own health. One is to know the warning signs of burnout so you can catch it early on. Keep yourself educated on what to do when you start to feel depressed or overly exhausted.
Find a way to help reduce stress like exercise or take a much-needed vacation. And try not to take your work home with you.
Finding a good support system will help you stay healthy. Find a coach or counselor you can see regularly so they can help you discover how you’re really doing and offer several ways to combat burnout.
But most of all, make your own health a priority.
Because more and more healthcare providers are affected by burnout and all its consequences, a healthcare professional needs to learn more about how to cope with all the daily stress in their lives. They do love their profession, but stress and anxiety is very real and hard to ignore.