Combating Burnout in the Healthcare Industry

Every type of employment has some amount of staff burnout. Many individuals experience burnout at some point in their career. The healthcare industry is no different and in fact is documented to have high burnout rates as evidenced by the National Academy of Medicine.

Psychology Today defines burnout as chronic stress and frustration that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion with feelings of cynicism and detachment along with a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. The healthcare industry has the usual ingredients for staff burnout such as long hours done as shift work, physically exhausting activities, excessive paperwork and direct contact with other individuals.

Adding to these routine stressors are other issues such as continuing education requirements, ethical dilemmas, lack of appreciation and the frequent death of their patients. Unrealistic expectations brought on by high case loads, documentation and unpleasant tasks can also impact a staff member’s threshold for burnout. Increasing scrutiny brought about by an ever growing litigious society, funding decreases and lack of staff can also lead to feelings of burnout within staff.

Patient to staff interactions have also become more complex including episodes of verbal and physical abuse of the staff by those they are trying to help. Employee burnout can manifest itself in a variety of ways including decreased productivity, increased tardiness or absenteeism and a negative attitude. Inability to complete tasks, poor time management and feelings of depression can also be symptoms of staff burnout.

The healthcare literature is full of why the industry staff members are burning out and how it impacts those involved. This writing hopes to provide some suggestions as to how to avoid, minimize and overcome feelings of burnout.

  1. Take time off work by using earned vacation benefits even if it is just long weekends.
  2. Make time for an activity of interest or hobby including something as simple as pleasure reading.
  3. Select something new to learn for professional or personal growth.
  4. Rotate shifts and assignments to balance the case load.
  5. Take care of physical, mental and emotional health including things such as exercise, mediation and social contact with family and friends.
  6. Reach out for professional assistance through the Employee Assistance Program.
  7. Spread cheer through appreciation of others by acknowledging their accomplishments and life moments.
  8. Do something expectedly kind for someone else including volunteer activities.



National Academy of Medicine, Burnout Among Health Care Professionals: A Call to Explore and Address this Under Recognized Threat to Safe, High Quality Care, 07/05/2017, Lottie N. Dynbye, Tait Shanafelt, Christine A. Sinsky, Pamela F. Cipriano, Jay Bhatt, Alexander Ommaya, Colin P. West, and David Meyers.

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