The corporate world started using the term burnout quite prevalently about a decade ago. And it was associated with high-achievers. High flying corporate execs trying to get ahead, people in over their head fighting for promotions, pay rises and perks.
But recently it’s a term more and more synonymous with the Health Care industry. Across the board, we are suffering burnout in droves.
Care of self and care of patient correlates. Burnout is not only at high risk in the Health Care industry due to the role, but it is also extremely risky to the role having hazardous effects on the aptitude of a health care worker.
The ripple of burnout is felt through an entire organisation
A client of a clinician suffering from burnout, in extreme circumstances can have their safety compromised. In a report published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, they talk about sufferers of burnout,
“Develop(ing) a sense of cynical detachment from work and view people—especially patients—as object.”
What is burnout?
The World Health Organisation quite poetically describes burnout as,
“A state of vital exhaustion”. If you’re reading this and your soul took a polite nod toward the screen, you know that feeling exactly.
And burnout isn’t hard to achieve.
Put multiple, chronic stressors over an extended period of time in a blender with an inadequate self-care regime and shake.
The Health Care industry, particularly ICU practitioners, Aged Care, Nursing are particularly at risk because of factors such as shift work, fractionalised workplaces, unequal gender balance within the workplace as a major stressor for burnout.
Couple those things with emotional stress from high-needs patients and balancing patient family relationships and you can see why it has been red flagged as a serious occupational health epidemic.
It’s a trauma of sorts, but the Royal College Of Psychiatrists insist it’s not a mental illness, but a form of chronic workplace stress. And it’s not from a single event, rather a succession of everyday circumstances that gradually undermine mental and physical health.
Burnout is considered a hazardous health condition that, if not treated, can lead to more serious issues such as diabetes, gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal disorders, fatigue and in extreme conditions heart disease and stroke.
So, what does it look like when it’s approaching?
When suffering burnout you might feel a number of things that could easily be overlooked. Symptoms of burnout easily creep into the “I’m just busy” column.
Once upon a time, it may have been seen as being productive, and feeling stressed, as a result, may have been thought to be a sign doing your job well. It’s a dangerous curve.
As we’ve seen from studies though, taking on this syndrome this is far from productive.
Burnout leads to feelings of:
Lack of patience.
You will start to:
Withdrawn from family and friends.
Develop inconsolable feelings of isolation.
Lack of interest in your job.
Ultimately, within an organisation in the health care industry burnout should be taken as a serious safety risk and have cursors in place for staff to recognise when they or someone they work with could be at risk.
There are also plenty of protective measures for Health Care providers to maintain within their team, such as promoting ongoing professional development, which can help with the need to overwork; endorsing and supporting dedicated non-clinical time; and creating a strong framework for communicating stress; and developing teamwork.
Personally, however, you can be proactive with your own self-care to ensure the burnout doesn’t take hold. Practising in regular mindfulness techniques, and cognitive behaviour therapy. Resist taking on too much, and recognise when your work/life balance is off-kilter, restore yourself with non-work related activities. Whether it’s rest, sport, hobbies or just having a conversation with a friend or family member about something unrelated.