Working in the healthcare industry can be both gratifying and challenging. The unrelenting chronic stress of being exposed to life and death issues, long hours and loads of work can progressively evolve into burnout. If fact, the odds are pretty high that burnout will affect every healthcare professional at some point in their career.
Health Care Burnout
Burnout is defined as the consequence of mental and physical exhaustion that is caused by stress resulting in depersonalization and a profound decrease in personal accomplishment.1 Working in this high-stress industry can become emotionally draining, especially when hospitals are understaffed; the caregiver can begin to experience emotional exhaustion, and fatigue. All of this can lead caregivers to an emotional detachment from their work and to begin to see patients as objects, thereby reducing the safety and quality of care provided.
According to a study by NSI Nursing Solutions, the average national turnover rate among all hospital healthcare workers is 16.5%. And the costs are high:
- Each additional percentage point increase in turnover can cost the average hospital another $359,650
- It takes hospitals between 36 to 97 days to hire a replacement for an experienced RN
- The average cost of turnover for a bedside RN ranges between $44,380 and $63,4002
To prevent burnout, employers should create a culture that sustains resilience and supports employee wellbeing. It’s important to take the time to identify the signs and symptoms of burnout, some of which may include:
- Chronic emotional and physical fatigue
- Reduced feelings of sympathy or empathy
- Poor work-life balance
- Hypersensitivity or complete insensitivity to emotional material
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Getting sick more often
How Organizations Can Prevent Burnout
As a healthcare employer, there are things your organization can do to help your providers stay healthy and succeed:
- Take an active role: Know your employees’ concerns – Provide a forum for feedback and address problems before they get to a unrecoverable level.
- Encourage breaks: Taking breaks helps employees walk away from stress ensuring that the staff is not overworking themselves to the point of burnout.
- Support healthy habits: Implementing health and wellness programs can be invaluable and they don’t have to cost a lot money to be effective. Include healthy recipes in your newsletters, sponsor workout classes, create a relaxation room, or offer meditation classes.5
How Caregivers Can Prevent Burnout
As a caregiver, adopting healthy behaviors can prevent compassion fatigue and burnout:
Take Time to Care for Yourself
Practicing good self-care will significantly help your resilience and reduce your vulnerability to stress.
- Balanced, healthy diet
- Regular exercise
- Routine schedule of restful sleep
- Balance between work and personal life
- Drink alcohol in moderation
Adopt Positive Coping Strategies
Positive coping strategies can be used at work or at home to help ease your response to stressful situations.
- Deep breathing
- Taking a walk
- Talking with a friend
- Relaxing in a hot bath
If you still feel that you are not getting enough out of mindful techniques, and are still feeling emotionally vulnerable, chronically stressed and overwhelmed, seek help. Seeing a therapist can help you process your feelings and put things in better perspective, which can help you successfully implement the strategic techniques that will help you move toward a healthy work-life balance.6