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Avoiding Clinician Burnout

All caretakers are at risk for experiencing burnout. While the job can be incredibly rewarding, caretakers are often on the receiving end of many negative emotions, energy, and even trauma in the workplace. More often than not, you go through these experiences unconsciously and, thus, may not always be fully aware when they aren’t taking proper care of ourselves. As healthcare professionals, it is pivotal that you recognize signs of clinician burnout.

What is clinician burnout? The New England Journal of Medicine describes clinician burnout as a combination of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (e.g., cynicism), feeling of reduced personal accomplishment, loss of work accomplishment and reduced effectiveness.

Depending on your work environment, clinician burnout or self-care practices may not be a common topic. Oftentimes, clinicians may not recognize the symptoms, fear judgment from coworkers opinions, consider the symptoms to be a normal part of the job, or fear losing their job. They may face self-judgment, or not know how to step away from the job. There are a number of reasons that can make this topic difficult in the direct care profession, and that is why it is so important for us to take these symptoms seriously. The consequences can result in mental health issues, safety issues, decreased quality of care for clients, lack of work/life balance, taking and obsessing about client’s problems and overall decreased functioning.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or identify with these feelings, we have provided some solutions that we hope can be helpful below:

  • Check in with yourself about your current stress levels when working versus when home
  • Be honest with yourself and loved ones about how you are feeling
  • Create a support network of clinicians who you can be honest with. We recommend bringing a small group together to have dinner and create an open environment to discuss your feelings.
  • Take care of yourself! (healthy nutrition, adequate sleep, exercise, etc.) Schedule time into your week if you have a hard time fitting the basics.
  • Make time for self-care to “recharge” your battery.
  • Set aside “technology free” times to calm your nervous system
  • Find “energy clearing” and “mind clearing” activities such as yoga, meditation, etc.
  • “Dumb it down” and read, listen to, or watch mindless TV, movies, music, magazines, books in order to balance out intense work
  • Add “fun” activities into your schedule
  • Set limits around work that you are doing at home after hours
  • Limit the time that you discuss or think about cases after work
  • Balance caseload with acute and lower acuity cases if your role allows
  • Make changes in work focus or integrate direct care with other work responsibilities
  • Consider working fewer hours in direct care and add in hours in a “lighter” job
  • Move into a management role with less direct care
  • Limit on-call hours if possible
  • If there seems to be no hope for recovery from burnout in your current role, explore other jobs you can do with your degree and skill set.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek for professional help and/or therapy if needed
  • Be accepting of how you feel, know that you are not alone!

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