JAANUU » Here’s Why Healthcare Burnout Is Real and How You Can Prevent It

Here’s Why Healthcare Burnout Is Real and How You Can Prevent It

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Burnout is real, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Look no further than the World Health Organization’s classification of burnout for proof.

WHO classifies burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” and defines it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

We’ll get into the signs of this condition below, but first, a reminder: If you’re experiencing burnout in healthcare or another high-stress career, you’re not alone. 

If you think you have nursing or physician burnout, chances are likely you might. And that’s okay! But what’s not okay is letting it go unattended. Physically and emotionally demanding work can define clinicians. Nursing burnout statistics show that 85% of nurses report feeling burned out. Recognizing it is the first step to take action toward adequate burnout prevention. 

It’s time to honor your mental health. Read on to see if you’re suffering from healthcare burnout and what you can do to help yourself. Patient care is exhausting work that requires empathy. Dedicate some of that care and compassion to yourself.

What are the signs of burnout? 

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Let’s go back to the experts at WHO. According to their standards, burnout consists of three principal characteristics:

  • Physical or emotional exhaustion
  • Apathy about your job 
  • Lowered efficiency at work

Other symptoms of burnout also exist, which many sources identify as standard. These include:

  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Lack of satisfaction
  • Drug or alcohol use 
  • Poor sleep 
  • Physical symptoms of anxiety (like headaches and stomach pain)

What can cause burnout in a healthcare environment?

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You don’t need us to tell you that you have one of the most stressful careers. Here are some key factors that can lead to your feeling burnout:

  • Financial stressors (like student debt) 
  • Lack of sleep and long work hours
  • Too many administrative tasks in your day
  • Loss of control over patient outcomes 

These points align with several general causes of burnout in any work environment. A lack of control, for example, can make anyone feel ineffective and nonautonomous. 

Some other factors that could contribute to burnout among healthcare workers include: 

  • A bad philosophical fit (with your workplace)
  • A lack of community 
  • A lack of fairness (not feeling like you are being treated the same way as your colleagues)
  • A lack of return for what you give (compensation, reward)

How many people suffer from burnout in healthcare?

Statistics may vary, but the message is clear: Healthcare professionals—more than half of them—suffer from clinician burnout. According to a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 55% of frontline health professionals said they suffered from burnout. And younger employees reported experiencing even higher burnout rates.

How to treat burnout

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If you are suffering from severe burnout, one of the best options for helping yourself is to take a break. However, whether or not this is possible in your line of work, there are a few things you can do to try to mitigate the effects of this condition:

  1. Lean on your loved ones: You provide a lot of emotional support in your role, so there’s no shame in taking some, especially from those who wish to support you. And the support you get at home doesn’t have to fill the void fully. Try joining a group of like-minded people with similar careers to share grievances. 
  2. Get out of your head: Whether through yoga, meditation, hiking or another activity that helps you stop focusing on negative thoughts or whatever may have happened at work, try to find a mental oasis for yourself. 
  3. Prioritize sleep: Sleep affects the way our bodies and minds function, and we know that for those in a busy healthcare role, rest may be sparse. So try to get it whenever you can. Whether you’re burned out or not, a lack of sleep can become a vicious cycle. It can be both a symptom and a cause of this condition. Proper sleep is one of the most essential facets of self-care.
  4. Gain some control: One of the core causes of burnout is a lack of control. If you can feel this happening to you, a solution is to take back some of that control you’ve lost. You can do this by delegating, making a list or asking for help fulfilling your needs. 
  5. Set firm boundaries: This isn’t about saying “yes;” it’s about saying “no” (more specifically, knowing when and how to say “no”). Sometimes, an activity infringes on your time or well-being or negatively impacts your mental health. If you can say “no,” do it. We may want to take on all that we can, whether or not it’s actually okay for us. When it comes to optional tasks, think critically about what’s healthy for you to take on. 
  6. Be good to yourself: Don’t beat yourself up over burnout (or anything else, for that matter). Feeling tired, low and without much drive are symptoms that happen to the best of us, and they don’t mean you are failing. If you feel burnt out, it’s probably because you’ve gone above and beyond too often. Think about what you’d do if you saw someone else in your position, and then treat yourself with the same compassion. 
  7. Get professional help: Therapy is the perfect opportunity to discuss what you feel and get tips for improving your mental health. It’s a safe, judgment-free space focused on your wellbeing.

We believe in burnout, and if you’re feeling it, we’re here to support you. Sure, comfortable scrubs help you get through the day, but we hope our tips on bettering your life and mental health help you get through the long haul.

Here’s to your mental and emotional wellbeing, always!

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