Feeling the Signs of Burnout? 5 Things You Can Do.
Thursday, November 15, 2018 | Lori Walsh
Two seasoned administrators recently shared with me that they’re looking for a new job, outside of healthcare. Both confided that the long hours and constant pressure are taking too big a hit on their personal lives.
Does this resonate with you?
We all know that physician burnout is a major issue. Medscape’s 2018 Physician Burnout & Depression Report indicates that 42% of all physicians, and 43% of cardiologists, feel burned out. But as my two job-hunting clients can attest, physicians aren’t the only ones dealing with stress and burnout.
In a recent MGMA Stat poll of more than 1,700 healthcare leaders, 45% said “yes,” they feel burned out, and 28% said they feel “somewhat” burned out at their job. Only 27% said “no,” they don’t feel burned out. Nurses too are feeling it. In a 2017 Kronos study of hospital nurses, 98% reported that their work is mentally and physically demanding. 63% noted that their work has resulted in burnout.
Data like this should put all of us on high alert. As practices are faced with physician shortages, regulatory changes, and reimbursement cuts, we are constantly asked to do more with less. I talk regularly with administrators who feel they are not accomplishing enough because there are always more things on their to-do list than they can get done. If you are one of them, be aware of the three primary areas of burnout:
● Emotional exhaustion - feeling drained, overloaded, or tired
● Alienation from work activities - feeling negative, cynical, or disengaged
● Reduced performance - a lack of initiative or focus that causes ineffectiveness
Not only is burnout unhealthy, it can be costly in terms of absenteeism, presenteeism, and staff turnover. Here are some things that will help you avoid it or reverse it if you’ve identified a problem.
1. Take a personal inventory:
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, apathetic, or no longer engaged at work, step back and think about why. For two weeks, write down all the things that create feelings of stress or physical reactions such as stomach ache, fast heartbeat, or anger. What happened to cause it? And how did you react? Did you yell at someone? Reach for a candy bar? Here’s a simple burnout self-assessment that can identify where you are on the scale.
Understand where you have a loss of control at work and figure out ways to deal with it. You may not be able to control your entire environment. But focusing on what you can control will make you feel empowered, better able to establish boundaries, and capable of saying “no” so that you can focus on the highest priorities. Talk with a friend or trusted colleague. Venting is therapeutic.
Here’s a curated list of 10 TED Talks that provide a number of coping strategies. You could also check out the American Psychiatric Association’s well-being resources and these stress and burnout resources from Stanford Medicine.
And if you don’t have one, find yourself a mentor or coach. Every healthcare leader needs a sounding board - someone to talk them off the ledge when they have a bad day. Just make sure it’s someone who understands what you do.
2. Survey your team:
Many healthcare organizations measure physician dissatisfaction and burnout. But few measure these things for managers and staff, and even fewer act upon the data. Survey everyone annually to get a measure of overall sentiment. Then identify those on the team that are showing signs of burnout or might be at risk.
And remember to conduct exit interviews with everyone who leaves the practice. We all recognize the value of these interviews, but often skip them because we are busy. Don’t. Such conversations can uncover whether stress and burnout caused the employee to jump ship and identify areas that need improvement.
3. Understand the root causes of dissatisfaction:
It could be an outdated process that’s no longer effective. Or an old version of software that impedes team productivity. Having been trained in Lean Sigma, I’m an advocate for drilling in to what’s really causing the problem.
In one practice we worked with, the clinic ran 30 minutes behind, three days a week. One of the nurses needed to leave at 5:00 because of child care issues, and every time the doctor ran late it created a lot of stress for her. She finally ended up quitting because she could no longer take the pressure. Identifying and addressing the reasons for the late clinic could have prevented this. A system of staggered shifts or job sharing might have kept the nurse from having to quit.
4. Take wellbeing breaks:
A lot of larger systems offer employee health benefits - counseling, mindfulness training, or yoga at lunch. Encourage staff to take advantage of these things, as well as:
● Get up from their desk every hour and take a mental/stretch break. I’ve set my watch to notify me every hour to do this.
● Take “walking meetings” to discuss work issues away from their desks and computer screens, while getting exercise and fresh air too.
● Perform breathing exercises after something stressful occurs.
● Use all their days off - well rested staff are happier and more productive.
5. Involve employees in the solution:
Make it a standing agenda item in each staff meeting to check-in with staff on workloads and be sure everyone is taking care of themselves physically and emotionally. You might even launch a committee that meets regularly to develop ideas for increasing morale and satisfaction.
We know your job is hard. We plan to continue offering webinars, conference sessions and other stress and burnout resources to support our members. If there are specific issues, you’d like us to address, please let me know.
With an obvious passion for what she does, Lori has worked in healthcare for nearly 20 years, including nine years as the Director of Operations for Heart Clinic Arkansas. In her role as Vice President of Membership, Lori uses her healthcare background to help our current and prospective members build relationships within the industry and maximize the benefits of MedAxiom's exclusive educational and research support services to improve their programs. As a senior consultant, Lori takes her vast operations experience and applies it towards our client practices in the areas of operational efficiency, financial performance, workflow redesign, strategic planning and business development. You may contact Lori at email@example.com.
MedAxiom Consulting is the nation’s leading cardiovascular-specific consulting group, working with a range of private practices, hospitals and health systems across the country to improve the delivery of CV health care. Learn more about our team.
Illustration: Lee Sauer
About the Author
With an obvious passion for what she does, Lori has worked in healthcare for nearly 20 years, including nine years as the Director of Operations for Heart Clinic Arkansas. In her role as Senior Vice President of Membership & Operations, Lori uses her healthcare background to help our current and prospective members build relationships within the industry and maximize the benefits of MedAxiom's exclusive educational and research support services to improve their programs. Lori also takes her vast operations experience and applies it towards our client practices in the areas of operational efficiency, financial performance, workflow redesign, strategic planning and business development.
To contact, email: firstname.lastname@example.org