Stress is a natural response from the body and it helps you react and adapt. However, when you’re a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional under long-term stress at work, you might find yourself exhausted and cynical regarding your work life. This is not a good place to be. It can detrimental to your mental health, your productivity, and your overall happiness. But take heart in knowing that recovering from physician and nurse burnout is completely possible.
If you’re suffering from burnout, know that you’re not alone. This is not a new problem. According to one 2001 study, it was estimated that 50% of physicians and 43% of nurses in the US were suffering from burnout. These numbers have not greatly decreased during the past two decades, and symptoms of burnout for nurses and other healthcare workers are only expected to increase in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But how can you tell if you have burnout? And what can you do to recover from burnout if you have it?
Identifying Burnout in Nurses & Healthcare Workers
Symptoms of Nurse Burnout
The main symptoms of nurse burnout are exhaustion and fatigue. These two tend to be the most prevalent among men and women. However, there’s a third symptom, which is lack of efficacy. This last symptom makes you feel like what you do at work is not enough, and it’s more commonly present in females with burnout than in males. Eventually, these feelings do effectively lead to a lack of efficiency at work.
As time goes by, if you don’t tend to these issues, you might find yourself with feelings of frustration, disillusion, and even despair. This can take a toll on both your mental and physical health, leading to apathy and lack of interest in your work.
How to Recover from Physician & Nurse Burnout
There are different tactics you can employ to prevent and address burnout. While some depend on the management team at your practice, there are other strategies that you can directly implement.
1. Remember Your Initial Purpose
This might sound like very basic advice but starting with the simplest step can help you out in this process. Very often, you might find yourself lost in the small things of everyday life. This will lead you to lose sight of the bigger picture, which is: why are you here? If you have found your purpose as a healthcare provider, remind yourself of that.
If you have the power to do so, you can propose changes at work that will help you to connect with your purpose more easily. These changes can include the adoption of electronic health records (EHR) at work and the inclusion of medical assistants. These strategies can help you have more in-person contact with the patient, which can aid in reminding you why you chose your career.
2. Develop Interpersonal Connections
You want to have a support system at work. You can achieve this by developing the relationships you have with your coworkers. After all, they’re in the same context as you are and you are bound to spend long hours working side by side with them. Growing these relationships will allow you to have someone to talk to when things get overwhelming at work.
Also, you can promote an environment in which judgment is not an issue. Being an agent of change is not always easy. However, you might find that once you start talking about it, many coworkers open up about their own burnout symptoms express the same feelings and concerns you have.
3. Prioritize Your Emotions and Well-Being
You’re not being selfish by putting your emotions first, you’re taking care of yourself. Even if your goal is to provide the best possible care to your patients, you’ll have difficulty in doing so if you’re a physician or nurse experiencing burnout. It’s important that you connect with yourself, which you can do by practicing self-reflection. Be aware of the present moment and what you’re feeling.
Also, take some time off to spend time with your family and friends. There’s nothing like disconnecting for a little bit to get your energy back. You should also prioritize things like your sleep hours or your exercise time. These are moments that are just for you and that will help you feel better.
4. Plan a Vacation or a Retreat
Sometimes, you might need some extended time off to recharge. And that’s ok! You can choose to stay at home or to go somewhere you’ve never been to before. You can even choose to go to a retreat! This will allow you to go somewhere new but also to connect with yourself at a deeper level. Depending on the type of retreat, you might even get to practice one of your favorite activities.
At MedTreks, we offer both global health and retreat programs designed specifically for medical professionals. You might consider an adventure or retreat to recharge your mind. Whatever you choose to do, remember that you are unique, and no one can replace you. Use the strategies you feel most comfortable with to connect with yourself and don’t be afraid to take a break and disconnect.
Healthcare Burnout Resources: