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Understanding Burnout in Healthcare

Burnout is extremely harmful to individuals who experience it. Research indicates that those in healthcare are impacted by burnout more than those who work in other industries. There are consequences to well-being, job satisfaction, work force retention, patient experience/outcomes and other system costs.  If you have concerns about burnout symptoms in yourself or a colleague, contact the EAP at 866-724-4327.

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Causes of Burnout

Burnout is the result of a combination of factors. Individuals have their own pathways that ultimately lead to burnout. Some of the factors identified in the literature are as follows:

  • Administrative and technical burden, particularly navigating EMR systems
  • Workload
  • Process inefficiencies
  • Lack of control over work
  • New payment models
  • Not being able to operate at license/training level
  • Publicly reported quality metrics
  • Repeated exposure to helping families with stressful decisions
  • Complicated ethical issues
  • Clinical futility
  • Patient suffering
  • Difficult patients
  • Diminished or inadequate time and space to meet with colleagues
  • Work/life balance
Recognizing Burnout

Burnout is not a diagnosis but rather a combination of symptoms. It manifests differently in each individual. Some of the burnout symptoms might be indicative of other conditions or co-occurring conditions, such as compassion fatigue or mental health issues. Regardless of the cause, further exploration should be triggered when symptoms are persistent and/or cumulative.

The practical translation of this definition is that individuals who are committed to caring for others are not able to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible, and they are unable to thrive personally and professionally.

We list list some common symptoms below:

  • Physical
    Pain, headaches, cardiac, digestive, weakened immune system, chronic fatigue, exhaustion, interrupted sleep
  • Psychological/Emotional
    Anxiety, depression, suicidality, anger/irritability and substance misuse disorders
  • Job
    Loss of enjoyment, cynicism, detachment, apathy, Loss of ability to empathize & connect, performance problems
Impact of Burnout

No one is Immune to the Potential Effects of Burnout

Whether you are a medical provider, co-worker, healthcare leader, a patient or family member, you may be impacted by burnout in healthcare. A growing body of literature shows the impacts in Physician and Nurse populations.

Individual Impact

  • Increased anxiety, depression and suicidality
  • Substance use/misuse
  • Physical health problems – headaches, cardiac, digestive, blood pressure
  • Healthy life-style impacts – sleep, nutrition, exercise, interest in hobbies
  • Relationship issues
  • Job impacts – impaired job performance, career dissatisfaction, absenteeism

Patient Impact

  • Decreased quality & poor patient safety outcomes
  • Increased medical errors – healthcare associated infections, negative 30-day mortality rates

System Impact

  • Morale
  • Operations/productivity
  • Quality ratings
  • Financial stability
  • Turnover costs

Help for Burnout

Helping Yourself

  • Keep in mind that burnout is common and others may be experiencing similar challenges and stresses
  • Practicing a healthy lifestyle can help mitigate some of the effects of burnout
  • Share your worries with family, friends, trusted colleagues, mentors, or managers
  • Consider letting leadership know about ideas you have for system improvements around sources of burnout
    – Explore MGB and departmental initiatives, wellness programs, coaching and career development opportunities
  • Remember that the EAP is always here to help if you need support or professional assistance

Helping a Colleague

  • Familiarize yourself with the warning signs that a colleague may be experiencing burnout
  • Don’t feel obligated to make a diagnosis
  • Don’t be afraid to approach a colleague to register your concern
    – Just ask “How are you doing?”. Here is some helpful guidance from the R U OK? initiative
  • Validate your colleague’s experience, and let them know that burnout is common and treatable
  • If your colleague rebukes or avoids you, don’t take it personally. At least you have tried and have planted a seed for later
    – Let your colleague know you are available to listen if they need a friend or sounding board
  • Encourage your colleague to seek help through the EAP or other professional resource

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