Burn Out, Real or Nah?

It’s more likely that we are acutely more aware of the battery life left in our smartphones than we are of the battery life left within ourselves.

It’s no surprise that healthcare workers deal with their fair share of high stress and high risk situations, so it should also come as no surprise that we suffer from Burnout Syndrome.  Work environments are constantly changing.  Patient loads fluctuates and administrations are pressuring employees to keep cost low but patient satisfaction high, all the while doing so short staffed.  It can be a “balancing act” to do the job and please everyone.  However, the consequences of not “playing the game” or “not being a team player” could leave you standing in the unemployment line.  Let’s face it, while healthcare is an industry that will ALWAYS need workers, there will always be another worker around the corner that is willing to do what is needed to get the job done if you are not.

There are skeptics that do not believe that B/S is a real condition, in hindsight that’s probably not this best acronym to use!  I would just ask them to consult their local ED doctor, a Med/Surg nurse working nights with a short staff.  Or ask how any CT, MRI or Ultrasound tech keeps on track with a new patient scheduled every 20 minutes!  Now ask how much patient responsibility they are responsible for in one shift, or how much time they devote to charting instead of face time with their patients.  Then ask how many hours per week they work.  Only then could you understand the reality of Burnout Syndrome.   As individuals we often know our limits of physical exertion because our bodies signal when we have had enough.  However mental and emotional limits are a little more vague.  We typically push ourselves to the brink of emotional exhaustion without even batting an eye.

If you need convincing here are facts.  Burnout among health care workers, mainly medical staff, is becoming an occupational hazard, with rates reaching between 25% and 75% in some clinical specialties [1]. Furthermore, it was reported that among the sources of occupational illnesses, burnout represents 8% of the cases of occupational illnesses [2].  A national survey published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012 reported that US physicians suffer more burnout than other American workers.

So why are healthcare workers so stressed out and on the brink of exhaustion?  I would seriously doubt anyone would actually blame patient care as the root cause of burnout, in fact the graphic below shows that compassion fatigue ranks at the very bottom of the list.  The problems typically start on a system level, whether it’s too many bureaucratic tasks, or working too many hours.  When looking at gender differences for burnout, 45 percent of females experience burnout compared to 37 percent of males.

Less obvious but equally important concerns are how staff burnout affects patient care and hospital outcomes.  Burnout syndrome should be addressed because left unchecked it becomes a threat to patient safety due to depersonalization and decreasing quality interactions between staff and patients.

If we agree that burnout is real, and know its origin, now what?  What can be done to help people with burnout?  Simply put, the solution lies with the organizations employing healthcare providers.  Most importantly is acknowledging burnout as a real issue and offering real time adjustments to staff everyday problems.  Organizations should perform the same “balancing act” that it asks of employees.  Focus should be placed on the health and wellness of employees as much as the bottom line.  A wellness program should not be implemented just for marketing appeal but for the true purpose of improving employees’ quality of life who are responsible for providing patient care.

Article Credited to: Kelli Reddix

[1] Laschinger H.K.S., Wong C., Greco P. The impact of staff nurse empowerment on person-job fit and work engagement/burnout. Nurs Adm Q. 2006;30:358–367.

[2] Sundin L., Hochwälder J., Bildt C., Lisspers J. The relationship between different work-related sources of social support and burnout among registered and assistant nurses in Sweden: a questionnaire survey. Int J Nurs Stud. 2006;44:758–769

One thought on “Burn Out, Real or Nah?

  1. This is very true. It’s almost as though I had written the article! The workload is too heavy. I am convinced it’s not about quality nursing care anymore. The focus seems to be more about patient satisfaction and COWs (computers on wheels) documentation.

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