Healthcare in flames
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
It took me a long time to admit that I was burned out. Physical Therapists are known for being the happy “cheerleaders” of the healthcare world with unending amounts of energy and positivity. I felt guilty for not feeling that way. And I felt like a fraud for faking my way through most of my days with a smile on my face. Some of my patients would ask “Are you always this happy and upbeat?” And the kicker is that they were actually serious when they asked me that. Now don’t get me wrong, spending time with my patients was probably the only time that I was truly happy at work. It was the never ending documentation, insurance regulations, productivity standards, department committees, long hours, mandatory “volunteer” commitments, meetings and mandatory online organizational trainings that were really wearing me down year after year. So many hoops to jump through when all I really wanted to do was help my patients feel better.
Many studies have been done, concluding that our uniquely American healthcare system is a big contributor to the issue of burnout. A 2019 study by the National Academy of Medicine found that 35% of nurses and 54% of doctors reported burnout.
Some institutions are taking ownership of their part and instituting mitigation measures such as reduced hours, doing away with productivity based salaries, alternative rewards such as flexible schedules and time off, and implementing programs that encourage healthy lifestyles such as gym memberships, making healthy snacks available for staff and having a coach or counselor available for anyone that wants one.
Unfortunately, there are some that still prefer to value money over human health - both of staff and patients. They don’t see that this is a very short sighted approach. Yes, they might make more money now, but they are also more likely to have increased malpractice suits and patient mortality rates, increased transmission of infection, lower patient satisfaction scores, greater job turnover and a greater number of medical personnel leaving the field- which is obviously contributing to the physician shortage that has already begun.
It’s times like these where people (and companies) really show their true colors.
The other determining factors for burnout come down to the personality traits and resiliency of the employee. People who are empathetic, perfectionists, people pleasers and generally “the dedicated and committed” are those that appear to most commonly suffer from burnout. Not surprisingly, these are also common characteristics of many healthcare workers.
Resiliency refers to one's ability to cope with and manage stressful events. Most people think this only refers to the major life changes that we experience such as divorce or illness. In reality (and more importantly it seems) it also refers to an individual's ability to handle the stresses of day to day life. Some people are born with more resiliency than others. The good news is that being resilient is a skill that can be strengthened.
From an individual solution standpoint, the goal is not to change who the person is, but rather to teach them improved techniques and strategies around their thought processes, stress relief, work-life balance, healthy eating, time management, emotional boundaries and exercise to name a few. Having improved self awareness and decision making skills also improves the individual’s ability to recognize and avoid potentially stressful situations from the outset, or to make better personal decisions once in the situation.
We didn’t get into this situation overnight and we won’t be able to get out of it overnight either, but something has to be done. Changes have to be made to better support our health system and the professionals in it. I understand that healthcare is a business like everything else, but it seems like a potentially dangerous way of handling our most precious commodity: health.
We need our healthcare workers now more than ever. And they need us to push for changes in our healthcare system that will not only benefit them, but all of us.
Want more information about overcoming stress and burnout? Call me at 331 979-1722 or email me at: Kat@thepowerofchange.net