Burnout among healthcare workers has long been a concern in the health care industry. The nature of the healthcare environment, with its long workdays, consistently demanding pace, and the intensity of dealing with life-and-death situations, creates the type of long-term stress that is a major contributing factor to burnout.
For the compassionate nurse, nursing assistant or physician who pours him/herself daily into caring for patients, whether it be in a nursing home, senior living community, private practice, or in a hospital setting, the threat of burnout is very real. Studies have shown that over 40% of physicians and nurses report symptoms of burnout.
And now, with the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic hovering over the country, and with the threat of a second wave, those numbers are expected to climb. And why not? Couple the constant reporting of new cases and deaths attributed to the virus, little mention of those who’ve recovered, and the uncertainty of a novel virus, and what emerges is a perfect storm for an unprecedented increase in burnout among healthcare workers.
Here are four strategies to assist healthcare workers in their efforts to avoid burnout.
1. Make exercise a priority
“It’s summer, get outside!” suggests LeaderStat’s Kendra Nicastro. “Ride a bike, visit a park, walk around the neighborhood. Exercise not only benefits your overall health, but is also beneficial to your mental health.” The benefits to one’s physical health from exercise include reduced blood pressure, lowered heart rate, and weight loss, to mention just a few. But did you know the impact of exercise on a person’s mental health can be just as dramatic? In addition to stimulating the body to produce the “feel good” hormones that improve a person’s mood and overall mental state, exercise enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients through the increased blood supply to the brain.
2. Start a new hobby
Yes, you’re busy. And your mind is ever so tired. But consider how a different subject matter—especially one you’ve desired to pursue for a long time—can unwind that exhausted mind and body. In this age of limitless information, the resources to dive into any imaginable hobby are literally at your fingertips. Rest assured that an instructional video can be found on YouTube for anything you’ve ever wanted to learn. So, give yourself permission to push aside the cares of your profession and indulge your mind and body in a pleasurable pursuit.
3. Take a vacation
Of course, the team needs you! But because a case of burnout can damage both your mental and physical health, greatly hindering your ability to perform crucial professional duties, a vacation should not be considered a selfish luxury but rather, a necessity. Even a long weekend away from the workplace can have a positive and lasting effect on a person’s overall well-being. And then schedule another break in a couple of months, for something to look forward to, and as an acknowledgment that time away is crucial to one’s mental and physical health.
4. Incorporate “mini-breaks” into daily life
Something as simple as reading a book, taking a leisurely bath, or time spent in prayer or meditating can act as a reset. Use these bits of downtime to focus on the good things in life, to list those things for which you are thankful mindfully.
Our country owes an incredible debt of gratitude to the unsung heroes doing battle on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. We are deeply grateful to our healthcare workers for their faithful dedication to caring for patients and families during these extremely challenging times.