Physician and Nurse Burnout

I’ve been working with healthcare professionals for the past 30 years and when I talk to my healthcare colleagues, I hear the same things I’ve heard for all those years.

“Healthcare is really crazy right now.”

The truth is that healthcare professionals are smart, highly dedicated, and hard working. The challenge for them is all about the shifting business requirements and expectations that have happened as healthcare has become industrialized.

A recent study in the Harvard Business Review, discussing physical and nurse burnout, pointed to two factors that contribute to whether or not a health care professional experience this phenomenon. The first is referred to as “activation” which is what motivates a physician or nurse to find their work meaningful. The second is called “decompression” and relates to how well one can withdraw and renew their energy.

The research found that both nurses and physicians had high levels of activation (which builds resilience) but that the physicians had a lower level of decompression; they were not able to unplug from work and without the opportunity to recharge, they fall into a state of burnout.

When I talk with physicians and other health care workers about resilience, I point out that strengthening our ability to bounce back (decompressing) is not just a responsibility of the individual but also of the organization. Hospitals and health care systems can do much to set the stage for recovery through actions such as managing after hour accessibility, helping employees use break and rest periods effectively, and increasing “alignment expectations” which help employees focus on their primary role without distractions.

“Physician, Heal Thyself,” is a meme that can just as easily be applied to each of us as well as our doctors. Unfortunately, it is not easy to recognize the steps that we have to take to achieve this kind of well-being.

Take some time this week to see how “activated” you are in your work and how well you are able to “decompress” so that you are refreshed. Let me know what you find out!

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2018

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