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Avoiding burnout during a pandemic

 

Posted by Megan Trippi

Nearly every industry faces burnout in its employees. It could be said medical professionals face a larger amount of burnout, especially during the holiday season when many others get to unwind and be with family. Add a global pandemic, the stress of caring for COVID-19 patients and the risk of exposure to the virus, and burnout is almost inevitable.

Even if you aren’t working in a COVID facility, talking to patients about the pandemic, making sure your patients are avoiding exposure and taking all the proper precautions yourself can begin to take its toll. Burnout is extremely common and can have a large impact on your role as a physician and in your personal life, so keep an eye out for the following signs of burnout in yourself and your colleagues:

Exhaustion

Long hours and a demanding job can weigh heavily on anyone - but especially on physicians and advanced practice providers. You might think the constant feeling of being tired is normal and just comes with the profession. Make note if you seem to have less energy and start to feel less engaged with your job than you once were.

Lack of compassion

As you feel more burned out, you can start to become frustrated by patients or not be emotionally available for them and others. You may feel as if you are just going through the motions and start to feel mentally drained or begin acting more distant when it comes to patient care.

Doubt

Doubt can happen when you question the purpose of your work and no longer feel fulfilled. You may be uncertain about the quality you’re producing or why you continue doing it. Try to keep things in perspective and pay attention to your thoughts if you begin to feel this way.

It may not always be easy to notice when you’re becoming burned out. If you start to question yourself or feel overwhelmed, here are four ways to avoid burnout or resolve those feelings of doubt:

  1. Remain engaged

Physicians and APPs who work in certain specialties see many of the same problems and hear a great deal of the same stories every day. For some, it can be tedious or begin to seem boring. Most providers go into medicine to help others, so if you feel you aren’t fulfilled in your daily work, have time and are looking for fulfillment in other ways, find volunteer opportunities or clinics where you can work outside your normal shifts.

This can provide an outlet from the daily tasks and responsibilities, allowing you to feel a larger sense of purpose as a health care provider and recharge your desire to help others in your specialty.

  1. Utilize resources

A new trend many medical students and physicians are using is physician coaching. These coaches help physicians think about their responsibilities and role in a different way. They provide a process of learning to find other ways to remain engaged, interested and prevent burnout. Consider calling a coach when you need to shift your mindset or reset your way of thinking about your work.

Paperwork can be a time-consuming, albeit important, task for you. If you have nurses, physician assistants or office managers, utilize support staff to handle some of the responsibilities you can delegate to others - whether it’s helping with the paperwork, prepping patients, checking your appointments or just taking on small duties to remove some responsibility from you.

  1. Take a break

It’s easy for physicians to put in long hours and feel overworked. This can make it seem like you don’t have time for hobbies and family. Try to find a healthy balance between practice and life outside the facility. If you can find flexibility in your schedule, use that time to focus on anything other than work.

COVID-19 has also created a shift to more physicians using telemedicine. This can both free up some time in schedules and provide a sense of ease that you’re not being exposed to the virus.

If your facility has amenities available, take advantage of a relaxation room, gym, cafeteria or break room onsite to recharge and take a break when you feel overwhelmed.

  1. Talk to a professional

When burnout seems to take its toll on you and it seems like all other solutions have failed, it may be time to seek professional help. Talking to an expert will give you a way to understand the root cause of your burnout or lack of drive and start working on ways to improve.

 

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