In a previous article titled “Physical And Emotional Exhaustion: Does It Affect Our Medical Care?”, we described the physical and emotional health issues clinicians have to face every day. We also discussed how this could affect our work, and even put us at risk of legal problems. Clearly, exhaustion is becoming an ever-more-serious issue in healthcare. There are, however, some things we can do to overcome overwork and avoid exhaustion.
While these are not magical or complete solutions, they will help make routines more bearable, and by extension help healthcare professionals practice more effectively.
Finding a Distraction
A stressful work environment can be even more damaging if it bleeds over into breaks or after-work hours. Not everyone has the time to truly relax, but finding an activity that entertains us and captures our attention –– like playing video games or watching videos on our phones –– can be beneficial. In fact, a study published at Sage Journals found that playing video games during the pandemic specifically has been helpful in reducing anxiety and stress. That’s not to say it’s the only option, but this speaks to the benefit of finding enjoyable distractions that help us to truly step away from work.
Learning About Burnout Symptoms
Burnout may have clear symptoms, but they can also be easily ignored or –– even worse –– hidden due to fear of reprimand. If we learn to recognize these symptoms, like less motivation to work or participate in social activities, we can succeed in heading off larger problems. We can also bring the issue to the attention of supervisors or management so as to begin to affect change. Whether that means shifting schedules, lightening workloads, or even exploring counseling will depend on the case.
Working Fewer Hours
Another logical solution that is thankfully gaining more traction of late is that of reorganizing working schedules to be less demanding. A post on SymptomFind dug into the idea of shortening work weeks, specifically noting that working fewer hours each week allows people to sleep and eat adequately –– ultimately preventing physical exhaustion. In some cases, companies have found that productivity stays the same even with people working fewer hours, while satisfaction among employees increases. Clearly the patient component can make this kind of adjustment tricky in healthcare, but even a slight reduction in hours will be helpful for many of us.
Nobody knows what a healthcare worker must go through better than another healthcare worker. For this simple reason, support groups can actually be quite helpful. All too often, we bottle up feelings of being overworked or overwhelmed, when airing those feelings out with others who will understand can be very helpful. It may not solve underlying problems, but the day-to-day becomes a little more manageable when we realize we’re not alone in these feelings or struggles.
When our work becomes overwhelming, we have less time to think about personal ambitions and plans. It’s in this regard that vocational counseling can come in hand. Through this practice we can speak to licensed counselors about what motivates us, what we want out of the future, and what immediate next steps we might be working towards. It’s a good way of remembering what we’re working hard for, as well as how things may stand to improve.
The bottom line is that healthcare workers are in a demanding line of work in the best of times, and are now on the front lines in the war against Covid-19. Facilities are understaffed, and, as Politico reported recently, some situations are so dire that infected staff are being asked to return to work. It seems inevitable that under these circumstances we’re seeing so much exhaustion and burnout in healthcare and is unfortunately an issue that needs resolution. Amongst taking the appropriate steps to remain well-rested, engaged and on your A-game when tending to patients, and learning to compartmentalize personal and professional life, it is quite important to ensure you are covered by the right professional liability policy. Having your own malpractice insurance will cover both your professional and personal assets should the unexpected occur.
The methods and ideas shared above won’t solve all day-to-day issues in healthcare, but they are certainly a start.
Exclusively written for CMFGROUP.com
By: Raizel Jaime