How To Support Your Burned Out Healthcare Team
While Covid-19 has brought an onslaught of unexpected health and healthcare challenges, it has also brought an invisible illness to many essential workers: burnout. In truth, burnout has almost become a secondary pandemic among healthcare workers managing and maintaining the front lines.
This is unfortunate but not exactly surprising; burnout in nurses is at an all-time high, caregiver burnout is on the rise, and working in healthcare has become more difficult than ever before. Burnout is caused by a variety of factors at every level of leadership in the healthcare industry. If you’re wondering what burnout is, how it may look, and what may be causing it, please take a look at this article about the rise of burnout in healthcare.
At Wholeness at Work, we know that the key to ending burnout begins by taking preventative measures so your teams can balance a hard work load while maintaining a level of sustainable exertion. It may well be that your team is beyond the point of burnout (high turnover rates, emotional outbursts, and toxic work culture all the time are symptoms of this).
If that’s the case, here are a few tips for supporting your burned out healthcare team.
Have Rest in Mind
An important part of preventing burnout is making sure your teams are not working too hard without taking time for rest. Providing real opportunities for breaks is vital, and this might mean having to enforce them. If you’re in a position of leadership, it’s important to not only respect the breaks of your team members, but also actively encourage them.
When people feel supported by their leadership to rest and care for themselves, they are more likely to trust them, treat them with respect, and generally put their best selves forward in the workplace.
This is in the same vein as the previous point; make sure everyone in your organization has paid time off (PTO) and is encouraged to use it. Personal time off allows employees to take the time to recharge their batteries and refresh when and as they need it. As a leader, honoring PTO shows that you care about the wellbeing of your employees. Happy and healthy staff create a happy and healthy culture, which has a ripple effect that can be felt throughout your entire ecosystem—employees, patients, and beyond.
Address Fairness + Equity
The politicization of the healthcare industry due to mass misinformation around Covid-19 has resulted in an incredible increase in healthcare workers being attacked (both verbally and physically). This, of course, has a direct relationship to the rise in burnout.
In order to counteract it, you can make sure your staff are being compensated for the extra effort incurred by the exhaustion of their physical and emotional resources.
Another Covid-19 step that must be taken is holding staff accountable for being vaccinated. Discourse among healthcare workers about the vaccine and its enforcement will only make systemic burnout worse.
Now, when it comes to supporting burnout, experimenting is fun, exciting, and can be very effective to improve a situation. Ask your staff what they need to feel supported, it might surprise you. It could be as simple as getting a few pieces of better equipment—from the coffee maker in the breakroom to higher-quality PPE.
Perhaps you create a new system of taking breaks, change up assigned tasks per the requests of team members, create a suggestion box (and follow through with those suggestions), or, better yet, ask your staff what they want to see. An important part of preventing burnout among your team is making sure they feel seen and heard. Asking for your team’s opinions opens up a two-way dialogue for open communication and transparency. Prepare for criticism, and approach the conversation with an open mind. Every team is different, but everyone likes to feel heard, respected, and supported.
Be Mindful of Meetings
One workplace burnout contributor that we see all the time is unnecessary meetings.
Meetings are important, especially in healthcare where the safety and comfort of patients may rely on cross-team communication, but it’s vital that any meeting you hold is concise, well planned, and provides a safe environment for communication. Avoid unnecessary activities or speeches that keep people longer than they need to be there.
Check on Habits
When cultivating a supportive environment, you must make sure managers aren’t reinforcing unhealthy habits and behaviors. What does this look like? Well, when someone is off the clock, for example, make sure managers are not contacting them. Managers must respect personal space and vacation time to show their teams that they care, which is the key to a healthy workplace.
Support Small Acts of Care (I level)
Another way that we can prevent or stop burnout is supporting acts of renewal at the individual, “I,” level. This looks different for every team, so you should ask your team members about the acts of care that will make them feel better at work. A couple of examples of this could be providing healthy, high-quality breakfast, or creating time and space for meditation.
Address Leadership Behaviors
One of the most important pieces of this burnout puzzle is making sure that people feel heard. Nothing supports burnout better, because hearing people’s needs and expressing empathy in response to them is the best way to make people feel supported.
There is nothing more frustrating and disheartening than feeling insignificant and unsupported, especially when healthcare workers are working tirelessly to aid current health crises like the Covid-19 pandemic. Dismissal from leadership is really what makes people leave companies entirely, whereas showing up and supporting team members extinguishes the flames of burnout.
At minimum, you can make sure that management teams know how to listen and receive feedback genuinely.
Invest in Solutions
Frontline workers—from doctors, nurses, caregivers, support staff, and beyond—have had to put their lives on the line in order to make sure that we, the public, are as cared for as possible during such an unprecedented time. Management must invest in the solutions for burnout, as emphasized in our last point (that is, problems that team members voice and that management needs to address). Showing those who work with you that you have their back creates a united from that is going to help everyone get through this together.
What Healthcare Workers Can Do
If you are a healthcare worker who feels that they are not supported through the systems in place, there are some things you can do.
Validate Your Feelings
There is no shame in feeling frustrated, unmotivated, overwhelmed, or whatever other emotions you’re feeling. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply sit in your feelings and accept that you are a human being experiencing natural human emotions. Like a waxy build up, running from them or pushing them away can, overtime, result in further burnout and discomfort.
Close your eyes for a moment. Tap into your breath. Exhale any air sitting in your lungs. Take a slow and controlled inhale, filling up your belly, expanding through your lungs and all the way up to your chest. Hold for a few seconds at the top. When you’re ready, take a slow and controlled exhale out your nose. Try to keep the air fluid and consistent, like honey being poured over tea. Once you reach the bottom, pause for a moment, and repeat.
Breathing can become your best friend because you can do it from anywhere. It calms your nervous system and returns you from fight or flight mode.
Phone a Friend
Know that you’re not alone in experiencing burnout symptoms. Reaching out to a colleague or friend can allow you to get your stress off your chest. Ask them to simply listen to you vent, if that is what you need. Or, if you’re looking for advice, sometimes it’s helpful to let someone know that is what you’d like instead.
More than likely, you’ll also learn that they’re experiencing some similar feelings, or that they’ve experienced something similar in the past. They might have unique ways of helping that could really benefit you.
To anyone reading this from the healthcare industry, thank you for your work. And thank you for caring for those around you enough to be here, reading this. If the task of reducing burnout is still overwhelming, Wholeness at Work has a wide variety of solutions for you. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can help you.
- Tags: burnout