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How To Avoid Healthcare Provider Burnout

Man using tablet pc against medical interface on xray

Are you a healthcare provider finding it harder to care for your patients because you're too tired and stressed out all the time? Well, you may be suffering from burnout.

Contrary to popular belief, doctors and nurses are not immune to it, and they do not have superpowers. This article will shed some light on this issue and the growing concerns surrounding it.


Burnout 101

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that affects workers in almost every profession. Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger first described the burnout syndrome in a scientific article published in 1974.

The condition is far worse than regular fatigue. Affected people find it very difficult to cope with the stress of their day-to-day responsibilities. Consistent exposure to stressful situations is one of the leading causes of burnout. This condition can be debilitating; it overlaps with depression and can ruin careers and close relationships.


Burnout in the Healthcare Profession

Out of all professions affected by burnout, healthcare providers tend to suffer the most. In fact, the prevalence of burnout in the healthcare sector is becoming an epidemic. More physicians and nurses are suffering from exhaustion today than ever before.

According to a study conducted by NYU's Rory Meyers College of Nursing, nearly half of the observed nurses worked well past their scheduled shift. Surveyed nurses worked an average of 12 hours a day due to staff shortages. Working long hours is one of the main reasons for nurse burnout, threatening patient safety, and increasing nurse turnover.

According to a 2017 survey by Kronos Incorporated:

  • 98% of nurses said their work is mentally and physically demanding
  • 85% said their work causes them to be fatigued overall
  • 63% noted that nursing work leads to burnout
  • 44% worry that patients under their care may suffer because they're exhausted
  • 41% considered switching hospitals during the past year because of burnout


nursing shortages lead to increased overtime

The reality that nurses face each day is mandatory overtime. Hospitals don't have a choice but to ask healthcare providers to extend their hours due to the current workforce shortage.

The nursing shortage is a problem nationwide, and the data suggests that the problem won't be solved until 2030. In the meantime, hospital staff must be wary of the effects of burnout in the workplace. All healthcare providers, from nurses to administration staff, suffer from work-related burnout.

This issue is a real concern because patients won't receive adequate care from burnt-out workers. Therefore, healthcare professionals must be able to detect the early signs of burnout and know when to seek help.


Signs and Symptoms of Burnout

Are you worried that the fatigue you're feeling might actually be burnout? Here's a list of what to look for, according to an article published in NCBI:


Signs of Burnout

  • Increased medical errors and poor quality of work
  • Issues with patient safety
  • Patients report that they are not satisfied with their care
  • Physicians aren't engaged with their patients
  • Early retirement and reduced retention rate


Symptoms of Burnout

  • Exhaustion - refers to emotional, mental, and physical fatigue
  • Depersonalization - refers to cynicism or loss of altruism
  • Lack Of Personal Achievement - refers to a lack of self-efficacy and competence



  • Escape Fantasies - People who suffer from burnout are often dissatisfied and may fantasize about running away or going on an extended vacation.
  • Irritability - Burnout can often cause workers to have a short fuse and lose their cool with co-workers, family members, and even patients.
  • Isolation - Providers with burnout often feel overwhelmed by what's happening and may stop socializing.
  • Frequent Illnesses - Burnout can weaken the immune system, making people more susceptible to insomnia, flu, and colds. Exhaustion may also lead to mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.


How to Prevent Burnout

Burnout is a lot like any other illness, and prevention is better than curing. The first thing any healthcare provider should do is not wait for any of the signs to appear in the first place. The moment you feel overwhelmed or emotionally drained, it's time to take a step back and evaluate the situation.

Getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercising can help keep burnout at bay. However, these are only a small part of the prevention picture. According to Dr. Dike Drummond, medical practitioners should practice the three "R" s:


1. Resist

Increase your ability to resist the forces of healthcare provider burnout while on the job. Practicing mindfulness techniques help build resistance.


2. Restore

Restore all physical, emotional, and spiritual energies lost during work to a healthy and positive balance.


3. Reduce Exposure

Lessen your daily exposure to the draining effects of the workplace by working less or shifting to a new position within the medical field. The last resort is quitting the profession and choosing a new career that makes you happier.


How Medical Organizations Can Fight Burnout

Organizations should recognize and address the extent of burnout issues in the workplace by:

  • Employing effective leadership techniques by having a department that deals with staff burnout
  • Investing in employee well-being initiatives
  • Giving healthcare providers more flexibility with their schedules
  • Developing evidence-based strategies to prevent burnout
  • Implementing peer support group initiatives at work
  • Developing targeted interventions
  • Reward providers with paid time off so they can rest and rejuvenate
  • Value alignment, so everyone works towards the same goals



Burnout in the healthcare sector is alarming as it affects not only the providers, but all the people under their care as well. When a doctor or nurse feels the effects of burnout, he/she may not be able to dispense the best care possible. Knowing the signs and symptoms of burnout can help you deal with it properly. Don't hesitate to ask for help if you identify with or feel any of the signs mentioned above!




About the Author: Dean Mathews is the founder and CEO of OnTheClock, an online employee time tracking app that helps over 8,000 companies all around the world track time. Dean has over 20 years of experience designing and developing business apps. He views software development as a form of art. If the artist creates a masterpiece, many peoples lives are touched and changed for the better. When he is not perfecting time tracking, Dean enjoys expanding his faith, spending time with family, friends and finding ways to make the world just a little better. You can find Dean on LinkedIn.

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