Most of the time we know more about how much battery is left in our phones than we know about our personal battery. I wrote that in an AHEC blog some time back. My, how times have changed and how much more we are experiencing in personal battery failure. I spent some time on social media this morning with my coffee and was concerned at the reporting of physical aches and pains from health care workers. Some of this can obviously be blamed on the effects of Covid fatigue as our psychological health is directly tied to our physical health. I don’t know anyone in health care that is not sufferings from burnout and compassion fatigue.
Figley (1982) described compassion fatigue as the “cost of caring” for others in emotional pain. You do not have to experience the trauma yourself to be affected by the exposure to a series of traumatic events in the work you do. The secondary exposure to the despair of families, co-workers, and others can make us a second victim if we feel helpless to change the process. Burn out is the actual physical and emotional exhaustion when we feel overwhelmed at work and we are powerless to control the environment.
Pre COVID, nearly 50% of Health care workers were afflicted with burnout. A new study has shown that number has jumped to an alarming 84%.
What is contributing to the increase in burnout?
Facilities are experiencing increased patient load, coupled with an increase of healthcare workers leaving their professions. In fact, out of 1,000 healthcare workers polled, 1 in 4 healthcare workers have thought about quitting their jobs, and 1 in 10 have.
Another contributing factor, death anxiety, is at an all time high. One study reported over 70% of patients hospitalized that required mechanical ventilation died. Many family members are looking for blame for their loved ones. David Kessler, founder of grief.com has been quoted saying, “It’s much easier to blame the doctor or nurse or emergency room instead of hearing, ‘We did our best.’ That’s not enough. … Psychologically, we’d rather feel guilty or angry than feel helpless.”
Burnout is a very serious condition, which can lead to severe mental health issues. Even without a pandemic going on, suicide is an occupational hazard among healthcare workers.
How can you tell if you are experiencing burnout, and what can you do to prevent it?
Symptoms of burnout include chronic fatigue, insomnia, impaired concentration and attention, loss of appetite, anxiety, depression, and anger.
In an article we previously published, “Burn Out, Real or Nah?” we said that the solution lies with the organizations employing the healthcare providers acknowledging the seriousness of burn out and offering adjustments. More and more facilities are recognizing the seriousness of this affliction, and many are providing support groups where you can talk and connect with people who have similar traumas, which can help with emotional exhaustion. If dealing with depersonalization, use your down time perusing a favorite hobby, instead of engaging in mindless tasks. Some facilities are providing space for depressurizing and filling it with things that can provide respite from a troublesome work environment.
Berxi has reported that 90% of healthcare workers are not getting the recommended amount of sleep. Make sure you are getting enough rest.
If you are having a hard time with your sense of control, try to adapt to a consistent schedule.
Practice mindfulness, try to exercise when you can, reflect on the unusual situation we are in and recognize that you are valuable and crucial to help fight the pandemic.
Create and support a strong social support network at home and at work. Take care of yourself and put your health and wellness on the priority list.
If you need help, don’t hesitate. Reach out. It appears this will be our work for some time to come.