7 Ways Healthcare Professionals Can Reduce Stress and Burnout

Posted on: September 07, 2017

written by

Claire Cavanaugh

No matter what your job is, how long you’ve been there, or how much you like it, you are not immune to stress. Everyday experiences on the job can easily lead to frustration and fatigue at relatively manageable levels; sometimes, it’s just one of those days. Sometimes, however, it’s a little more serious. Even if you’re working your dream job, these stresses can build up and cause you to feel burnt out.

Given the current national physician shortage, healthcare professionals at facilities across the country are more overworked than ever before. Between unexpected vacancies and limited staff, permanent providers are spreading themselves thin, struggling to maintain work-life balance, and experiencing burnout.

What Is Professional Burnout?

As Dr. Melissa DeCapua writes, professional burnout is defined as "a progressive state that occurs through the cumulative effect of both empathizing with patients’ suffering and being committed to their recovery."

Scientific research has demonstrated that professional burnout presents itself in three symptom dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment.

How Do You Know If You’re Burnt Out?

In order to prevent and combat these more difficult times at work, it’s important to know where to draw the line. How can you differentiate between everyday stresses and more serious burnout?

A 2012 study found that nearly half of physicians show signs of burnout, and the number has only increased since. Here are a few signs that you may be experiencing it:

  • You’re emotionally drained, physically exhausted, and frustrated, and you lose all patience by the end of the day.
  • Simply getting through the day requires significant effort.
  • You’re beginning to see your patients as objects.
  • You’re beginning to feel more insensitive toward your patients.
  • You fear your job is starting to make you a callous person.

Does this sound like you or what you experience while on the job? Remedy your professional burnout and lower your stress with the following tips:

1. Sing

It may sound silly, but it’s important to engage with your goofy side when fighting stress. This doesn’t necessarily mean breaking out into a ballad while visiting with a patient, but anything from humming a favorite tune on your break to singing along with the radio on your drive to work helps release hormones that increase pleasure and lower stress.

2. Dance

You might be at a place in your career in which you feel your creativity is being suppressed. Even if you don’t consider your career as a healthcare professional a particularly creative one, it’s important to our health and happiness to engage in creative activities.

Dancing can be a great outlet for personal expression that can make exercise — another key strategy toward avoiding stress — more fun.

3. Listen to Music

It’s no secret that music can be the perfect go-to stress reliever. Certain music can influence our alpha brainwaves, making us feel more relaxed. Music can also play a big role in triggering happy memories, redirecting our emotions to a particular person, place, or time we associate with positive thoughts. Don’t forget your headphones!

4. Watch Cartoons

Laughter always helps. Writes Dr. Eki Abrams, MD: “Humor can be healing and refreshing within the work and clinical setting.”

Cartoon shows or films can have powerful relieving qualities and can make us feel nostalgic, reminding us of a simpler, less stressful time. While work isn’t exactly the best time to tune in to a childhood favorite, try trading in your go-to drama or reality show for some cartoons one evening.

5. Meditate

If you’re able to get into the habit, meditation is a long-trusted tool for stress relief, relaxation, and mindfulness. Making time at the beginning or end of your day to refocus your energy is worth those few extra minutes. Mindfulness is a key component here, as it will help you know what’s working and what isn’t.

If you find you like meditation after trying it, make it part of your routine and be mindful of its effects throughout your day.

6. Play Brain Games

Brain games are another fun way to combat stress and prevent professional burnout. Monotony can be a big contributor to burnout, and redirecting your brain power to focus on a new activity can be more beneficial than shutting it off altogether. Puzzles, crosswords, sudoku, and others are great ways to stay on your toes and avoid burning out on the task at hand.

7. Take Locum Tenens for a Test Drive

Locum tenens healthcare providers are no strangers to seeing burnt out staff at a variety of facilities. In fact, they help provide continuity of care to patients who need it most, all while alleviating burnout for their permanent colleagues.

Locum tenens opportunities are an exciting way to explore the country while earning highly competitive pay and gaining valuable experience. You get to create your own schedule, access free airfare and lodging anywhere in the U.S., and choose whether you want to pick up a few shifts on the weekends or make it a full-time career.

Throughout your career, you will likely want try the stress-busters discussed above (or similar ones) to learn what works for you. In the meantime, facilities across the U.S. are staffing locum tenens providers to minimize stress and burnout and improve work-life balance for healthcare professionals like you.

Don't wait! Start your locum tenens career today.

About Claire Cavanaugh

Claire Cavanaugh was formerly the copywriter at Barton Associates' Peabody, MA, headquarters. She joined Barton after four years of blogging as a student ambassador for St. Michael's College, where she received a bachelor of arts in media studies, journalism, and digital arts.

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