Background Fast Facts #167 and 168 described burnout, its risk factors, symptoms, and consequences. This Fast Fact will address strategies to avoid burnout while sustaining personal and professional health, integrity, and growth. Fast Fact #170 will describe assessment tools validated for burnout.
I. Individual Strategies
- Reflection upon work: journaling, discussion with colleagues.
- Am I burned-out/healthy?
- Why do I do this/continue to do this?
- What inspired/moved/surprised me today?
- Attend to health: diet, exercise, rest, regular health care.
- Plan activities that rejuvenate: Play!
- Professional supervision: Regular interaction with a mental health professional with the express purpose of exploring dynamics of the provider/patient relationship.
- Make time for yourself
- Plan vacations at regular intervals.
- Allow for “time-out” when stressors increase.
II. Interpersonal Strategies
- Give important relationships priority – strengthen existing relationships with family and friends.
- Expand your community beyond existing relationships through activism or spiritual engagement.
III. Professional Strategies
- Debrief emotional events:
- Reach out to colleagues.
- Seek out or strengthen a mentor relationship.
- Write about your work for a larger audience.
- Utilize your institution’s Critical Incident Response Team if available.
- Psychosocial rounds with colleagues to explore these issues.
- Schwartz Center Rounds: interdisciplinary hospital rounds to explore emotions surrounding provider/patient interactions.
- Advocate for change in your job, organization, or profession.
Triggers for Professional Counseling
- Persistent feelings of sadness, exhaustion, anger, worthlessness, hopelessness, suicidal ideation, or anxiety interfering with work or interpersonal relationships.
- Self-prescribing sedative/hypnotic medication.
- Substance abuse: alcohol, prescription, or non-prescription drugs.
- Other ‘addictions’ interfering with work/relationships: gambling, exercise.
- Persistent sleep disturbance: nightmares, difficulty initiating or staying asleep, early morning awakening.
- Loss of professional boundaries:
- Inappropriate relationships with patients, families, or trainees.
- Lack of attention to patients’ rights, safety, or autonomy.
If, after careful attention to the variables within your control, you still feel burned-out and at risk for serious consequences, it may be necessary to temporarily or permanently leave your current job to regain your health.
- Gundersen L. Physician burnout. Ann Int Med. 2001; 135:145-148.
- Kuehn Kelly C. Strategies to Balance Training, Your Personal Life. ACP-ASIM Observer. 2001.
- Meier DE, Back AL, Morrison RS. The inner life of physicians and care of the seriously ill. JAMA. 2001; 286:3007-3014.
- Remen RN. The doctor’s dilemma: returning service, grace, and meaning to the art of healing. Whole Earth. Summer 2000: 4-10.
- The Kenneth B Schwartz Center. Available at: http://www.theschwartzcenter.org/.
Version History: This Fast Fact was originally edited by David E Weissman MD and published in November 2006. Version copy-edited in April 2009; then again July 2015.
Fast Facts and Concepts are edited by Sean Marks MD (Medical College of Wisconsin) and associate editor Drew A Rosielle MD (University of Minnesota Medical School), with the generous support of a volunteer peer-review editorial board, and are made available online by the Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin (PCNOW); the authors of each individual Fast Fact are solely responsible for that Fast Fact’s content. The full set of Fast Facts are available at Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin with contact information, and how to reference Fast Facts.
Copyright: All Fast Facts and Concepts are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Copyright (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Fast Facts can only be copied and distributed for non-commercial, educational purposes. If you adapt or distribute a Fast Fact, let us know!
Disclaimer: Fast Facts and Concepts provide educational information for health care professionals. This information is not medical advice. Fast Facts are not continually updated, and new safety information may emerge after a Fast Fact is published. Health care providers should always exercise their own independent clinical judgment and consult other relevant and up-to-date experts and resources. Some Fast Facts cite the use of a product in a dosage, for an indication, or in a manner other than that recommended in the product labeling. Accordingly, the official prescribing information should be consulted before any such product is used.