5 Overlooked Causes of Burnout in Healthcare Workers

Health care workers are one of the essential types of workers we need across the world. Due to the nature of their job, they are highly susceptible to experiencing burnout. Burnout in a job can lead to numerous side effects, which can affect overall health.

Burnout can be experienced by anyone working in the health care industry. From lab technicians to doctors in the ER, it’s important to shed some light on the problems they experience on a daily basis. Here we navigate through 5 overlooked causes of burnout in health care workers.

Healthcare Workers Work Long Hours and are Often Sleep Deprived

Most healthcare workers are on the job for about 12+ hours a day. You get off work, go home, sleep a little, and then are at it again the next day. Sleep deprivation can cause severe complications over time.

Being sleep deprived can change the behavior and overall mood of healthcare workers. 

Your memory can be greatly affected by not getting enough sleep. This can greatly impact your job as you are working with patients. 

Not getting an adequate amount of sleep can make someone unhappy and unpleasurable to be around. It’s not the personality you want around a sick patient. 

If you consider the fact that the ideal amount of sleep on a nightly basis is at least 7 hours, you can quickly see how that is unachievable for healthcare workers. By the time you get home, eat dinner, take a breather, and finally get to sleep, it’s not going to be long before your alarm clock is going off again.

Drinking coffee on a regular basis isn’t going to make up for lost sleep. Drinking a large amount of caffeine will make it harder for you to fall asleep at night. You are going to catch yourself in a vicious cycle of insomnia.

Try to limit caffeine consumption to the beginning of your shift, so it has time to wear off when you finally get the chance to go to sleep at night. If you are relying too much on coffee and still feel tired, you could have an underlying sleep disorder and not know it.

Sleep deprivation Makes Can Make You Sick

Sleep deprivation can lead to a weakened immune system. That can be a serious side effect if you are already around sick patients. You are putting yourself and the ones you care for at risk. A weakened immune system can be prone to several illnesses.

  • You are more likely to get colds on a regular basis. Working around patients is already going to make it likelier to catch a cold, but adding a weakened immune system is a recipe for disaster.
  • You can begin to get frequent infections. Ailments like pneumonia, ear infections, and sinusitis are often seen in people who don’t have a great immune system.
  • High blood pressure can be directly caused by sleep deprivation, and it’s amplified by an immune system that isn’t working properly.

These are just to name a few. Not getting an adequate amount of sleep takes a toll on your body and can have grave consequences. Being sleep deprived on a regular basis can even lead to an early death.

Healthcare Workers Have a Hard Time Balancing Work Life with Home Life

Balancing your work and home life can be difficult when you don’t see what’s most important. While you are struggling to find the correct balance, you may start re-evaluating your decision to become a healthcare worker.

Shift work isn’t for the faint of heart. Having to work 12+ hours a day and then going home and having to care for your family is no easy task. A lot of times, you are working more hours than you are scheduled for. What starts off as a 12 hour day, can easily turn into a 13 or 14 hour shift.

If you work a different shift than your spouse or partner, it can potentially lead to strain in your relationship. You likely will not get to spend as much time with them as you would like. Your children may not see you together as often and start yearning for a regular home life.

It’s not likely that as a healthcare worker, you can leave early to spend extra time at home. You can’t check out early on a patient just because your child has a soccer game. You may feel like you are missing out on a lot in your child’s life.

Not feeling like you spend enough time with your family can take a toll on your emotional state. As you are leaving your already long workday, you likely are thinking of all the housework waiting for you at home. Often it feels like there is just not enough time in the day to get everything you’d like accomplished.

Drowning in Life Causes Burnout

You may feel like you do not know how to fit both aspects of your life together. When you feel like you are drowning in life, you are bound to feel the burnout from it. It’s tough to know how to get up once you feel beaten down.

Life is ever changing, which means you don’t have the opportunity to find a balance of your work and your home life. Once you figure out some sort of routine, you might then run into a shift change, or your kids are out of school, and you must reconfigure how you handle everything.

As a healthcare worker, you may not want to take a step back from your work to have more home life. You might feel if you don’t perform as well as you have in the past, you will not receive the credit you are due from your employer.

There Has Been a Major Uptick in Patient Volume

Areas hit hardest by COVID-19 have had a large influx of patients. Healthcare workers are struggling to keep up with the demands put on them each day. Often there aren’t enough beds to satisfy the needs of the patients coming in.

The numbers of those affected by the virus continues to rise and put an even heavier burden on healthcare workers. The nurse-to-patient ratio ideally was set at 1:1. However, the pandemic has brought that to 1:4 in some areas.

As a nurse, you cannot effectively help each patient if you are not given adequate time to do so. Racing back and forth between several patients can prove costly when it comes to proper care.

Even aside from COVID-19, the increase in patients seen in health care facilities is higher than ever. With the human life expectancy span continually getting longer, it brings a higher volume of people who need medical attention.

People with chronic health issues are going to need to utilize healthcare services on a more regular basis. Many more people are requiring medical attention due to:

  • Asthma
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

There Aren’t Enough Workers to go Around

It Is estimated there will be a shortage of nearly one million nurses by 2022. While nursing shortages are nothing new, the cause behind it has started to change. In the past, shortages were mainly due to the low numbers of people interested in working in the healthcare field.

The aging population is feeling the mental and physical burdens of being a healthcare worker. They no longer can handle the long shifts and stress put on them in the medical field. Some of the older generation of healthcare workers may retire early because they are not capable of fulfilling the job requirements anymore.

As the baby boomer generation enters their golden years, the shortage of healthcare workers will only increase. As these aging healthcare workers begin to retire, there is a void that needs to be filled. If the void isn’t filled, it puts more work on the employees still in the industry. It leads to even longer shifts and not enough time off to recover.

Baby Boomers Aging Need More Medical Attention

The same group of people retiring will soon be needing more medical attention as they get older. As the life expectancy age goes up, so does the number of older patients being seen. Interestingly enough, baby boomers are living longer than their own parents but with more chronic health issues.

Healthcare workers are overworked as it is, but once you add the insufficient number of workers to do the job, the problem is only going to get worse. Being overworked is going to lead to burnout fast. 

Health care workers tend to quit if the burnout becomes too much, leaving those still in the workplace with even more of a workload. Taking on the burden of a heavier workload is going to have an extreme burnout effect on healthcare workers.

The Money Isn’t Worth the Stress

Have you ever worked extremely hard on a job to only be disappointed by your paycheck at the end? While a doctor who has been in their profession for 20 years may have a substantial salary, that doesn’t include everyone in the healthcare industry.

At a median pay of $13.48 an hour, it is easy for a healthcare worker to feel like the stress isn’t worth it. It’s not easy to make ends meet when you are making the bare minimum.

If you are stressed about your low income, you may begin resenting your job, which will then affect the way you treat your patients. You are going to start to question whether the burnout is even worth it.

If you are living paycheck to paycheck, you are going to feel burnt out from the stress that brings. Working to just make ends meet can seem like a vicious cycle that you can never escape.

Ways to Avoid the Burnout

Prevention is always key in avoiding a problem. Figuring out the best methods to avoid burnout can help you achieve a better future in your workplace. Having a positive outlook on your work as a healthcare worker will lead to a better job performance.

Try to Get More Sleep

While this is easier said than done, it’s important to re-evaluate your sleep schedule. If you are getting home from work and watching television for several hours to relax, put the remote down for a few nights. Looking at a screen before you go to bed is not going to lead to quality sleep.

On your days off, try to fit in a nap, if possible. Getting extra sleep when you can will go a long way for your mental health. Even taking a cat nap once a week can help your mind reset.

You want to spend time with your family while you are home, but sometimes you just need to get that extra rest. You need to forget the need to balance your two lives and take care of yourself for a minute.

Set up Boundaries with your Work and Personal Life

If you are constantly bringing your work home with you, you are not giving your mind an opportunity to take a break. Striving for the perfect balance of life and work is going to seem overwhelming.

Make a point to shut your work brain off when you get home. Be present when you are with your family or friends. You are going to regret it later if you don’t take advantage of the time you do have with them.

Don’t answer the work call unless you think it could be an emergency. You can easily let it go to voicemail and then decide if it warrants a call back. If you’re not at work, you shouldn’t be expected to do work.

Develop Relationships with your Co-Workers

Healthcare workers put in a lot of hours during the week. You need to take advantage of the fact there are other people in your shoes as well and they are right there alongside you. It could potentially make the burnout you are experiencing not feel as bad.

It’s always a comforting thing when you can talk to someone going through a similar situation. Having someone to relate to can help relieve some of the stressors you are experiencing.

Take Time for Self-Care

While you are at work, you are caring for others. At home, you are caring for your family. When can you make time for yourself?

Self-care can easily be overlooked, and it’s important to take a pause on occasion and tend to your self-care. Something as simple as walking 30 minutes a day a few days a week can help your overall health.

Where the Burnout is Seen the Most

While most healthcare workers would say they’ve experienced some level of burnout, there is one position that is more affected than others. Emergency room workers are in a high-stress environment and often can’t break away from it.

Emergency Room Nurses

Nurses in the emergency room never have two days that are the same. They never know what type of patient they are going to have when those hospital doors open.

Having to deal with trauma victims that come in with life-threatening injuries can take a toll on an emergency room nurse. Losing a patient has an emotional impact on a nurse and can affect them mentally.

While they know what they signed up for, it doesn’t prepare them for the intensity an emergency room can bring. COVID-19 has definitely brought a surge of burnout in emergency room nurses. Being on the frontlines during a pandemic is no easy task.

Are you suffering from Workplace Burnout?

What exactly does it mean when someone says they are burnt out on the job? Workplace burnout is stress directly related to your job. With the burnout, you reach a point of emotional and physical exhaustion and feel you can no longer continue on this path.

While there isn’t an official medical diagnosis for workplace burnout, it can lead to various health problems. Being unhappy in your job situation can end up taking you down a path of mental health problems.

  • Depression can greatly affect an employee’s work ethic. If a healthcare worker is suffering from job burnout, it can quickly lead to having depressed feelings about their current state. Without receiving the proper care, a person with depression will continue to suffer in their daily life.
  • Anxiety is often coupled with depression. A healthcare worker with anxiety can lead to a track of improper care of patients and a decrease in their overall job performance.

What Needs to Change

Clearly, attention needs to be brought to the burnout healthcare workers are experiencing. Identifying the causes of burnout in healthcare workers can hopefully bring some insight to their employers.

Healthcare workers are on the frontline, and their patients can’t afford to be treated by someone suffering from burnout.

While a fix isn’t likely going to happen overnight, it’s important to understand the causes of burnout that typically get overlooked in healthcare workers. It’s imperative to have support readily available to help these essential workers get the assistance they greatly need.

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