How to Recognize the Early Signs of Burnout?

Updated July 5, 2022

Being a healthcare worker is both rewarding and challenging, as working in the healthcare industry is not easy and may get stressful. In fact, healthcare workers are prone to burnout, which threatens their well-being and affects their physical and mental health.

In the previous article, we talked about Useful Self-Care Recommendations For Nurses. Now, we want to discuss burnout, and not just for nurses, but for all healthcare workers. Keep reading to learn more about what healthcare worker burnout is, how to prevent it, and how to recognize its early signs.


What Is Burnout?

Burnout is a term used when you are emotionally physically and mentally exhausted from prolonged exposure to workplace stress. It leaves healthcare workers feeling overwhelmed, reduces their motivation, and makes them unable to perform their job duties properly.

It is important not to confuse burnout with exhaustion. Physical exhaustion is a normal reaction of the human body when facing stress. Burnout, on the other hand, creates a state of constant emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion and is generally caused by prolonged or excess levels of stress. As stress begins to over-pile and continue, a person begins to lose interest and motivation to complete simple tasks and activities they once enjoyed.

Burnout in Healthcare

As we all know, the healthcare sector is one of the hardest industries to work in, especially during these unprecedented times post-pandemic. Nurses, Personal Support Workers (PSW), and caregivers of all parts of the healthcare system are constantly working long hours, with little time to sleep. These working conditions are inevitably resulting in large numbers of healthcare worker burnout.

Why talking about this is important? Because leaving healthcare worker burnout unchecked can cause serious long-term physical and mental damage to nurses, doctors, PSWs, paramedics, and others in the field. That is why it is essential to know what burnout is, what signs and symptoms to watch out for, and how to effectively prevent it or treat it. 

What Causes Burnout?

There are several reasons why healthcare workers report feeling burnout, including longer shifts, lack of resources, and excessive workloads. These are other relevant reasons:

Shortage in the staff

Understaffed makes healthcare workers work even more hours and leaves less time to enjoy themselves with their families and friends which will lead them to more stress and burnout. This scenario can be dangerous because it causes harm to both healthcare professionals and potentially to patients, so it is important to know what the main issue that causes burnout and how to prevent it in the future and to ensure a better quality of care for patients and the wellbeing of healthcare professionals.

Complicated patients

Healthcare workers are true heroes. They save their patients’ lives every day and they always strive to do their best to help their patients by making them feel comfortable and feel better by treating their medical issues. However, some patients may be complicated to deal with and can add more stress to healthcare workers.

Fast-paced and stressful environments

The healthcare environment in hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities is often stressful, demanding and tense, which puts healthcare workers at high risk for burnout.

What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Burnout In Healthcare Workers?

While burnout is not necessarily a diagnosable psychological disorder, it does not mean it should not be taken into account and treated seriously. Another point is that burnout may vary from one person to another, so it is important to identify its symptoms so it doesn’t get dismissed as stress and anxiety.

In the case of nurses and other healthcare workers, burnout can be demonstrated through the identification of attitudes and actions such as not wanting to work anymore, feeling physical and emotional exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and more.

Look out for these signs and symptoms of burnout:

  1. Chronic fatigue
  2. Lack of motivation
  3. Insomnia
  4. Poor memory
  5. Chronic Headaches
  6. Low self-esteem
  7. Anxiety
  8. Isolation
  9. Poor performance
  10. Behavioural changes
  11. Procrastination
  12. Muscle pain
  13. Self-doubt
  14. Neglect of personal needs

If you spot one or more of these burnout signs and symptoms in a co-worker or yourself, you may brush them off as anxiety or as a result of temporary stress, but if these symptoms last more than a week, you should pay further attention, as it is more likely to be burnout.

How To Prevent Healthcare Workers' Burnout?

To prevent and reduce burnout from threatening workers' happiness and productivity, it is important for healthcare organizations and healthcare professionals to recognize burnout and invest in solutions by taking the best approach and making major changes.

Helpful changes that can prevent healthcare workers, like nurses and PSWs, from burnout are:

Maintaining basic self-care 

Healthcare workers may get so carried away in their jobs that they forget about themselves and stop caring about their well-being. To change that, you should first start by eating a healthy diet and drinking enough water. Relaxing in a warm bath or shower is a great way to calm yourself down. Good self-care and having time for your wellbeing can decrease the chance of you getting burnt out.

Adopting positive coping strategies

Stress reduction strategies like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help minimize stress and prevent burnout.

Reaching out to a professional

Professionals can help you process your feelings and what you are dealing with and address your concerns.

Exercising

Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and being physically active has great benefits on your emotional physical and mental health.

Maintaining a good sleep routine

Getting enough sleep hours can help with your mental and physical health and helps you stay positive at work.

Read More: Why Is Sleep Deprivation So Common Among Caregivers?

Reaching out to your supervisor

If your workload is becoming overwhelming you can reach out to your supervisor and ask them to decrease your workload.

Interacting with family and friends

Interacting with friends and family can reduce emotional exhaustion and reduce the feeling of isolation. Burnout has become an important issue that most healthcare workers face these days, it can leave a negative impact on your body and mind if symptoms are ignored, so make sure you know how to differentiate between stress and burnout.

Scheduling Free Time 

Due to the pandemic, it may not possible to take an actual vacation, but this shouldn’t mean that you are not scheduling free time for yourself. This free time can be utilized to do anything that allows you to de-stress such as taking a nice long nap or bath. These are little things that we allow our busy days to take over, and we tend to forget how easily they can change the mood. 

Acknowledging Your Breaking Point

Knowing your body and mind can make a world of a difference. This will allow you to know when you’re close to a burnout stage and can help you prevent it. It’s essential to acknowledge when you are close to burnout because sometimes it’s as simple as taking a day off to unwind.

In a world of fast-growing technology, it can be almost impossible to unplug. This means that burnout is almost inevitable. In order to deal with burn out one can use the “Three R’s” approach; Recognize, Reverse, and Resilience. 

This approach allows you to acknowledge the issue at hand, learn to undo the damages by seeking out professional help and learning to manage your stress, and lastly build your strength by nourishing your emotional and physical health.

We hope this article was informative and educational in helping you understand burnout better. At Caring Support we want to do everything we can to support healthcare workers searching for new jobs or for resources to cope with burnout.

Read More: How To Protect Your Skin From The Effects Of Prolonged PPE Use

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