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Burnout is Not an Individual Problem

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

Multiple skid marks on the asphault beneath a blue car that has just finished doing a bunch of donuts

By Shannon Romano, MSW, RSW, Cofounder Motivation Medics Inc.

Burnout is not an individual problem.

It is an organizational problem.

Fixing it and preventing it requires effective leadership.

Unrelenting stress and demands at work that we have little or no control over leads to burnout which makes health care settings prime breeding ground for symptoms of burnout.

Furthermore, burnout is a gradual process. The signs and symptoms are subtle at first, but become worse as time goes on. Treating early symptoms of burnout is paramount to staff retention in health care.

Early symptoms can include

· Pervasive fatigue

· Cynicism about work

· Irritability with colleagues, patients/residents, and family

· Insomnia

· Increased substance use

· Absenteeism

· Feeling detached with little reward from work

· Diminished job performance

· Decreased empathy

· Self-doubt

· Anxiety

· Depression

A 2016 article published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests that resolving burnout requires change at the job, team, or organizational level.

Long-term care leaders can develop preventive strategies that counteract burnout and improve staff retention by asking individual staff what they find difficult about their job and what they need to be successful in their roles.

Situational factors such as short staffing, overtime, and witnessing pain, illness, and death are a common occurrence in health care and majorly contribute to burnout as staff have little to no control over these stressful events, and often lack the awareness and tools to manage early symptoms of burnout.

Long-term care organizations can prevent burnout amongst frontline health care workers by offering the following 3 P’s custom-designed to meet the unique needs of individual staff and teams.

3. Psychological support

By investing in peer mentorship, you not only offer new staff comprehensive onboarding support; you offer existing staff a workplace culture that drives engagement, values people, improves job satisfaction, and supports continuous growth & learning.

Psychoeducation works best when offered in small, bite-sized pieces that provide opportunities to share and listen to others' experiences. Avoid online learning that is self-directed, static, and impersonal. Most adults learn best in a community or group setting, in-person or virtual, that is facilitated by a knowledgeable leader that encourages interaction.

Psychological support is ideally provided by professionals with an understanding of the environment in which health care assistants work.

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