A closer look at burnout: What can we do about it?

November 8, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership, ,

Health care workers across the world are experiencing burnout — and it’s been worsened by the pandemic. Our own 2021 Faculty and Staff Engagement Surveys show that about half of faculty and staff are feeling symptoms of burnout. What can we do about it?

First, we can prioritize workplace well-being as a core value and daily practice, because it is critical to achieve all of our organizational missions: high-quality and safe clinical care, outstanding education, innovative research and investing in our future.

The following questions help me to prioritize workplace well-being each day:

  • What effect will my actions and decisions today have on faculty, staff and learner well-being?
  • What can I do (or stop doing) to improve the well-being of our staff, learner, and faculty well-being?
  • Have I improved the well-being of at least one person today?

Second, we can take the time to listen to each other and communicate with leaders about our concerns.

Speaking up when we see something not right and might interfere with the health of our patients is a vital standard practice at Michigan Medicine. Likewise, extending that voice to our own health and well-being is critical. Not doing so can potentially interfere with all the work we do at Michigan Medicine. We’re most capable of doing our best work when we feel well, energized and motivated.

Third, we can invest in people, programs and initiatives to improve workplace well-being. Each year, the Wellness Office funds workplace well-being grants for faculty and staff to pilot interventions in their departments or work units. Examples include novel peer support programs, positive leadership training and the three good things practice.

This year, the Wellness Office implemented a new Faculty Associate program. Six faculty members were funded at 20% effort each to address root causes of burnout while improving workplace well-being. Their six areas of focus are decreasing time spent in MiChart, improving psychological safety, reducing the burden of email, balancing job demands and resources, overcoming the obstacles many faculty members have taking time off from work, and developing a culture for parental well-being.

Finally, we can recognize the symptoms of burnout in ourselves and others.

For me, burnout comes and goes. I know I am burned out when I feel exhausted and must push myself to do my job, when I feel I’ve had enough, when I feel cynical or judge other people for what they did or did not do, or when I think I can no longer do my best work.

I have felt all these ways to varying degrees and periods of time. If my usual ways of managing stress do not work, then I need to take a break to recharge and talk with someone, such as a close family member or friend, a peer at work for support, or a mental health professional. I’ve personally done all three at various times in my career.

During this Wellness Week, take a few minutes to browse the Wellness Office website for tips, resources and research projects: https://wellnessoffice.med.umich.edu/. 

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