Beating Burnout: Straight from the Horse’s Mouth
How does practitioner burnout impact care, and therefore clinical governance? As Dr Stephen Parnis put it, from his perspective - and in his words - it “laid siege to my energy and my empathy”; “[D]ecisions and procedures that are usually second nature to me, now require considerable effort and cause more angst than they should”; and “[W]e are less efficient, and we are much more likely to make mistakes.”
These are words that came straight from the horse’s mouth.
In one survey of over 9,500 frontline health care workers, conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic (between 27 August and 23 October 2020), over 70% reported moderate or severe burnout. Other research has demonstrated that burnout undermines the safety and quality of care, as well as patient satisfaction. Burnout also leads to workforce attrition, and hence, shortages. Burnout is therefore not an issue that is siloed to the practitioner – it has far broader implications.
What is the solution? Carers must not only learn to care for themselves, but realise the importance of this. Self-care is critical. In the words of Dr Parnis yet again, when healthcare workers prioritise their own care, “they are being professional and ethical, doing their best to be safe and effective in their work and making their careers sustainable.” There is a multitude of resources available to support practitioners in burnout (or at risk of burnout) – through medical colleges, medical defence organisations, benevolent societies, doctors’ health advisory services, and other supports, private providers - to name but a few avenues.
However, caring for those who care is also an organisational responsibility, as part of clinical governance, and therefore corporate governance. Burnout must be addressed at an organisational level, and wider community - so understanding the causes of burnout and addressing these is paramount. Fostering a culture of psychological safety and an environment where people feel ‘heard’ will also mitigate the risk of burnout.
If we reduce burnout, we will deliver better care.
All accessed on 24/9/22:
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