Burnout is being experienced by so many in healthcare right now. For many of us, this might be the first time, too. It’s incredibly sad!
First, we need to understand WHY we are feeling this way.
The crap that YOU experience in your daily life is challenging. Add in to that the junk you see every day in your job and this feeling is compounded 100% (or 1000%, 10,000%, 100,000%, well, you get the idea).
Workplace stress impacts individuals across all professions and environments. This stress is further compounded by individual/familial (i.e. relationships, adverse health, finances, transportation, etc.), community stressors (i.e. environmental concerns, access to healthcare, food deserts, community transportation, etc.) and global health crises (i.e. COVID-19/SARS, influenza, TB, etc.).
According to many sources*, healthcare and first responder professionals are at a significantly greater risk for this stress as there is a desire to manage things beyond their control which often leads to feeling overwhelmed, fatigued, and even helpless.
How can we combat it?
Well, you can only control what is in your power. (Unfortunately staffing, salary, bosses, and bonuses are outside our control.)
Get back to your WHY! (Also known as your values)
- Why did you choose to enter this work?
- Why do you wake up every day to do it?
- What makes you tick?
- What gets you sparked with energy?
Once you determine your WHY (values), then you can begin to shift your focus on pursuing WHAT (vision) you desire, and HOW (mission) you will accomplish it!
You may be wondering… “BUT this sounds so complex and I don’t know where to begin! Where do I start?”
I am glad you asked!
WHERE DO I START?
One good practice in helping you navigate your WHY, WHAT & HOW (often known as your mission, vision and values) is to perform a brain dump. Go ahead and take 10 minutes and I want you to write down everything that you LOVE. Seriously, write down everything, and I mean everything, that comes to mind. Brain dumps are very helpful for getting information out quickly without sorting (we will sort it soon).
Next, take 5-10 minutes and see what trends come up. After all, you may have written the same word more than once and that is OK. That can actually be a good thing! If you found that you have written the same word more than once, put tally marks beside one of them for the number of times you wrote it down. Perhaps you wrote the word, “mountain” or “mountains” 5 times, so just put 5 marks beside that word.
Then, I want you to sort out these words into a few categories. The categories will be…
WHY: These will represent your VALUES or your WHY. These are things that you LOVE and are 100% absolutes in all or most situations. For instance you may include words like “family”, “love”, “compassion”, “faith”, “finances”, etc. These are items that you hold above everything else and are absolutes in your life.
WHAT: These are going to be items that you LIKE and represent your “WHAT”. These are still important, but may not be as important in all situations and are likely goals that you have set for yourself for the future. For instance you may write “beach”, “free time”, “good food”, “car”, “mountain”, “travel”, “leader/manager/director/executive”, “office”, etc. Again, these are items that may be important, but don’t necessarily define your WHY.
HOW: This is something that we will revisit later. Stay tuned.
DUMP: You may not have any words to place in this category and that is ok. This category is going to be reserved for any words that you have written down that may not belong and/or words that you are intentionally wanting to remove from your work or life situation. For instance you may have included “overtime”, “stress”, “noise”, etc. At first it may seem like these are good things, but then you realize that these are ‘extra’ annoyances in your life that you are wanting to eliminate. Great!
So what could this look like?
As an example, my “WHY” includes serving my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the best that I know and seeking His guidance for all thoughts, actions, and decisions. My “WHY” also includes providing physically, emotionally, and spiritually for my wife and 4 children. Could this be accomplished outside of healthcare? Absolutely. No matter the role I serve, the position I am in, or where I am located, my “WHY” won’t necessarily change. My WHY may change in time or it may remain the same indefinitely. Every persons’ situation and lifestyle may dictate something different and that is OK.
Your “WHAT” is doing to be those “less important but still highly valuable” things that I want in pursuing my “WHY”. For instance, having a routine schedule, a shorter commute to work, evenings and weekends off, dedicated personal time, etc. These things are still just as valuable but may not necessarily be placed on a pedestal when comparing with your WHY.
Your “HOW” will be the process for getting your WHAT while focusing on your WHY. Your HOW may include a position change, a different department, a new role, or even a profession change. For instance, if you are used to working 12 hour shifts and are desiring a routine schedule that includes not working night and weekend shifts, then it may be a simple ask to your employer for having a routine schedule while asking for flexibility when you can work. This is not always an option and your employer will decide what is needed for them to reliably staff and maintain the flow of each department. However, asking for what you want is still applicable in being successful. After all, you will never get if you fail to ask.
Perhaps a routine schedule free of night and weekend shifts will not be possible in this situation. If such is the case, you will need to reflect on your WHY, ask yourself what options exist, and then decide HOW you will successfully accomplish your goal.
Each person’s situation and WHY will help them drive this change to WHAT they desire.
Sometimes a job, location, or department change is needed, while other times it is not. This post isn’t a guide to help you find an ‘out’ for your current situation. This is a call to action to find your WHY!
So…why did you start in the healthcare or first responder field? What makes you stay? Let us know in the comments below!
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