Rehab Managers: Are your therapists burning out?

Since the start of the pandemic, research has shown that up to 40% of employees are experiencing burnout, with highest rates in frontline healthcare workers. Forbes reports that companies can be losing up to 34% of every burnt-out employee’s annual salaries due to that employee’s disengagement and low productivity. Burnout can cost companies up to $190 billion a year in healthcare costs. Burnout is an insidious problem in healthcare right now. Each and every employee needs to be aware of burnout, but sometimes when we are in it, we cannot identify it. Sometimes it is up to the manager or supervisor to keep an eye out for burnout and take some steps to prevent burnout among employees. Burnout can easily go unnoticed, because employees are usually high-achievers and can continue to remain productive and meet the demands placed on them. 

Support of family and friends is vital in preventing burnout and promoting resilience in healthcare providers, but the threat of transmitting COVID-19 right now is preventing this critical support. Now, more than ever, it is critical that managers, employers and supervisors are familiar with some of the early signs of burnout so they can be vigilant and proactive in preventing it before it happens. Unlike depression, burnout is specifically linked to the job and the workplace. 

The most common signs of burnout are emotional exhaustion, tardiness, and complacency. Employees may be late for work, or call out sick more often. They may miss deadlines, seem lethargic on the job, or disinterested in general. Another common sign is cynicism. Employees who used to be more optimistic and energetic about the job may be detached and cynical about what they used to be passionate about. Low accomplishment is another sign of burnout. High-achieving employees may be less productive than usual. 

The gold standard for measuring burnout is the Maslach Burnout Inventory. It is a 22-item questionnaire that measures the three most common domains of burnout; emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and low personal accomplishment. 

According to a recent study published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, preventing burnout is a multi-step process that relies on interventions at individual, team, and institutional levels. Identifying early signs of burnout is the first step in prevention. The study also notes that exercises in mindfulness, stress-management training, exercise programs can be effective in helping employees manage burnout. In addition, it is important to implement programs that focus on community, connectedness, and meaning in a group settings in the workplace to provide support to individuals. 

Another strategy that has been proven effective is end-of-shift debriefing sessions. This gives employees an opportunity to discuss their thoughts regarding the interactions and experiences during their shift. 

The military uses a buddy system strategy called “battle buddies” to pair people with a partner to support each other and check on one another. Many healthcare facilities are starting to enact this type of buddy system to help employees cope with additional stressors. 

If burnout moves into true depression and there is legitimate concern for someone’s well-being, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting “4HOPE” to 741741.