Caretaker Burnout

Burnout: The Caretaker’s Disease

Angie SzumlinskiHealth

Burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a decreased sense of accomplishment at work that results in overwhelming symptoms of fatigue, exhaustion, cynical detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness. It is by and large a result of systematic issues, not personal issues or psychological makeup. This syndrome is found to affect 20% of all staff in one study, while another which averaged numbers from many studies found an approx. range from 19-24%. A hallmark indicator of burnout, high emotional exhaustion, was recorded in 40% of mental health providers by a recent meta-analysis as well. Not only does burnout have a major negative effect on the afflicted’s quality of life, it is positively correlated with increased rate of patient safety incidents, such as medical errors, reduced patient satisfaction, and poorer safety and quality ratings.

Caretaker burnout is positively correlated with increased rate of patient safety incidents. Click To Tweet

Burnout may sound like an individual issue, but it is better conceptualized as a problem driven by chronic and fundamental differences between responsibilities and resources in the workplace. Drivers of burnout are primarily organizational, including cumbersome and tricky regulations and documentation requirements, overcomplicated and information-heavy electronic health records, long hours, erosion or lack of autonomy, pressure to reduce costs without reducing quality, insufficient appreciation for clinicians’ efforts, and lack of prioritization of the personal life. Data increasingly support considering burnout as a systematic disorder. E.g., intervention is much more effective at the system-level than the individual-level. In fact, the National Academies of Medicine Action Collaborative on Clinician Well-Being and Resilience has created a conceptual model that focuses upon 7 domains affecting burnout and low personal well-being. This model strongly suggests that focusing on the external factors using systems approaches and design thinking is most effective.

Burnout is a serious issue that plagues those who care for our most vulnerable citizens. Click To Tweet

This fact is not lost on the esteemed medical institutes of the nation, as the National Patient Safety Foundation/ Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Penn State College of Medicine, and Mayo Clinic have all recently released information for how to “treat” burnout both systematically and within oneself as an administrator. As an administrator or a clinician, it is important to learn the signs of and solutions for burnout, so that one can get the most of their work.

Read more about caretaker burnout and how to reduce it here.