Are you noticing signs of burnout in your healthcare team?
They complain about their exhaustion, they show a lack of interest, and you’re constantly worried about them leaving.
You feel like you’re always putting out fires, training new people, and dealing with conflicts arising from poor team culture.
In turn, this leaves you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and on the verge of burnout yourself, feeding into a vicious, unproductive cycle that you need to escape from.
Why are healthcare workers experiencing burnout?
Although burnout can rear its ugly head for many reasons, underneath it all lies something you really care about.
When there is something that matters to you, like helping people for example, but you can’t seem to make a difference, it leaves you feeling helpless.
This is particularly true when you feel plagued by external circumstances and things that are beyond your control. Maybe you used to be able to see your impact, to notice the little differences you had in people’s lives on a daily basis, but now, in the wake of the pandemic, when everything feels so unpredictable and chaotic, the things you used to do are no longer achieving the same results.
You may be feeling like your efforts are never enough. That no matter how hard you try to do things perfectly, you can’t seem to get it right. This can be extremely frustrating, especially if you’re someone who is seen as an ‘expert.’
When you can’t deliver on what you expect of yourself and what others look to you for, this leads you to try harder and harder to bend the circumstances to your will - to keep applying the things that used to work with rigid determination. But because the world is no longer simple and linear, your attempts to use your old ways of thinking will keep leading you to failure, frustration, self-depreciation, and ultimately, burnout.
Find Safety and Purpose
To get yourself and your team members back to feeling like you can cope with circumstances beyond your control without descending further into burnout, you need to build the mindset to meet the challenge.
From a neuroscience perspective, this means that you need to consciously calm your amygdala, the part of your brain that detects and responds to threats to keep you safe, and instead activate the areas of your brain that are responsible for creative thinking and dedication to purpose.
The first step in getting you and your team members into a creative mindset and away from burnout, is to start with human connection and leaning into your collective why.
As Simon Sinek says in his Ted Talk on how to discover your why in difficult times, the pandemic was a reminder of just how valuable the human connection is and how we can’t feel safe when we feel vulnerable. This relates directly to the reactive, threat state that leads people into burnout. When you’re feeling like a failure, and like you can’t make headway on what you used to be able to, you feel vulnerable. Maybe you feel like your job is vulnerable, maybe your relationships are vulnerable - whatever it is, you don’t feel safe and secure.
As a leader, it’s your job to understand your team and their behaviours from the human level, Can you see what is really going on underneath? Can you feel the human struggle that they’re going through and find a way to relate, to lean into your humanity and to see that what’s leading them, and you to burnout, is likely the fact that everyone feels under threat and that they can’t make progress towards whatever purpose led them into healthcare in the first place.
Once you see and acknowledge that the root cause of most of the burnout, staff turnover, and poor team culture you’re experiencing, comes down to people not feeling safe, you can start to move your team back towards a common purpose and a shared meaning.
In our next blog, we take a look at how one of our great leaders pulled her team members back from burnout by engaging them in an inspiring vision.