Yearning For Fruitcake? My Take on Employee Burnout

Over the next few months, Relias Learning is launching an initiative focusing on the importance of employee engagement in the healthcare industry. We will be sharing our thoughts and ideas with you on topics including onboarding, retention, leadership, professional development and others. We are also very interested in learning what you’re doing to engage your employees, so please feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.


We’re three weeks into 2016 and if you’re like most people, the New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside. We’re back to the same old grind and likely wishing it was the holidays again and we were still off work. You might even be longing for things like holiday travel, fruitcake or that uncle who drives you up a wall!

Usually we get some sort of break around the end of the year; time off work or just some breathing room as things slow down a bit.  Everyone needs balance and a break from work, but those of us in the helping profession especially need time to rejuvenate ourselves. I like to use the term “helping profession” because it doesn’t matter whether you’re a nurse or a social worker, supporting someone with a disability or working with kids or older adults, we are all motivated to help others. We are often drawn to this work to make the world a better place and have an impact on the lives of those we serve, and the lives of their families, friends and our community. Unfortunately, we don’t all get the Nobel Peace Prize or an Academy Award recognizing our contributions to the field of helping people (OK, a few do, but most of us deserve one!).


Everyone needs balance and a break from work, but those of us in the helping profession especially need time to rejuvenate ourselves.


Burnout in the helping profession

Working in the helping profession, we use a lot of emotional energy — patience, kindness, empathy, flexibility and problem solving.  I think of it as a well that gets drained as we use our emotional energy for both work and our personal lives.  Bringing balance into our lives through time off from work, or other activities we enjoy, helps fill up our emotional well again so we can face the work we do and all the other responsibilities of life.  Starting the year off right, being refreshed and hopeful, supporting our staff and helping stay in the right frame of mind and engaged in the work can seem like a herculean task.

There are many terms to describe burnout for those of us in the helping professions: Compassion fatigue, burnout, vicarious trauma, secondary trauma, disengaged, secondary traumatic stress, and so on. Increasing your awareness of the signs in yourself and others is often the first step in combatting burnout; making changes to help turn it around is the next step (prevention is the real first step, but that’s another blog topic).


Tools for assessing burnout

There are a few really well done and validated assessment tools that people have used for years to assess their level of burnout, like the ProQoL self-test, and Life Stress Self-Test. Take some time to assess yourself, either formally or informally, to see where you are on the “I’m burned out and wish I were anywhere else but work” scale and encourage your employees and colleagues to do the same. You don’t have to be a manager to help others cope with feeling burned out and often our colleagues see it in us before we even do.

If you want some help on how to support your employees, take better care of yourself and manage burnout, check out the recording of the Relias Webinar Please Secure Your Oxygen Mask First: Compassion Fatigue, Secondary/Vicarious Trauma and the Importance of Self Care.


How about you? How are you preventing burnout in yourself and your workplace? Tell us in the comments!

Kristi McClure

Strategic Marketing Manager BH/CYF and CH, Relias

Kristi has more than 20 years of experience in the health and human service industry, the majority of that time working as a direct practitioner with children, adolescents and adults in both outpatient and residential/inpatient settings. She has worked with Relias for over 10 years, initially working with customers on getting the most out of Relias products, then managing the content products for HHS, and now as the Strategic Marketing Manager for Health and Human Services.

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