Hey, hey. What have you been up to? This past week I had the opportunity to speak at the annual Psych Congress conference along with Dr. Clay Jackson. I was glad to meet a few of you there in person! I’m not a psychiatric provider so I loved connecting with providers in the specialty and getting a well rounded practice perspective. If there’s one thing I noticed, it’s that my presentation topic, burnout, is one relevant to providers of all types practicing in all kinds of specialties. If you missed Psych Congress this year, my talk was recapped by Healio’s Psychiatric Annals. You can check it out here.
As a nurse practitioner, I’ve certainly been burnt out before. I imagine you’ve felt the same way, too. Fortunately, my years of practice experience have helped me develop a few coping skills to pull me out of the downward burnout spiral. There are a lot of buzzwords surrounding burnout- words like “overwhelmed”, “give it all up”, “detached” and “work-life balance” come to mind. But, the problem with burnout goes much deeper than these cliche words indicate. Burnout is rooted in both the individual and the organization. Understanding the conditions under which the problem develops are the key to reversing the trend in your own life. How does burnout start?
Burnout begins with some kind of disconnect in the way you practice. It’s a mismatch between what you’re doing or how you think you should be doing your job versus what is expected of you. One mismatch that I commonly see in practice is a mismatch between the level of challenge in a position and the skill level of the NP. If you’re a new graduate, for example, your skill level is probably on the low end of the spectrum. Working in a job that’s excessively challenging with your budding skill level sets the stage for burnout. On the other hand, if you’re a highly skilled NP working in an easy position, your challenge/skill mismatch puts you at risk for burnout as well.
Another mismatch that I see lead to burnout is one of personal values and the healthcare system. As nurse practitioners, we went to school at least in part to have a career that helps others. The healthcare system, however, isn’t set up to help people. Rather, the healthcare system rewards more care, not better care. So, as NPs, we work in a state of constant tension, pulled by the ‘human’ aspect of our job and the ‘productivity’ aspects of our job which often seem to conflict. This values mismatch causes constant tension and compromise which naturally result in burnout.
So, what’s the good news? If you’re feeling low about your job, there are a number of things you can do to lift yourself from the burnout cycle. Taking control of even small aspects of your job, cultivating human connection in other areas of your life like volunteering, broadening your clinical skill set through CE, and practicing self care are just a few ways to address the problem. I, for one, prioritize grabbing lunch or a drink with a friend once during the workweek as well as attending kickboxing classes a few times a week to sweat out the burnout.
How do you address burnout in your life as a nurse practitioner?
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