Providing support and resources for front line workers in the helping profession has been long neglected as incorporated practice. The recent pandemic has only highlighted the deficits within the systemic support for people within the helping profession. Current research shows that health care professionals committed to providing help and care to others are subjected to a high risk of burnout (Morse et al., 2012). The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as one of the major health risks helping professionals are facing due to the nature of the work conditions. In a study conducted by Shah et al. 31.5% of registered nurses have reported leaving their employment due to burnout. (2021) Furthermore, factors such as demanding workloads, poor staffing ratio, lack of communication and lack or organizational leadership are the primary causes associated with the burnout in health care system (Deschamps et al., 2018).
Many of these helping professionals are exhibiting symptoms of emotional and physical fatigue that are triggered by the neglect of self-care practices. These factors can have significant professional consequences such as decreased client satisfaction, and reduced quality of care and intervention that can lead to clinical errors and even malpractice suits (De Hert, 2020). With the rise of demands placed on the frontline workers during the Covid 19 pandemic, these prevalence statistics advocate an intense requirement for creative solutions to address the matter. Burnout is considered a psychological phenomenon among health care professionals and is characterized by a form of exhaustion that is a consequence of intense and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress (Mudallal et al., 2017).
As burnout is known to be related to chronic work stress and work environment, adjustments made to the work will generally help. Some main symptoms related to burnout are the inability to cope with work situations due to lack of energy and motivation, feeling distant from coworkers, experiencing work frustration, inability to concentrate on tasks, and decreased overall performance (Lloyd et al., 2011). Physical symptoms are also often persistent such as body pain, stomach, and digestive issues.
Some people confuse burnout with depression however they are not synonymous. Depression is marked with maladaptive thoughts and feelings that are not only related to work but to all areas of life, therefore therapy or medication maybe required. In addition, depression also include symptoms that are not generally exhibited by burnout such as low self-esteem, feelings of hopeless and suicidal thoughts. In recent years there has been an incertitude about the relationship between burnout and depression, however they are not the same condition. (Koutsimani et al., 2019) Burnout is identified as an occupational syndrome that is linked to people places of work whereas depression is classified as a medical illness that could be caused by biological, physiological, social, and cultural factors (Koutsimani et al., 2019). People within helping and front-line positions are at an increased risk of burn out due to the nature of the work (Bryant, 2021)
According to Akova et al. (2020) unaddressed burnout could lead to depression and anxiety if self-care practice is neglected, and it has the potential to contribute to suicidal thoughts. Although the majority of people who experience burnout will not develop depression, the majority of people with depression will exhibit symptoms of burnout.
Cultivating awareness and supports
Cultivating awareness and supports to circumvent burnout is vital to bolstering productivity and overall career satisfaction, as its remedy is sourced in work-related dynamics. Burnout is a normal reaction to extremely chaotic work life and works environment. The remedy is sourced through occupational interventions such as connecting with colleagues and supervisors to improve the working conditions, workflow, and cultural organization (Koutsimani et al., 2019).
One of the biggest barriers to prevention is issues with fear of speaking out and appearing incompetent or weak (Bryant, 2021). If you are experiencing burnout or know of people who are at risk and working on the front lines and helping professionals reach out, our counsellors are here to help you be the best version of yourself.
Written by Colleen Vantol at Crossroads Collective