I’m Stressed, I’m Stressed, I’m Stressed: Anesthesia Burnout – Part 1 of 4

Welcome to our four part series addressing Burnout. Stress can follow us every where. It is time we learned how to manage it as a project and tease it apart and look at the different threads contributing to the overall feeling.
Anesthesia Burnout

It’s a common refrain you hear these days – echoing down corridors at work, threaded into responses to ‘how are you’, bouncing around inside your head. Stress seems to follow people everywhere – during long commutes in bumper to bumper traffic, at home when appliances fail or children’s activity schedules seem to require a fleet of shuttle drivers to make it work, at work where the demands of the healthcare system and the needs of patients can make it feel like you’re being stretched like silly putty pulled out to its maximum length.

One of the pitfalls of this catch-phrase, once (and, sometimes still) worn as a badge of honor is that living in a perpetual state of “I’mStressedI’mStressedI’mStressed” makes it so overwhelming that it’s often impossible to come up with ways to reduce the stress and improve your quality of life and your wellbeing. It’s like the Charles Schultz character, Pig-Pen, who can never get clear of the dirt. It follows him everywhere he goes – an inescapable cloud that taints everything he touches.

It is imperative to let go of the mantra that often we’ve unconsciously taken on as a consistent thought that plagues you throughout your days. Why?

Healthcare is the most stressed industry.

As an anesthesia provider you provide essential services and carry tremendous responsibility for the wellbeing of patients. However, your efficacy in doing so may be blocked by stress caused by growing demands from patients and families, cost containment pressures, organizational changes, and increasingly complex industry changes and demands.

In a 2005 report, the healthcare sector was ranked as one of the industries with the highest prevalence of stress. Things haven’t changed much. A 2014 nationwide poll again ranked healthcare as the most stressed industry. In fact, 17% of healthcare workers described themselves as “highly stressed.”

These statistics support the kind of environment where a healthcare professional may experience more absenteeism, presenteeism, and staff turnover, which can lead to suboptimal patient care, engagement, and satisfaction…and that is not your intention. Most healthcare providers are drawn to their professions out of a desire to care well for others. This, in itself, creates stress when quality of care is impacted by job and other stresses.

Jason Lovelace, president of CareerBuilder Healthcare, said it right: “Stress is part of the environment in many healthcare settings, but high levels sustained over a long period of time can be a major detriment to employee health and ultimately stand in their way of providing quality care to patients.”

It is imperative to let go of the mantra that often we’ve unconsciously taken on as a consistent thought that plagues you throughout your days. How?

When I first begin working with clients who are stressed, we focus on teasing it apart and looking at the different threads contributing to the overall feeling. From there, we prioritize and focus on one change to make at work and one change to make at home that will reduce stress. Small, consistent steps over time lead to sustainable change.

6 Steps For Managing Stress:

  1. Identify one factor causing you stress at work. Clearly, there will be more than one, but choose one thing you feel would be important to create a strategy you can carry out over the course of the next week.
  2. Do the same for one factor in your personal life.
  3. Create a plan or strategy to make a change that will lower your stress for the factor at work and one for the factor at home.
  4. Schedule a reminder for each change.
  5. If you think you’ll bail on yourself, ask someone to hold you accountable for completing your strategies.
  6. At the end of the week, ask yourself:
  • How successful were you with completing your work and home strategies? If you were successful, celebrate. We often fail to acknowledge our progress and our wins. Didn’t quite make your goals? Be curious, not judgmental, about what got in the way.
  • What improvements/benefit have you experienced as a result?
  • If you were successful, how will you maintain the change? What is another change you can make in the coming week in your personal life? Your professional life?

Change is often perceived as scary or stressful but when you have a plan and manageable steps, it’s possible to approach stress as something you can proactively address and reduce over time. Stay tuned for my next post, The Formula for Change.

Author: Tambre Leighn MA, PCC, CWDS
Tambre is a behavior change expert, certified professional coach, and healthcare disruptor specializing in patient adherence and healthcare provider wellbeing. With nearly a decade of experience coaching, training, and speaking about wellbeing and the integration of coaching and behavior change into the healthcare system, she understands the critical role stress plays in performance, engagement, adherence, and wellbeing. You can read more about her at WellBeyondOrdinary.com. Ready for change at your organization? Email tambre@wellbeyondordinary.com to learn more about her programs, fees and availability.

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