When life presents challenges and problems regarding burnout in healthcare, look back to your purpose and put pen to paper
From time to time we have probably all become the victim of burnout in healthcare and have manifested the symptoms. It’s similar to any disease that can sicken us physically. Burnout can be a very painful mental malady, and I have helped many doctors through it to the other side and back. To really resolve this condition, one needs first to understand what burnout is and locate the cause of it, and usually one can then easily discover the remedy and “cure” it.
Masking the problem
Over the years I have seen many different levels of burnout. Some doctors have just been scorched around the edges while others have been burned to a crisp. Those who have been burned up, so to speak, are mainly now out or headed out of the profession — and this is a waste of good talent that could have been prevented.
I have seen chiropractors, who generally attempt to use natural means to help others, go so far as to become heavily medicated in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms of burnout in healthcare. Yet with the use of these medications the problem is still there to be solved. The medications do not address the cause of the problem and only mask the symptoms.
Symptoms and causes of burnout
Burnout has many symptoms, like hating work, dreading going to the office, wanting a vacation, running away, wanting to fire all the staff and shut the office down, wishing one had chosen a different profession, etc. But burnout is caused by one thing and one thing only — and that one thing is called a failed or blunted purpose.
When I ask my clients why they became a doctor and put in the time and money, the answer 99.9% of the time is that they became a doctor to help people with chiropractic care. Once upon a time they had a purpose to help others and decided that chiropractic was a good way to do that, and the purpose was set. However, life comes along and does what life does — gives us challenges and problems.
However, challenges are not always bad. One needs to have challenges to keep one’s interest in what they are doing. If something is too easy one could lose interest in doing it. Life goes on, we have a purpose and we push through barriers and work to accomplish the goals under that purpose. And then we hit a wall.
That wall can be anything, so long as it stops or blunts the purpose. Maybe an insurance company requested an audit; maybe a key staff member left; maybe a patient decided to sue you; maybe the tax man was at your door or maybe you have a problem with your home life. Most of the time there are smaller stops or barriers that keep accumulating and add up to one really large barrier.
Finding your purpose again
I am sure one has seen movies where the office workers hate their jobs. This is because they have either lost the purpose for working there, or went to work there for the wrong purpose of just getting a paycheck. If one is working just to make money, that is a very unhappy road to travel. There is nothing wrong with making a lot of money. You can think of many examples of individuals who made lots of money who had a really strong purpose for doing something. If the basic purpose is not there the money will usually dry up. If the purpose is there first and foremost, the money will follow, if the business is being run correctly.
Money is the by-product of running the business correctly and the successful following of your basic purpose for doing the work. It is the result of accomplished or attained targets toward one’s goals.
With burnout in healthcare, the business is not being run correctly and that is the cause of failure or a blunted purpose. How do we handle this burnout, or even better, stop it from occurring?
Since burnout is based upon having a purpose to begin with, one has to rekindle the purpose it is based upon. Look at your original purpose of why you endeavored to become a doctor of chiropractic, or why you decided to open a practice. How was that activity going to help others? It is usually not about helping oneself, but rather about helping others. Once that is established, then write it down. Keep that piece of paper handy as you may have to refer to it again and again as life and time goes on.
Burnout in healthcare: take it one step at a time
Next, set a target or goal to accomplish. Make it a simple one at first. Next, set a bit tougher goal, and then another, and another. Keep achieving these targets.
Now take a look at these targets you met and pat yourself on the back for these accomplishments, however small you felt they were. It was a positive thing. Notice your wins. Your view of life should be at this point brightening a little bit. Keep this up and the burnout will start to disappear.
Recognize the wins you have in life, which are wins toward your purpose once again. Curing burnout is a matter of setting and obtaining targets toward goals. Happiness is achieved by overcoming barriers toward the attainment of goals.
Ed Sharp has been a business management consultant for more than 30 years, helping and giving advice to chiropractors and their staff on hiring, sales, finance and marketing. He is president of Sharp Management & Consulting, which manages clinics and delivers customized coaching and consulting. He has produced more than 40 videos on management tips that may be viewed on his YouTube channel at tiny.cc/edsharp333. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at thesharpmanagement.com.