Category Archives: MIndfulness

How Mindfulness Can Prevent Burnout Among Healthcare Providers

The strong desire to help others, along with natural tendencies toward compassion and empathy, serve to enable healthcare providers to develop high quality relationships with their patients. These qualities also put healthcare providers at risk for compassion fatigue, burnout and secondary post-traumatic stress.

Compassion fatigue is the point at which a helping professional or employee no longer is focused on the clients needs as well as before because the emotional “well” (the ability to empathize and manage the relationship) is dry. Burnout denotes a level of incapacitation of the provider/profession, often without acute awareness of the problem. Vicarious trauma often applies to workers who deal with aftermath crisis situations and deeply disturbing situations, such as abuse, war, violence, and, we would add, homelessness, deprivation, and domestic violence. Thus health care professionals start to take on the trauma of clients and feel the effects physically and emotionally, contributing to burnout but also to damage to their own health.

When providers are drained, distracted, overwhelmed, stressed, and unaware, they are unable to fully use their skills.   Not only does patient care suffer but these providers are more likely to lose time from work due to stress related illnesses and some will choose to leave the profession altogether.

In short, to care for others — or even deal with others in stressful situations — we need to take care of ourselves.   We have found that mindfulness practices, self-care techniques and a supportive work environment can greatly reduce the likelihood of burnout. We teach a number of mindfulness practices that can be easily integrated into the workday.   Strategies such as verbal recognition, short breaks and opportunities for support will enhance the ability of healthcare providers to present their best selves at work, thereby providing the highest quality of patient care.

Alisa Blum, MSW & Judy Sugg, PH.D. co-direct AIM for Organizational Health, providing customized training, facilitation and coaching, to raise Awareness, achieve Integration, and enable Mastery of mindfulness tools to improve individual and organizational effectiveness.  Our upcoming public workshop, “Seven Tools for MindfulSelf-care“, will help participants develop skills to prevent burnout & compassion fatigue.