Gratitude: How you can help to reduce burnout in hospital caregivers.

by Daniel Marchalik, MD, Medical Director, Physician Well-being at MedStar Health, Director, Kidney Stone Program, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and Associate Professor of Urology and Georgetown University School of Medicine, Leslie Matthews, MD, Emeritus Chief of Orthopedic Surgery, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital and Medical Director of Development, MedStar Health
December 18, 2020

Burnout is twice as prevalent across workers in the healthcare industry than any other profession. And, the risk of suicide nearly doubles if you are a medical professional.

If you’re having suicidal thoughts, help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

There are a variety of reasons that doctors, nurses, and other clinical staff increasingly experience burnout. With many hospital caregivers working long and frequent 12-hour shifts, demanding hours can cause stress and exhaustion. Physical burnout is also coupled with the emotional and mental burden of caring for patients in their most vulnerable moments. Whether that’s caring for someone who’s experienced a tragic accident or consoling family members who have lost loved ones.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased burnout among hospital caregivers.

Burnout has been an underrecognized problem among hospital caregivers for decades. But the recent public health crisis has catapulted healthcare professionals into a flurry of chaos unlike anything our generations have seen before. Hospitals are seeing record-breaking numbers of patients seriously ill with a virus that has taken too many lives. Doctors and nurses are working around-the-clock to both treat patients medically, and serve as their support system as COVID-19 isolates them from their loved ones. The frequent and repetitive exposure to the virus that healthcare workers face also adds to their stress and burnout.

The weight of bearing witness to such tragedy on a regular basis is enough to leave anyone feeling helpless, overwhelmed, and emotionally spent. Unfortunately, there’s little relief for hospital caregivers who have dedicated their careers to caring for people in their toughest moments. As a result, nearly two-thirds of physicians in the U.S. say the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified feelings of burnout, according to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

What does burnout in hospital caregivers look like?

Burnout is a psychological response to prolonged feelings of stress on the job. Caregivers experiencing burnout may feel a sense of despair when they feel their time, effort, and energy aren’t making a difference.

Burnout manifests itself differently in everyone, but generally includes:

  • Emotional exhaustion, or overwhelming feelings that you just can’t do it anymore
  • Depersonalization, in which an individual detaches from their job due to feelings of cynicism toward the work
  • Reduced personal accomplishment, or believing they are powerless to affect change

How we’re helping our caregivers.

MedStar Health is actively working to ensure our caregivers across all care sites have outlets to deal with the stress of the pandemic. We’ve set up multiple recharge stations across the system so our providers and associates have a space to relax, get a healthy drink or snack, and pick up materials about various ongoing wellness efforts.

In an effort to make sure our caregivers are provided helpful wellness-focused resources, we launched an initiative called “wellness rounds”. During these rounds, our teams discuss various wellness resources that are available. It also gives providers and associates an opportunity to connect and discuss their concerns. These rounds were designed to focus a small part of the day on others’ wellbeing. Over time, this initiative has grown exponentially, and we have recruited large groups of volunteers to assist with the effort. All volunteers go through our peer support training. In fact, we established a 24/7 hotline for peer support to make sure this hub is available anytime someone needs it. For those who prefer a more formal mental health appointment to discuss their needs, we also put in place a mental health appointment program that ensures our associates and providers can speak with a provider within two business days.

In addition to what we’re doing at MedStar Health and what other healthcare groups are doing to support their associates, there are ways patients and loved ones of those who are sick can help reduce caregiver burnout.

Do you know a healthcare worker who has made a positive impact on your life or a loved one’s life? On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, learn why #GratitudeMatters to hospital caregivers and how you can express appreciation this holiday season: https://bit.ly/3ny0Zak.

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A simple act of gratitude is proven to decrease burnout in hospital caregivers.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way you can help doctors and nurses feel like they’re making a difference, and in turn, reduce their burnout. A simple expression of genuine gratitude can uplift hospital caregivers’ spirits and cause them to feel rewarded. In fact, studies demonstrate that showing gratitude can improve burnout among hospital caregivers.

You can express gratitude after a positive care experience, or anytime, really. Even businesses nationwide are finding ways to thank healthcare workers throughout the pandemic. Some are doing things like offering free coffee or delivering care packages to show their appreciation.

Ways you can express gratitude towards medical professionals.

Gratitude can be expressed by patients and their loved ones, as well as colleagues working alongside each other. It doesn’t have to cost a thing, and there are many different ways to show caregivers they’ve made a difference.

Here are a few ways you can demonstrate gratitude towards hospital caregivers in your community.

  • Verbal communication: One of the easiest ways to show gratitude towards a caregiver is by recognizing them verbally. Phrases like, “You’ve saved my life”, or “Thank you for all you’ve done to care for me”, show doctors and nurses that you acknowledge the meaningful work they’re doing. That recognition alone can put a smile on their face and positively impact the value they assign to their work.
  • Make a philanthropic contribution: Some individuals prefer to express gratitude through financial support. Defined as the love of humankind, philanthropy is one way you can respond through a monetary gift that helps healthcare professionals continue delivering the highest quality of medical care and compassion to patients every day.
  • Written acknowledgments: Many hospitals have gratitude boards where patients, loved ones, and co-workers can shout out doctors, nurses, and staff who have gone above and beyond to deliver compassion and care. Writing them a note can remind medical professionals why they chose this profession and give them strength to keep going.

Now more than ever, healthcare professionals need to know they are appreciated and the work they do matters. This holiday season, an expression of gratitude towards a healthcare worker in your community could inspire them to keep going, knowing that they’re making a real difference in people’s lives.

Would you like to thank a MedStar Health associate for making a positive impact on your life or a loved one’s life?
Click below to share your gratitude.

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Category: Uncategorized     Tags: caregiver burnoutcovid-19gratitudehealthcare workersMedStar Healthphilanthropy