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The Person Behind The Mask

The person behind the mask

“When I get home from work, all I want to do is take a nap…”

“When I get home from work, I have no patience for my own family…”

“I have no time or energy for me…”

“How can I possibly care for more people with no change in staff, time, or resources…”

“I spend more time charting than I do on patient care…”

“Does anyone else feel this way too?”

If you work in healthcare, you have probably heard or repeated one of the above statements throughout your career.  I know I have.  If you work in healthcare and feel exhausted, cynical or even depersonalized from your patients or colleagues, and feel you have nothing of value to give your patients – you may be experiencing signs of burnout.  

Most of us may ebb and flow in some of these feelings, which indicate a lower degree of burnout.  For some, taking a day off or rejuvenating over the weekend might help to restore your energy and passion.  For others, no time off in the world is enough to feel ready to go back to work.  The sooner you recognize changes in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours towards work – the better you will be able to manage and reframe them.  All of these negative emotions deserve your attention as they deviate from your usual thoughts or patterns of behaviour.  

One of the reasons why I believe burnout rates are so rampant is because healthcare professionals do not openly share about how they feel when it comes to their work, self-care, and stress.  Some fear that if they are seeking help for their own struggles, they may be judged or deemed unfit to practice.  The reality, however, is healthcare professionals are more at-risk to cause injury or harm to patients if they are unable to manage their high-levels of stress effectively.

Burnout essentially builds up from a sustained suppression of expression – and the more we internalize how we feel – the more at risk and alone we will find ourselves.  One moment you may be feeling like you are alright and the next moment you could be having a total panic attack for the first time ever.  Consider how many times you’ve heard in the news about a healthcare professional randomly committing suicide when there was no history of mental illness.  For instance, New York ER Physician Dr. Lorna Breen, “tried to do her job, and it killed her.”  I cannot help but feel that by simply knowing that someone else feels the same way you do may go a long way in healing and in reducing stress.

From one healthcare professional to another, I know how hard it is to reach out and find someone you trust and who truly understands the complexity of your situation.  In my experience, healthcare professionals are more open to sharing their challenges when they are invited to do so.  This is why I am a strong advocate for healthcare professionals to have the opportunity to be among other healthcare professionals who can better empathize and understand each other’s journey.  This builds an inherent trust from the beginning.  

Sometimes, with all of the stress on the healthcare system today, I often wonder how can we not be burned out?  Throughout my 13 years of practicing on the front-lines, I have learned that as a healthcare professional, you are the greatest gift to your patients.  It is not what you do for them, it is how you are present with them.  And, when we are burned out, it is impossible to be present with our patients who need it most.  As such, I am on a mission to bring healthcare professionals together to begin sharing their stories and actively dealing with their stress and burnout.  Healthcare needs you more than ever right now and it needs you well.

Join Jennifer in an upcoming free group session for healthcare professionals.

Front-Line Healthcare Workers Check-In & Support

Tuesday, June 9, 2020 – 6:30 pm EDT

This group session is open to healthcare professionals on the front-line who want to connect and share support. The healthcare landscape is changing amidst Covid-19, only adding to a greater sense of burnout and feelings of being overwhelmed among providers. This is our time to come together and share our challenges and our strategies for getting through these unprecedented times with as much ease as possible.

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Jennifer George
Written by
Jennifer George