How to Fix Stress-Related Burnout
Are your job duties causing your burnout?
Go through this checklist for a moment, and see if any of these are true about your current role and what you do on a regular basis at your practice.
- Is your work all the same?
- Do you feel like your work means nothing or accomplishes little?
- Are your work hours interfering with your personal life?
- Conversely, are your hours currently unpredictable, either due to appointments or varying shift assignments?
- If you work at a larger clinic, do you feel like you have no control over your work or the company methods?
- If you own your own practice, do you feel like the circumstances of your business are outside of your control most of the time?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then your burnout may be related to your job responsibilities.
Now that you’ve identified that it’s your job that’s causing the burnout, you should consider these possible solutions to fix the situation:
- All the same work? Actively seek out different types of patients, ailments, or work environments to change up your routine.
- Your work means little? Keep track of your patients’ progress as a regular part of their appointments and checkups, through pictures, videos, and notes.
- Bad work-life balance? Establish boundaries and keep them, insofar as you are able.
- If you work for another practice, then talk with your manager to let them know that these times and days are off-limits for scheduling due to “personal reasons.”
- If you work as an independent therapist, then establish these boundaries with clients to make sure certain days and times are blocked off from appointments to allow you to recharge.
- Unpredictable hours? Similar to the previous suggestion, try to set up a regular schedule as much as you can to ease uncertainty about your position.
- If you work for another practice, ask if your shifts can be adjusted to be the same hours or days every week. (And, don’t volunteer to pick up someone else’s shift until you feel more like yourself!)
- If you work for yourself, then make a point of starting your work day at the same time, even if you don’t have appointments. Block out your “professional” time and focus it toward your business — billing, HEP creation, marketing efforts — whenever you’re not seeing patients. Then, don’t feel bad for focusing on personal and family time outside of those hours.
- No control in a clinic? Again, see if you can talk to your manager about implementing new methods, supporting your reasoning with research and data. Take the initiative to introduce new changes and share them with people who seem interested in adopting them.
- No control in your business? Make a list of things you can control in your practice. If you’re having trouble thinking of items, think about it this way: What can only happen if you say yes, or if you pay money, or if you choose to take an action?Then, focus on those factors within your control, ensuring you’ve done the very best you can for all of those items.As you follow that list of actions, you’ll be able to relax a little bit, knowing that you’ve done everything you could (literally!) to make sure your practice and your patients succeed.
Work Environment Triggers
How can you tell if your actual company or practice is causing your burnout?
Go through this checklist, and see if any of these are true about your current work environment as a whole — not just the job you’re asked to do.
- Do you feel like you’re growing as a professional and becoming more “valuable”?
- Are you worried you’ll lose your job?
- If you’re at a larger organization, do you think you’ve been passed up for promotion opportunities?
- Do you know what standards and expectations you’re being held to?
- If you’re at a larger organization, do you know who you report to, and who reports to you?
- Do you have someone you can go to if you have questions about any of your roles?
- Do you know what the goal of your company is?
- Do you feel that a patient or coworker is bullying you?
- Does your job interfere with your ability to care for your family, maintain your relationships, or pursue your hobbies outside of work?
- Depending on how you answered, it may be that your work environment — not your job duties — is what’s causing your burnout.
So, how can you fix burnout triggers caused by your company or practice? Admittedly, this list is a little more tricky to address than the first, simply due to the nature of the questions.
After all, all of these components are often things that involve other people. Therefore, the solutions rely (in part) on the cooperation of your coworkers and patients to change.
However, we do have some basic things you can try before resorting to more drastic measures.
- Make sure that your continuing education courses talk about things that are actually relevant to your work — or introduce you to a whole new perspective! — instead of just taking whatever’s fastest or convenient.
- Ask for formal evaluations when you can. That could mean asking a supervisor to review you, or requesting service reviews from your current patients. Figure out ways to see how others view your performance so you know where to improve and what you’re doing well.
- If you’re at a larger organization, talk to your HR department or your supervisor about possible growth opportunities that involve increases in responsibilities and pay. Then, establish the benchmarks you need to hit to reach that next promotion.
- Larger organizations should have some sort of standardized goals or baseline expectations against which all therapists are measured. If you don’t know them, then compare notes with a coworker to see if what you think you’re supposed to be doing is right.Otherwise, therapists — all healthcare professionals — are held accountable by their patients. If you’re not sure you’re meeting your patient’s expectations, then just ask them! Make a point of figuring out what they’re expecting you to do and what they want to accomplish, and then do everything you can to make it happen.
- Reporting structures are extremely important to the long-term success of any business. It’s a bad sign if your coworker or your supervisor can’t explain who reports to who, and what everyone does. Still, you may have missed that in training, so feel free to ask again.
- If people feel like their work has no value, then it’s easier to become burned out. By knowing the company’s goals — even if it’s as simple as, “We want to make money so we can all retire before we’re dead” — then you can reverse-engineer that goal and apply it to your daily actions, giving them greater meaning and context.
As for bullying and work-life balance, it’s these sorts of big, interpersonal problems that can be the hardest to fix for burnout.
What If You Can’t Change Your Burnout Triggers At Work?
Ultimately, you can’t fix anything if you don’t take action to fix it. You must weigh the risks and benefits before coming forward with the problem and seeking out the solution.
However, we would argue that if the real — not imagined! — “risks” of bringing up these issues could result in something such as retaliation or firing, then it’s probably best for you to begin seeking out new employment as you’re able.
After all, healthcare-related professions are some of the most sought-after skillsets in the country — with physical therapy near the top.
You should be able to find an organization that will support you as a professional without risking your health through burnout.
Or, maybe it’s a sign that you should start your own practice, to make sure you can run things exactly the way you know they should be. In the end, both your patients and your health will be better for it.