Burnout is on the rise among employees in all workforce areas, including among clinicians. A Gallup report issued earlier this year, State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide (accessed on October 15, 2014), revealed that 87% of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work.

Recent studies by Shanafelt and colleagues (Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012;172[18]:1377-1385) and Potter and colleagues (Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. 2010;14[5]:E56-E62) show that burnout is increasing among health-care providers.


Burnout and disengagement among clinicians can contribute to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse in these individuals, and they also can increase health-care costs. Prevention of burnout is the key to avoiding its harmful consequences. Clinicians may find the following five tips useful when attempting to prevent burnout in the workplace.


Tip 1: Learn to recognize the signs of impending burnout. If you are able to notice in yourself the early signs of burnout, you can take steps to avoid a full-blown case. One early sign is disengagement in the workplace.

A person experiencing such disengagement might feel a lack of concern regarding work quality, lose interest in achieving a given goal in the workplace, or develop an overall disinterest in maintaining a strong work ethic.

Feelings such as dread, imbalance, dissatisfaction, distress, and fatigue may also be warning signs of impending burnout. Find ways to alter your work environment to avoid disengagement, dissatisfaction, and imbalance.


Tip 2: Determine the cause of early burnout symptoms. Being able to identify the cause of early burnout symptoms will help you find the most effective intervention to prevent their progression.

Conduct an honest, introspective self-evaluation to help yourself pinpoint what is causing your unproductive feelings of disengagement, dissatisfaction, or imbalance in the workplace. Once the cause is identified, you can design a strategy to combat the problem.


Tip 3: Learn to say no. Keep in mind that each time you say “yes” to something, you may be adding another item to your to-do list that will take more energy and time away from your schedule. Also, consider saying no to unnecessary repeated interactions throughout the day that may be time-consuming and distracting, such as reading and responding to text messages and e-mails, and making or taking personal phone calls.

Consider implementing a new system of checking your e-mail at scheduled times or turning off your phone for designated periods. 


Tip 4: Take a daily timeout. Make a point to take a daily timeout so that you can think deeply and reflect on various activities of the day. This break will allow you to mentally review situations or projects. A timeout can also provide an opportunity to develop a plan regarding how to address a specific situation.

Timeouts that enable you to disconnect from technology and individuals will allow for meaningful deep thinking and reflection. A commute to and from work may be an ideal time for a timeout.


Tip 5: Avoid criticizing yourself. Don’t be so critical of yourself; there are enough people willing to do that for you! If you have a workday during which you don’t feel as accomplished as you’d like, do not beat yourself up for it. Remember that tomorrow is a new day to start fresh! n


Mary Atkinson Smith, DNP, FNP-BC, is a nurse practitioner at Starkville Orthopedic Clinic, Starkville, Miss., and a quality-improvement and care-coordination consultant.