Organisational change and individual education need to be integrated to prevent burnout. According to Professor Whelan, hospitals shouldn’t place undue pressure on doctors to perform with increasingly fewer resources or to their physical limits.
‘Hospitals have responsibilities – individual heads of services should monitor and adjust workloads to prevent burnout,’ he says.
‘At the same time, it is up to the individual to be professional and recognise if they are feeling overstretched. Doctors need to take personal responsibility if they could be putting patients or colleagues at risk.’
Professor Whelan says rest is an important first step in dealing with burnout. This should include a temporary reduction in work hours followed by a structured return to work plan, negotiated with the relevant department head. Counselling through an employee assistance program and stress management training are also important.
And keep an eye out for your colleagues – changes in a colleague’s behaviour could be an early sign of burnout.
Help yourself to prevent burnout
- regular rest
- eat nutritious meals
- spend time with family
- engage in broad interests
- socialise with non-medical friends
- manage stress
- exercise regularly
- engage in professional development
- focus on teamwork and a collegial attitude
- value the patient–doctor relationship
- find a mentor
- debrief regularly