It is now the end of a long week. You woke up early this week, went to school, came home, and started one of many hours of homework. You then have other things you may need to tend to and then sleep. On average, you may get 5 hours of sleep and have minimal time for yourself. You repeat this cycle until you finally have a break coming up. How are you feeling? You may be feeling very burnt out. ‘Burnout’ refers to the exhaustion and apathy that one may feel when dealing with prolonged workplace stress. Stress and burnout are similar and can be related, but they aren’t the same thing. Stress is usually temporary or situational, while burnout likely won’t ease up until you take active steps to resolve it.
School is our “workplace,” where many tend to feel burnout. Many of us may feel stressed; however, that feeling tends to be temporary. The feeling of burnout lasts until school is typically over. Our health care workers are burnt out. They are constantly confronting human pain, which can be an emotional burden. Health care workers constantly work night shifts, contributing to mental exhaustion. This was prevalent during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a rough time for the world. We thought that living through the pandemic was difficult. We were sitting at home on lockdown, making us feel trapped. Being at home all day was mentally challenging for us. Yet, very rarely did we take a moment to think about our healthcare workers. During this time, healthcare workers experienced extreme burnout. Health care workers experienced many deaths daily, which was challenging. Frontline HCWs involved in the management and diagnosis of COVID-19 are more exposed to overwhelming pressure with consequent psychological stress. As referred in recent publications, medical staff report physical and mental exhaustion – due to the ethical dilemmas and moral injuries for the torment of life-or-death decisions required to be made fast and without the support of optimal care protocols, the pain of losing patients and colleagues, and the risk of infection for themselves and their families. The stress they went through is something that I cannot imagine myself in. Making such haste decisions under pressure can take a toll on someone. Also, they would be exposed to the infection every day and bring that risk back home to their family. There was a time when the health care workers would quarantine for weeks to prevent infection from spreading to their families. Not only were they having a difficult time at work, but they were being kept away from their families, which plays a big emotional factor in feeling burnt out. Through it all, they still provided their patients with the best care under these circumstances.
When we start to feel burnt out, we turn to the coping mechanisms that help us through this feeling. Some of us may be talking to someone or simply being left alone. So now the question is, what can healthcare workers do to relieve themselves of stress? Individually, healthcare workers should focus on self-care and relaxation. As an organization, a schedule should be worked out to tend to everyone’s needs. If healthcare workers need a break during this pandemic, it should be taken. This ensures that our healthcare workers will return destressed and ready to work. The culture of the workplace should be positive. Healthcare workers should uplift each other when they feel burnt out. No one should be blamed because everyone has one goal: delivering the best patient care. These steps are crucial for healthcare workers to take during a pandemic because it helps them alleviate stress and eliminate the feeling of being burnt out.
Aside from the pandemic, our healthcare workers do the most to help us at any time. When we feel stressed, we expect other peers around us to motivate us to keep going. In that same way, our healthcare workers deserve appreciation for all that they do. They make personal sacrifices to give the best patient care they can. In these times, we can only help them. We can do many things to help show appreciation to our healthcare workers. A simple act of gratitude can help reduce their burnout and can help lift their spirit. As HOSA members, let's thank our healthcare workers for everything they do for us. As a chapter, you can write cards to your local hospital with kind words for our healthcare workers.
All in all, our healthcare workers have experienced a lot in the past few years. They have experienced burnout which can take a toll mentally and physically. They are just returning to normal but continue to do their best. They do their best to use coping mechanisms to alleviate stress, but we can help. Let's thank our healthcare workers!