Over the last two years, nurse practitioners, PAs, and doctors have been on the frontline of treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic along with nurses, social workers, and other healthcare workers. The stress of the pandemic combined with high patient expectations and oftentimes low workplace support has led to burnout among many healthcare workers. The AMA reports 49% of physicians experienced burnout at the end of 2020. In February 2021, a report by the Journal of Nurse Practitioners recorded the rate of burnout of Primary Care Provider Nurse Practitioners at 22.6% to 25.1%. Those working in ICU and ER settings are feeling the stress even more.
If you’re experiencing exhaustion and other signs of burnout, you are not alone. We can’t control the number of patients who enter your clinics each day, but we can help you find ways to help create a work-life balance. Your mental and physical health affects the quality of care you offer your patients and your family. To help, we asked providers how they create more balance in their lives. Here’s what we found:
▶ Even though you are busy in the hospital or clinic, try to stay well hydrated, particularly with water. Even mild dehydration can affect you mentally and physically.
And, along that line, don’t hold it too long!
▶ Find exercise in everyday activities: park further away from the building, take the stairs, do squats to pick up items from the floor, do curls with the laundry detergent, etc.
▶ The best time of day to exercise is whenever you can do so consistently, but studies show that exercising first thing in the morning can increase the chances that you will maintain an exercise program because morning workouts leave less room for excuses. Plus morning workouts can help you sleep better at night. But do whatever you can maintain consistently.
▶ Set a reminder on your phone or computer to remind you to exercise. (Hello, lunges down your hallway!)
▶ Find a workout buddy.
▶ Speed walk around the inside of the clinic or outside every hour or two.
▶ Hire administrative help at work or home or housekeeping or chore help at home if possible.
▶ Use dot phrases to cut down on charting time. This can make a big difference in charting time! Put in the time up-front to save you time down the line.
▶ Learn to leave work at a set time even if all the charting isn't finished.
▶ Work part-time for a while if you're feeling burned out. It’s not always possible, but if it is, it can really help.
▶ Schedule your work for four 10-hour days to get an "extra" day off.
▶ Prep meals so you have lunch ready and don't snack on junk all day. Think about or plan your meals for the week ahead of time so you know what to buy and when 5:00 pm rolls around, you know what’s for dinner.
▶ Avoid time wasters. Your time is valuable.
▶ Find ways to exit long, unproductive conversations with patients and co-workers.
Some tips when precepting:
📌If you have students, allow them to chart the note, and then you review it, make any changes, and sign off. This is legal and can improve efficiency when precepting.
📌Have students make call backs and follow-ups when you are in ear-shot and can concur with their comments/advice. It’s good practice for students and can help providers save some time. Provider and student should both sign off on correspondence.
What creative steps have you taken to create more work-life balance and reduce burn out?
As a longtime NP with a desire to help and make positive changes to her beloved profession, Lynn often writes opinion pieces about the NP profession.
"Why NPs train on the backs of physicians"