We Need to Talk about Frontline Provider Burnout and How to Care for Yourself

frontline medical provider burnout

As one of the medical contributors on Team Diem – I see first-hand and feel the immense burden that rests on the shoulders of frontline providers during this pandemic. I also recognize that during this unprecedented time, the responsibilities and commitments you face on a daily basis are beyond a simple fix (COVID-19 is the ultimate burnout accelerant), but we are committed to providing ongoing resources for you to maintain and restore your mental and physical health. The first part of this is identifying what burnout feels like, independent of a pandemic.

General Signs of Burnout...

  • Do you feel that you can no longer keep up with a workload you once could (spoiler alert: you are a human being not a robot with endless fuel).

  • Does once fulfilling work seem unfulfilling now?

  • Are your ethics/values uniform with your workplace?

  • Do you feel repeatedly out of control (ugh yes COVID the ultimate robber of any sense of autonomy).

  • Do you feel supported by your colleagues and institution? (We hope so because you’re a superstar).

  • Do you feel that you and your colleague receive equitable treatment?

Red flags particularly notable during this pandemic time...

  • Disinterest in once-important relationships in your life (uncontrolled anger, inability to communicate)

  • Poor self-care

  • Excessive insomnia

  • Depression, lack of caring (apathy), or humour that is deemed inappropriate for context (i.e. with colleagues/patients).

Caring for Yourself Upon Burnout...

  • Attempt to preserve the non-negotiables to the best of your ability: sleeping, eating right, avoiding illicit substances, exercising (even a walk), and showering.

  • Take a time-out if possible. Are you able to take time off? Depending where you are right now we respect you can’t. Are you able to carve out any time just to care for you? To do your favorite thing? Face mask? Real Housewives of New York? Fuzzy wool socks and tea?

  • Write down issues that frustrate you re: you work, both big and small. Is there ANYTHING that can be a quick-fix or changes within your control?

  • Can you pause and implement square breathing at any point in your day when you start to feel overwhelmed?

  • Tip: imagine a square, and each side is an inhale or exhale. In for four, out for four, in for four, out for four.

  • Seek support: from friends, healthcare providers, or counsellors.

  • Attempting to find normalcy in parts of your life that bring you joy: perhaps the morning coffee?

Mental Health Resource Tips for Frontline Providers

  • Find a 24/7 crisis line in your area and program it into your phone. You may not feel like you need it right now but it’s easily accessible should you need support in an “inconvenient” time like the middle of the night. (To find, Google 24/7 crisis line in *wherever you live*).

Other resources...

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (United States only): 1-800-273-8255, can also do text based chat available at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service (Canada only) at 1-833-456-4566

  • Shout support text-based crisis (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland only): Text SHOUT to 85258

  • Contact your human resources/occupational health department to find out about existing Employee Assistance Plans or private health insurance plans that cover counselling services.

  • Follow up with your primary care provider and keep them in the loop of your care (they can make further recommendations re: mental health supports).

  • Identify at least one personal support system in your life that you can share your situation with, ask this person to check in with you on a schedule that you feel comfortable with, identify that you need more support than usual and identify what that looks like if you know (weekly phone calls, providing you with a meal, helping you find a counselor...)

Found this helpful? Come connect with others in the Mental Health Space in Diem.