Workplace burnout exacerbated due to ongoing pandemic

Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 6:01 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Workplace burnout is affecting those at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

National studies a year into the pandemic showed half of healthcare workers were experiencing burnout. Now, mental health professionals say that number is growing.

A year and a half after Shelby County saw the first confirmed patient of COVID-19, Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare reported its highest census of COVID-19 patients.

Healthcare workers have been working day and night to fight this virus for 18 months and they’re still looking for the end.

“They’re just, they’re toasted. They really are,” said Sandra Worlow, director of Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare’s employee assistance program.

Burnout is defined by the Mayo Clinic as work stress causing physical and emotional exhaustion.

Some signs are increased cynicism, irritability, and low motivation, impatience with coworkers, and feeling hopeless and helpless. While some stress at work is common, these symptoms can impact productivity and your sense of identity.

At Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, employees can receive confidential and free counseling for burnout and any other mental health need through the employee assistance program.

“We have stayed so busy,” Worlow said.

Worlow said she’s gotten increased requests to visit staff to give crisis destressing briefs.

“It wasn’t really until this surge after we thought we had some control over it, then this last surge began. That’s when the requests have been rolling in,” Worlow said.

“There are some studies to show 70 percent of our community or nation is experiencing burnout right now,” said Dr. Shubi Mukatira, medical director and psychiatrist at the Transformation Center.

Mukatira said the pandemic has exacerbated burnout for everyone. Issues unique to the pandemic include stress over catching the virus to setting boundaries while working at home.

Mukatira and Worlow said to fight burnout, you should take breaks, practice self-care, like getting good sleep, getting active, and eating right. Also, enjoy your time out of work by participating in your favorite hobbies, and put down the device off the clock.

“Refuel through your hobbies. Don’t continue to work when you’re not at work,” Mukatira said.

Mukatira said burnout can be a sign of a larger mental health issue like a panic disorder, anxiety, or depression. If the signs of burnout continue for more than two weeks, Mukatira said consider seeking help for your mental health.

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