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By Monica E. Oss

November 2, 2012

“Burnout” is big. Recent headlines covering the trend show how widespread the concerns are for this professional challenge for the health and human service workforce:

  1. Burnout for Developmental Services Workers in McGill Sociological Review (MSR).

  2. The Factors Driving Staff Burnout in Long Term Care on

  3. Interpersonal conflict, social support, and burnout among home care workers in Japan on

  4. Foster Parent Burnout on the First Home Care website

  5. Social Work Burnout on

  6. 6 in 10 Physicians Would Quit Today in Health Leaders Media

  7. The Widespread Problem of Doctor Burnout in The New York Times

  8. Doctor burnout: Nearly half of physicians report symptoms in The USA Today

  9. Penn study examines link between nurse burnout, care on

  10. Burnout a Bigger Problem for Docs Than for Others on

As these articles illustrate, long time and poorly managed stress result in that final physical and mental exhaustion that embodies what we know as “burnout.” The sources of that stress – emotional exhaustion, work-life balance dissatisfaction, working without a sense of power or purpose, understaffing, and inadequate time with consumers – are some of the factors that managers have to address to keep their organizations ready for the challenges ahead.

“Burnout, stress and depression in health care have all been serious problems for managers and workers alike for over four decades,” said OPEN MINDS Advisory Board Member, Stephen J. Holoviak, Ph.D. “Burnout creates a multiple prong problem for caregivers and health care organizations in general. First, it does create long term health issues for employees and caregivers. Secondly, it decreases both efficiency and effectiveness of the employee. Thirdly, it is linked with more accidents and mistakes. In the world of care givers all these are meaningful, but mistakes can be catastrophic.”

What to do to combat burnout? The prescription for addressing this problem has a number of elements. Better workflow design and workflow management is key. Manager and supervisor training is another crucial element. And re-engaging a passionate workforce in their calling is essential. In health and human services, like all service organizations, our success is dependent on our assets that walk out the door every evening.

Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS

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