Reduce Your Risk of Physical Therapist Burnout
Burnout is a condition where a person feels emotionally drained and exhausted from working too much. The symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, irritable, depressed, and having trouble sleeping.
According to WebPT's The State of Rehab Therapy 2021 report, physical therapy burnout is at an all-time high. "About half of therapy professionals report feeling more burned out now than they did pre-pandemic, with the top-cited reason for burnout being the fear of contracting COVID-19. Surprisingly, the majority of therapy professionals do not plan to make any career or retirement changes as a result of the pandemic."
Here are 9 signs of burnout as a physical therapist:
1. You don't want to go to work anymore because you know there will be patients who need help but you can't give it to them.
2. You find yourself getting angry when talking to clients.
3. You get frustrated easily.
4. You start thinking about quitting your job.
5. You think about going back home early just so you won't see anyone else.
6. You spend most of your time on social media instead of focusing on other things.
7. You avoid family members and friends because you don't want to deal with their problems.
8. You feel like you're in a rut.
9. You have trouble sleeping.
If you recognise these symptoms, then it may be time to take some action.
What causes physical therapy burnout?
Several external factors have been cited as causes of physical therapy burnout including:
- A rising cost of education
- Expectations of the career vs the reality
- Changing reimbursement structures
- Unrealistic productivity demands
- The traditional “pecking order” in medicine; and
- Lack of non-clinical career opportunities for physical therapists.
Compassion fatigue amongst physiotherapists
Compassion fatigue is a condition that occurs when caring for others causes physical and mental exhaustion. Physiotherapists who work with patients suffering from chronic pain often experience compassion fatigue. This builds up and can take its toll on therapists mentally and also physically.
So what can you do exactly to address burnout in your profession?
7 Ways To Deal With Burnout As A Physical Therapist
1. Burnout is a common problem for physical therapists, especially those who work long hours. The best way to avoid burnout is to keep yourselfhealthy. Exercise regularly, eat well, and sleep well. If you feel like you are burning out, talk to your supervisor about how you can change your schedule.
2. Physical therapists also need to set boundaries with their clients. It’s important that we protect ourselves by setting limits on our own workload. We should never put ourselves under pressure to perform beyond our capabilities. This includes taking care of our personal health needs such as eating right, exercising, and sleeping enough.
3. It’s also helpful to create a positive environment around us. A good place to begin this process would be to ask colleagues if they could recommend someone who might benefit from mentoring.
4. Mentors provide support and guidance to people who are new to a field. They offer advice and feedback while helping others develop skills. In addition, mentors encourage growth and development through challenging conversations.
5. Remember that no matter how busy we become, we still deserve breaks away from work. Take advantage of opportunities to relax and recharge. Try yoga, meditation, journaling, reading, listening to music, watching movies, playing sports, spending quality time with loved ones, etc.
6. When are people happiest in their careers? When they are learning and growing. Intentionally work towards a new set of skills can make a big difference in how you feel about your career. When neglected, this can be a big source of burnout. Find out who has your ideal career in physical therapy and make a list of what you need to get you where you want to go. Your personalised growth plan will act as your road map.
7. Stop planning how to address your burnout, do one small thing today. It will start a domino effect that can really help you. Burnout can get you stuck in a never-ending cycle. You're burnt out so you feel exhausted, and then you feel exhausted so you don't have the energy to change anything about being burnt out. If you just plan to tackle burnout, your energy will get depleted. Do one action and do it now!