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  • Writer's pictureEmma J

What is Burnout anyway?

Updated: Oct 21, 2023


If you have been working in or around healthcare in the past few years, you have probably heard a lot about burnout. You may even be sick of hearing this word (along with the words resilience and wellness). But I do want to take a little time today to share how I think about burnout and why I’m so focused on getting people out of it.


Burnout can manifest differently in different individuals, but there are some common signs and symptoms to look out for. Here are some indicators that you may be experiencing burnout:

  1. Exhaustion: Feeling tired, physically and emotionally drained, and lacking energy, even after a good night's sleep.

  2. Cynicism and detachment: A negative or cynical attitude towards work or patients, and a sense of detachment from colleagues, family, and friends.

  3. Reduced performance: Difficulty concentrating, decreased productivity, and a sense of disengagement from work or life in general.

  4. Physical symptoms: Headaches, muscle tension, digestive issues and other physical symptoms that do not have a clear medical cause.

  5. Increased irritability or impatience: Feeling irritable or impatient with colleagues, patients, or family members, and reacting more strongly than usual to minor annoyances.

  6. Lack of enjoyment: Loss of enjoyment in activities that you used to find pleasurable, both at work and in your personal life.

We have created a brief self-assessment questionnaire to help you determine if you have mild, moderate, or severe burnout. Download here for free.


Deciding to work in healthcare means you have dedicated your life to the service of others, and likely see this as a calling or higher purpose. However, this work can be incredibly demanding and emotionally taxing. The constant pressure to provide care and support to patients, combined with the ever-increasing workload, can take a toll on your mental and physical health.


Burnout is a very real problem for healthcare workers. It can leave you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and emotionally drained. You may experience feelings of cynicism, detachment, and even resentment towards your patients or colleagues. These are all signs that you are suffering from burnout.


Burnout is a chronic condition that can result from factors such as empathy fatigue, moral injury, imposter syndrome, and vicarious trauma.

  1. The constant demands of caregiving can leave you feeling emotionally drained, numb, and detached from the people you're trying to help.

  2. When you experience moral injury, it's like a part of your soul is shattered, leaving you feeling disillusioned, helpless, and betrayed.

  3. Imposter syndrome can make you feel like a fraud, unworthy of your accomplishments or the trust others have placed in you. The constant pressure to prove yourself can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

  4. Vicarious trauma can leave you feeling haunted by the stories of pain and suffering you've witnessed, as if you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. It can make it hard to connect with others or find joy in your work.


Several studies have described the problem of healthcare burnout and the downstream impacts on decreased productivity, increased clinician turnover, and poor patient safety outcomes. Fewer studies demonstrate good interventions to improve the systemic issues that drive this burnout epidemic. A recent Perspective piece in NEJM does provide some hope for a way forward. I think we all know that a comprehensive, systemic solution is needed for our healthcare system to survive. While that is happening, individual skills can be very beneficial in supporting clinicians to go into these tough environments and come out again intact.


Burnout is not a sign of weakness. It is a very real and common problem that healthcare workers face. By taking care of yourself and seeking support, you can prevent burnout and continue to provide the highest level of care to your patients.


I have a brand new training on how to breakout of burnout in 5 simple steps. Watch here.

I also have openings for my complimentary strategy sessions to discuss your unique experience of burnout and map out a plan for getting back to a life filled with joy and fulfillment. Book here.


Here are 3 SOS strategies you can use RIGHT NOW to deal with stress and overwhelm.


SOS #1 Take notice of what is happening and breathe. What is the feeling are you having – angry, sad, annoyed, bored, lonely? Name it and allow it to be there for 3 deep breaths.


SOS #2 Metta meditation – place your hand on your heart or other comforting gesture; repeat 3 or more times

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I be safe and live with ease


SOS #3 Dance Party – put on your favorite tunes and shake it. This not only fun but a great way to discharge some excess flight or fight adrenaline you may have built up throughout the day


I really believe in these coping skills and I know they can get you out of a jam. I personally use all of them almost every day. But this is not a cure for burnout. Getting out of burnout requires a much more comprehensive strategy.


Keep me posted in the comments on how these strategies work or let me know if you have a favorite SOS skill you use.


When you are ready to level up and get support for overcoming burnout for good. Book your call



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