In a profession where 94% of practitioners are experiencing burnout, staying focused on the positive can be understandably challenging. 

If you’re managing a team of nurses or other healthcare professionals, you know the burnout cycle firsthand. The situation in your workplace gets tough, the most affected team members experience an increase in stress and become more difficult to work with as a result, which causes other team members to become more stressed, and soon enough you have a team riddled with burnout.

In the worst cases, you’ve seen this lead to team members leaving their jobs, creating a staffing shortage and in turn putting your already struggling team under more stress.

In the best cases, you’ve seen your team bounce back, but not without some longer-lasting damage to relationships and workplace culture.

But is there a way to prevent the burnout in the first place? Lifting your team’s spirits and helping them to focus on the positive can make a huge difference in your workplace.

While there is only so much you can control, there are actions you can take to cultivate a supportive working environment that minimizes burnout and keeps your team focused on the positive.

Here are three strategies to get you started.

1) Reconnect with your “why” and help your team do the same

When you find yourself getting bogged down in the day-to-day of your job, putting too much emphasis on what’s going wrong, it can help to take a step back and remember your “why.”

Why did you choose to work in healthcare in the first place? Why did you take on a leadership position? What are some recent scenarios where you made the kind of impact you set out to make at the beginning of your career?

Sound easier said than done? Here are some concrete strategies you and your team can try:

  • Gratitude journaling. This doesn’t have to be elaborate—just take five minutes to write down something you were grateful for today. This can be a great way to focus on all the positive things that happen on any given day, rather than getting hung up on the negative things.
  • Encourage your team to share their wins, no matter how small. Whenever a patient reaches a recovery milestone, a problem is solved or someone on your team receives praise or gratitude, everyone should know about it and be able to celebrate together. This builds morale and helps everyone collectively remember the positive parts of their jobs.
  • Recognize team members’ contributions on a daily basis. It’s easy to get caught up in your own responsibilities and forget to acknowledge all the ways your team is doing great work. Don’t reserve praise or recognition for times when people go “above and beyond.” Sometimes, people need to hear that their best is enough, even if their best looks different every day.

2) Create a culture of care

As a healthcare team, your job is to provide care for others. This commitment should extend into your internal relationships—everyone should feel empowered to care for themselves and for their coworkers and colleagues during difficult situations.
As a leader, this culture of care starts with you. By allowing yourself to show vulnerability, re-engaging “quiet quitters” (individuals who have started to distance themselves from the team) and addressing any bullying that you notice within your team, you can make strides towards a culture that prioritizes positivity and discourages chronic negativity.

You can also take a few relatively easy actions that make all the difference:

  • Actively encourage team members to take their breaks. Make sure they know this is a priority for you.
  • Role model self care. Take your own breaks, do the things that bring you joy inside and outside of work, and set clear boundaries with yourself and others.
  • Make space for team members to speak with you about the issues they are struggling with at work and in life. Work on your listening skills and make sure they feel heard and understood. 

3) Don’t ask your team to focus on things outside of their control

It’s ok to have high expectations of your team, but it’s also important to recognize when you’re setting expectations that set them up to fail.

When working with team members to set priorities, keep the Circles of Influence and Control model in mind. We have done a full overview of that concept in another article, but essentially there are a myriad of issues that fall under each of our “circles of concern,” but only some of those fall under our “circle of influence” and even fewer under our “circle of control.”

If, for example, you’re encouraging a nurse to improve their time management skills, make sure what you are asking them to do is actually something they can directly control (e.g. better prioritize patient care, patient communication and charting/admin tasks) and not something that they can’t really do much about (e.g. speeding up patient-centred tasks like helping someone to the bathroom or administering medication).

And, if they tell you they think what you’re asking is unreasonable, be curious as to why. Have a conversation and get to the root of the issue. You don’t have to have all the answers—sometimes it’s more effective to problem solve collaboratively with those who are most affected by the problem in question.

Need more help preventing burnout?

Burnout is a big problem and addressing it properly as a healthcare leader is nothing short of challenging. Leadership coaching can be a great way to uncover your own burnout triggers as well as those of your team. This will empower you to better address and respond to it when you see it taking a toll on your workplace.

To learn more about leadership coaching, book a free consultation with us to chat about what you’re struggling with and how we can help you empower your team to work more effectively as a unit.

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