• Katie Marie Strong

The Epidemic of Burnout

- by Anonymous

How working within healthcare ruined my life...

I used to wake up everyday with a smile on my face and eager to take on the day. I used to get complimented often on my smile and my upbeat attitude both in and out of the workplace. I was proud to graduate as an MRT, and to be a part of the healthcare profession and to be working as part of the most important team of all - saving lives.

Fast-forward only 4 years. I'm crippled with anxiety. I wake up everyday dreading the stressors I may or may not encounter, sometimes wishing I hadn't woken up at all.

It started with morale in the workplace. It was so low, everyone was so unhappy and any downtime we did have was just a bitch fest. I tried to keep my head above it all, but eventually I too gave into the negativity.

Team. In the healthcare system, there is no team. Every department thinks they are better than the other and it's like pulling teeth to get someone's help. Ironic isn't it? We all work in a profession that revolves around helping people, yet we work so hard to not help each other.

Trauma. Everybody witnesses or experiences some sort of trauma in the healthcare system, no matter where you work. The first responders that are the first on scene and see the worst of it all, the nurses and doctors that assess and start treating the patient when they come through the doors, the respiratory therapist that has to intubate the patient so they can breathe again, the lab techs and x-ray techs that are waiting outside the room in case blood work or x-rays are needed, the counsellors that are there on standby for any grieving family members that come through the door, the porters who take these patients to various departments for tests or worst case scenario - to the morgue.

We are all affected by these traumas no matter how big or small they may seem at the time. You start by thinking you are okay, and when you go home after your shift you remain very quiet. Unable to share details with your partner, or maybe you just don't think they will understand, or that you knew it was part of the job when you signed up for it, so you remain quiet.

Workload. Every department is healthcare is either short-staffed, overworked, or both. Burn-out is not only real, it is an epidemic. The expectations to do more and more with less and less is outrageous. Burn-out is the result of doing more work than we are capable of doing, because it is every single day. Burn out is more about the mental burn-out than the physical burn-out, although it is that as well. When there are budget cuts or contract negotiations with physicians and we lose doctors and/or front-line workers - not only does the media come out with statements that "patient care has not been compromised. Wait times have not been compromised", but we are also given a gag order to not speak about what is truly going on. Patient care IS compromised when your already short-staffed department is now even more short-staffed. Wait times ARE increased because we aren't fucking robots. Working in an already stressful setting, and asked to deal with even more workload both physically and mentally everyday is too much to continue on. Which brings me to where I am today.

The previously national competitive athlete, debilitated from a back injury from work that has taken years to recover.

The previously outgoing, hard working, driven young girl, now can barely get herself out of bed because the anxiety of going to work is almost to much to bear. The happy, hopelessly in love with her husband girl, has let everything fall apart because she can't put any effort into anybody else. As she can barely put effort into herself.

How can I go to work and "help people", when the system frankly doesn't give a fuck about me. Any sick time or appointment time we are made out to feel guilty, as we are leaving the department even more short staffed. I keep coming to this thought and have realized how fucked up it is. We are the ones exposing ourselves to harmful viruses, helping patients move when they are unable to, working through our breaks to get our work done because we hate the fact that our patients have already been waiting several hours, or maybe there is no relief at all to even go for a break. Yet, when we come together for staff meetings and beg for more staff, the budget just simply won't allow for it. Where is our support?

Now 26 years old, about to see a therapist, about to start taking anxiety medication, about to lose my marriage, about to go back to school to change my career (that I absolutely love!).. Because I simply can't help anyone else anymore before I have repaired myself.

Here I am Today...

Fast-forward only 7months and I am completely "myself" again. After admitting I needed help and taking time off work, taking the time to focus on me and what my stressors were, I realized how much of it was work and that I was always carrying that with me and taking that home. Am I still stressed at work? Yes. But I have re-shifted my way of thinking about the workplace. All my energy goes into my work and my patients, rather than the workplace itself and my coworkers. This may sound odd, because I have essentially distanced myself from my coworkers, but I quickly realized who was adding stress and was toxic energy and that I simply don't need to be around that anymore.

I am going to school part-time now, eager to finish my degree and have a "backup" plan. Even this shift in focus towards school rather than work gas been SO beneficial for me.

I make time to see my friends more often. I make time to spend with my husband more frequently, quality time! He is the most-supportive person I know and stuck by me through everything, even when I was at times ready to give up on our relationship. The focus was on me and to figure out why I was truly so unhappy and what my stressors were, and go from there. Realizing it was from work and that nothing was seriously wrong in our relationship (no relationship is perfect!), allowed me to see just how much I had been projecting my emotions and how much it had affected every single aspect of my life.

The more I opened up about my story to other people in the profession, I was absolutely blown away how many others had similar stories and similar struggles. This was heartbreaking to me.

I am happy. I feel like myself. I am excited for the future.

Thank you for reading about my journey <3

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