Data that continues to indicate an increase in demand for care, from mental and behavioral health to substance use disorder treatment, also acts as a predictor for the emotional and mental states of providers.
By definition, burnout means a reduction in fuel through use, and despite its more mechanical inference, it absolutely applies to providers in the mental health space from time to time. A long-standing provider shortage, coupled with an increased demand for treatment, a nation still adjusting to the impacts of the pandemic, and an opioid epidemic is creating an environment ripe for burnout.
The American Psychological Association published a story earlier this year with the headline, “Practitioners are overworked and burned out,” directly addressing the situation with little margin for interpretation.
The report noted that almost half of psychologists said they were experiencing burnout and almost half said they were unable to meet the demand for care they were seeing.
Of course, burnout for providers in the mental health industry is not new, as surveys from more than a decade ago also point to high levels of burnout. However, recent events, including the pandemic, economic challenges, social discord and a reduced stigma surrounding mental health care have fostered a rising demand for care.
Providers offering care to patients in need, whether they are in an office setting or working remotely like the providers at innovaTel, have to instill self-care habits that allow them to take care of themselves.
The Mayo Clinic refers to self-care as a mental fitness routine, bringing together a balance of practices and activities that aren’t related to work. Those elements include physical fitness, nurturing a supportive network, committing to personal growth, focusing on realistic optimism and becoming involved in a purposeful activity.
Other tips for self-care designed to stave off burnout include creating healthy boundaries between work and personal time. Reports throughout the pandemic, as people moved increasingly to remote work, indicated that many professionals across a variety of industries struggled with this issue.
However, at innovaTel, we encourage our remote providers to create and enforce work and life boundaries in order to foster a healthy balance between the two.
Perhaps most importantly, providers offering mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment need to make self-care a repetitive practice. While explaining the components of a mental fitness routine, the Mayo Clinic emphasized that repetition commits those elements to muscle memory — in much the same way motorists can drive to the same place over and over again without even thinking about it.
While the occasional self-care themed weekend away or fitness class may temporarily relieve stress, it may not offer the ongoing benefits that come with a holistic routine.
It is often said that those with an expertise in a certain area will put themselves last for that service, and when it comes to mental health and professional burnout, providers need to be cognizant that they’re susceptible to the same situation.
To learn more about how our remote providers have opportunities to create a better work-life balance, discover a career with innovaTel Telepsychiatry.