WE NEED TO STOP TALKING ABOUT PT BURNOUT
“EVERYONE IS BURNT OUT” my friend exclaimed.
She was frustrated with physical therapy and her day to day life at work. She was considering going back to school for business, or teaching, or communications, or anything that would allow her to change the dread she felt going into work every day. I can’t imagine spending seven years in school only to go and do something else…
Okay, so maybe we don’t need to stop talking about burnout in physical therapy, but we certainly must do more than just talk about it. I’ve seen a lot of articles and blogs popping up lately (I’m guilty too) where the authors justify all our feelings about burnout. Our feelings are justified, but very few of these articles dive deeper. Very few of them get to the core issue. Yes, reimbursement is tough, patients can be difficult, our perceived value isn’t where it should be, and we see more patients in a day than we’d like to. Yet, “everyone” is not burnt out. I’m not burnt out… but I sure was a few years ago.
Physical therapy started out great. I loved my coworkers, I was ready to make a difference and everything was exciting including simple things like getting a pager with my name on it. Our clinic uses pagers so the front desk can signal us when our patient arrives. I will never forget the first time that pager on my hip lit up. My 8 am patient had just arrived as I instantly stopped the buzzing pager and stood up ready to go. I felt pride, nervousness, and fulfillment as I eagerly walked to get my very first patient from the waiting room. I didn’t have to smile as I greeted my patient because I hadn’t stopped smiling since the pager had gone off.
Fast forward a few months. It is 7:58 am and now my pager goes off. I turn it off and I sit there. I have two more minutes before I have to start my day. My body feels heavy as I begrudgingly get up. I feel tired, still overwhelmed from yesterday, and somewhat apathetic. As I turn the corner, I force a smile as I walk into the waiting room to greet my patient. My pager continues to go off with every patient arrival and I can’t help, but think to myself Can I just have one patient cancel today?
I did have a patient cancel that afternoon so I went back to my desk to recharge. I was burnt out and I didn’t realize it immediately. It was when I started to notice that undetected feelings of unrest were now becoming observable changes in my behaviors. I was skipping workouts, getting takeout more, canceling plans, and for the first time ever pressing the snooze button daily.
I was burnt out and the more I talked about it, the more I realized everyone felt the same way as me. But, it wasn’t everyone. There were people I worked with and people I was surrounded by that seemed like they were having a much better time in physical therapy than I was. They weren’t spending every free minute recharging, they weren’t complaining about their circumstances (which were also the same as mine), and they didn’t seem frustrated with their documentation, caseload, or cringing every time the pager went off.
I initially told myself that everyone felt burnt out because it let me off the hook…if everyone felt burnout then I was normal and didn’t need to change. But, if I ever wanted to create my ideal career then I was going to have to act.
So, while we should keep talking about burnout in physical therapy, we really need act.
Next week we will talk about the one thing you NEED to do to overcome burnout. Between now and then, go ahead and take our free Burnout Quiz to determine if some of what you are feeling are warning signs to a burnout.
Burnouts can feel like you’re drowning. You are doing everything you can to stay above water and you’re exhausted. But, there are people near you that are looking to help pull you out of it. Whether you join us or connect with others, there are people there for you.