The last few weeks of school, my audiologist partner and I noticed a lot of tired body language and droopy eyes in our clinic’s pediatric population. We were expecting everyone to feel super-charged and excited for summer break, and then we realized—the kids were overworked and simply burned out. Between school, extracurricular activities, homework and speech-language sessions, the kids were DONE.
As clinicians, we recognize this in our patients, but we often find it difficult to recognize this extreme fatigue in ourselves. We, too, were experiencing an uptick in appointments, a push for all types of end-of-year evaluations and reports, and a greater need to come in early and stay late to get everything done. When we all finally looked in the mirror, some droopy eyes looked back.
Psychologist Herbert Freudenberger coined the term “burnout” in the 1970s. He used the term to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals—specifically in the “helping” professions. Today, the word refers to the exhaustion, reduced performance and, often, feelings of alienation. And this can apply not only for those working in health care, but in overworked professionals of all types—as well as in homemakers, students and even celebrities.
As audiologists and speech-language pathologists, we constantly face high demands to help others, while also keeping up with other responsibilities of the job—increased caseloads, progress notes, reports, meetings, insurance. It’s not surprising that many of us experience burnout. And, left unchecked, burnout can cause troubles with our health, happiness, relationships and career.
As private practitioners, Melissa and I handle not only patient care, but also the responsibilities involved with managing our team, reviewing all referrals, dealing with insurers and attempting to grow the business. This constant juggling of roles can often cause burnout. One of our primary missions when we created our clinic was to make sure we took care of each other and ourselves—an endless goal of avoiding burnout! We want to share some of our burnout busters, in hopes they’ll help other communication sciences and disorders pros manage the stress of daily demands as an audiologist, speech-language pathologist, or many other roles we serve.
Recognize the successes
Watching patients or the practice grow is one of the most rewarding elements of our jobs. Here at Sound, we create attainable monthly goals for our clinic and write up quarterly progress reports for our patients. Both of these processes allow us to reflect on growth, celebrate accomplishments and continue forward toward success!
Forget balance, find harmony
A perfect work-life balance will not happen, so let yourself off the hook. Instead, find what will help with your personal and professional flow during the workweek. Do you need to come in a bit later so you can go to a favorite exercise class or do you need to leave at a certain time to avoid rush hour? Do you need to take a longer lunch on certain days to reset and recharge? If you can, adjust your schedule accordingly. It’s okay to adjust office hours to provide services during business or after-school times, but also to make sure we can take care of ourselves and our families.
Ensure balanced patient loads
We want to be respectful of our patients’ time and meet their needs as quickly as possible. While this attitude is an important part of providing professional services, it’s easy to suddenly find you’ve over-packed your schedule to accommodate patients. This results in hurried and scattered days with no breaks. The nature of speech-language treatment—usually weekly sessions on a set day and time—works well with block scheduling, but we find this more challenging to set up on the audiology side. We’re currently working out a point system for each day, where we assign weighted points to various appointments according to the work involved with each type of appointment. For example, a hearing aid consult or APD evaluation would be worth more points than a hearing aid clean and check or creation of an ear mold.
Harness technology to bolster efficiency
If you are a pen-to-paper type—as are many of us in our clinic, despite being a generation that grew up with computers!—you might struggle to switch over to electronic charting, record-keeping and interoffice communication. However, technology really improves clinical efficiency, and we now realize we can put tech to work for us by automating our workflow. Some of our favorite software for increasing team productivity includes Asana for team to-do lists, Last Pass for password management, and Dropbox and Google Drive for file-sharing.
Evan a five-minute recharge can make a difference between productivity and burnout. Breaks during the workday can lead to more stamina, fewer aches and pains, and better work performance. So, take a walk around the block, take a moment for a stretch break or just look away from your computer for a few minutes. Your brain (and patients) will thank you!
We would love to hear from you! What are some of your burnout blockers and happiness hacks? Please share in the comments section below.