How to Prevent Provider Burnout

Burnout among healthcare providers was a concern pre-Covid, but it’s skyrocketing during this ongoing pandemic. Now, more than ever, providers can benefit from self-care techniques to stay in balance during challenging times.

It’s long been known that happiness across the medical care continuum – from patients to office staff and healthcare providers – can be a commodity in short supply. Providing quality care to patients is, naturally, a top priority, but delivering on that goal while avoiding burnout also holds merit.

Greg Hammer, MD, a Pediatric Intensive Care Physician, Anesthesiologist, and professor at the Stanford University Medical Center tackles this topic in his recent book GAIN without Pain: The Happiness Handbook for Health Care Professionals (Same Page publishing, May 2020). His goal is to help mitigate the repercussions of burnout in healthcare professionals.

Even before Covid-19, fully half of medical professionals reported intrusive levels of stress, depression, and anxiety related to their professional lives. Nurturing resilience, notes Dr. Hammer, in as little as 3 minutes a day pays off in every aspect of life.

His tips are not necessarily anything new, but it’s a commitment to following some basic advice that can be transformative. In fact, it can be the antidote to burnout.

Dr. Hammer’s 3-minute daily self-care program is based on his simple acronym of GAIN: Gratitude, Acceptance, Intention, and Nonjudgment, that he suggests practitioners try to do every day until it becomes a new habit. It’s a simple technique that he’s taught to Stanford hospital staff and others – it’s similar to a daily meditation practice, but with this meditation there are no rules and it has a very small time commitment.

Start with just 3 minutes each morning. During this time, simply breathe and pay attention to your breath then move on to the Gratitude component, which is merely noting to yourself things you are grateful for in your life.

In the Acceptance phase, you spend a few moments recognizing the things in your life (and the world) that trigger feelings of sadness and pain; providing a mindfulness to these. For some, this may relate to the illness and disease in your patients, with the knowledge that you will not be able to cure all of them.

In the Intention phase, continue focused breathing while bringing awareness to the fact that you have the ability and strength to decide how you want to think and act. You can choose happiness. You are blessed with the force of intention. Breathe in this new understanding, slowly inhaling and exhaling.

The final few moments call for the idea of Nonjudgment, which is the avoidance of labeling everything as good or bad, worthwhile or useless, and so on. Instead, you can observe dispassionately, with “benevolent indifference.” The exercise each morning is completed by returning to your breath, at which point you’ll feel more ready to head out into the world.

Many of Dr. Hammer’s peers have found value in his simple steps for self-care on their journey to becoming healthier, happier, less stressed, and more resilient.

If you’re also interested in some tips about how greater patient satisfaction benefits your health care practice, click here to get your free copy of BioPlus’ eBook “Cultivating Satisfaction Across the Specialty Pharmacy Continuum: The 5 Step Framework for Maintaining Nurse, Provider & Patient Happiness.”