Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Burning out and public health work: If only there were a vaccine against stress

Sharon G. Humiston, Michael Krasner, Timothy Quill, Scott McDonald, and Ronald Epstein. Univ. of Rochester, Strong Memorial Hospital, 601 Elmwood Ave, Rochester, NY, USA

Learning Objectives for this Presentation:
By the end of the presentation participants will be able to identify:
1. Early & late warning signs of stress
2. Risk factors for & consequences of burnout in oneself and others
3. Factors that can promote well-being

Burnout is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job defined by 3 dimensions: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased personal accomplishment. Public health workers may have a host of potential stressors including overwork, inadequate support, and ethical dilemmas. Consequences of burnout may affect work performance (e.g., lower empathy, more errors) and retention, as well as personal life (e.g., stress-related health problems, poor relationships). Chronic stress, itself a powerful immune suppressor and a strong contributor to burnout, may paradoxically be worsened by the unbalanced and unexamined expression of caring, compassion, and conscientiousness thereby increasing vulnerability to burnout.

We will focus on stress in the public health workplace

Emphasis will be divided between public health clinical work and administrative stress triggers

Project Description:
In this interactive workshop we will discuss early and late warning signs of burnout and identify risk factors for and consequences of burnout in oneself and others. After reviewing relevant literature and experiences relating to how positive personality traits (e.g., thoroughness, commitment, perfectionism, caring) can increase vulnerability to stress, we will explore survival strategies and healthy coping strategies.

Results/Lessons Learned:
We will discuss survival strategies that help individuals handle stress during the work day, and, more importantly, healthy coping strategies that enhance long term stress hardiness, work effectiveness, and human potential. Examples include: adopting a healthy life philosophy, enjoying humor, balancing work-home time, developing supportive workplace environments, rediscovering a sense of meaning in work, developing exercise and healthy nutritional habits, and cultivating self-awareness practices such as meditation, writing, and artwork.