Tuesday, March 24, 2015

3 Sure Signs of Burnout

There is no doubt that hospice chaplaincy is one of the most draining professions in healthcare. We hear of nurses that burn out; social workers that burn out; and, now, we will talk about Chaplains that burn out. Here are 3 sure signs you are burning out: 1. You isolate yourself. You don’t connect with your Team, your Team Manager, your fellow Chaplains, and your Spiritual Care Director. You’re on your own and you don’t even realize it. You break off conversations because you say you have patients to see (you do, but not right away…you could have spent time in fellowship). You make up ‘reasons’ to avoid Chaplain meetings. Your excuses sound acceptable, no one questions you. At first, the isolation bothers you, but after a while, it is your new normal. Friend, you’re headed for trouble. 2. Your work begins to suffer. You’ve been an excellent Chaplain, but now your work is slipping. You make one call to a new patient to set an appointment and if there is no answer, you leave a message and ask the patient or caregiver to contact the office should they need you. They never call… and you are ok with it. The passion is gone. The urgency is gone. You call them once, document it, then forget it. In addition, you neglect your patients. I can’t tell you how many unfulfilled promises of a visit I have read through the years by Chaplains who are burned out. Some of these unfulfilled promises (better termed “lies” because that is what they really are) were made up to a year ago or longer. Friend, you’re in trouble now. 3. You are beyond asking for help. Your work pattern seems to be like quicksand. You can’t get out of it. You’re stuck and getting sucked down, helpless to stop the strong tug downward. You now recognize what is happening. Your productivity is extremely low, fellow IDT members are talking, calls are being made to your Managers by caregivers, complaints are filed. Fried, it’s over. Burnout is a terrible thing. Yet, it can be averted. But, you’re the only one who can call for help. Self-awareness that was honed to a sharp edge gets dull. You have to recognize that. Unless there is someone on the IDT that really knows you well, you will become more isolated. If you are burning out and are reading this and have gotten to this point in the article, I urge you to contact your Managers. We get it. We can and will help.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. I'm done. I was a military chaplain as well as a hospice chaplain. I couldn't keep up in the last hospice job I had before a deployment. The pace was too much for me: 25 patients per week. I did well with another hospice job before that, but it was a temp job. I did well with 16 patients a week and had developed a good rhythm. But after this last deployment, I just don't want to do it at all anymore. The older I get, the easier it is to be an introvert. I'm looking for other work. Technical electronics and/or software. The push to just see patients and do paperwork can lead to the temptation to do paperwork that doesn't support the visits or visits that aren't supported by paperwork. I saw patients but couldn't keep up with the paperwork.

Richard Behers said...

Dear Friend:

I am so sorry for your burn out. It's a reality. That is why I wrote the article.

There were two key matters you addressed that I would like to comment on. First, 25 patients per week is a bit much without any hope of relief. At our hospice, we are rapidly growing. Several Chaplains are pushing their limits on caseload size. Thankfully, I am permitted to hire when I go through the process with our leadership. Unfortunately, in these days most hospices are strapped financially and cannot add additional staff, especially non-revenue producing staff like Chaplains. Ouch! But, that's the truth. Large caseloads for many are the norm. Since I wrote our spiritual care assessment and collateral materials, I am very sensitive that the process be as time-efficient for the Chaplain as possible. I spoke on this topic at the Healthcare Chaplaincy Network annual conference in April, 2016. I don't know what you are using to do your paperwork...computer or hand-written. If it is hand-written, you're hospice is very out of compliance and out of step with most every other hospice as CMS has required electronic documentation. That would wear most of us out having to hand write 5 cases a day. Yikes!
Did you speak with your Spiritual Care Manager or Team Manager about your situation? We move heaven and earth to help our staff. I am our Chaplains' biggest advocate. My heart goes out to you. If you are ever in Florida stop by to say Hi. Blessings to you as you seek a position that won't sap your energy. With all sincerity. Rich Behers