Helping News                                                   June, 2011   Issue 35

Professional Burnout:

“When I try to describe my experience to someone else, I use the analogy of a teapot. Just like a teapot, I was on the fire, with water boiling - working hard to handle problems and do good. But after several years, the water had boiled away, and yet I was still on the fire - a burned-out teapot in danger of cracking.” Carol B., Social Worker.

“A teacher can be compared to a battery. At the beginning of the year, all the students are plugged in and drawing learning current. At the end of the school year, the battery is worn down and must be recharged. And each time the battery is recharged it is more difficult to get it to hold its charge, and eventually it must be replaced. That is when complete burnout has taken place.” Jim Y., Teacher 

“When you have to take care of so many people, you begin to suffer from an emotional overload - it's just too much. I'm like a wire that has too much electricity flowing through it - I've burned out and emotionally disconnected from others.” Jane J., Nurse 

In the age of multi-tasking, limited staffing, and 
intense information overload, professionals 
required to service others often find themselves 
experiencing an additional layer of pressure. 
This additional pressure can lead to "Burnout" 
and "Compassion Fatigue."  “Burnout" is a 
pervasive, all-encompassing phenomenon that 
arises from the unique interaction of an 
individual’s personality with the work 
environment and results in a loss of motivation, enthusiasm, and energy and decreased performance in every area of a person’s life” (Watkins 1983). "Compassion Fatigue," a related condition often connected to "Vicarious Trauma," a secondary exposure to extremely stressful events. Occurs most frequently in professions requiring intense involvement and interaction with people: physicians, nurses, social workers, clergy, counselors and teachers.

Often "Burnout" can become a serious condition requiring intervention. Recognizing symptoms, expressing and describing symptoms, assessing symptoms to target, and identifying primary sources of symptoms: within vs. outside control, are first steps to intervention.  Approaches to getting help and making things better include: changing the individual, changing jobs, and changing the 
relationship an individual has with work. Validation through others and self is key to coping with this ever-increasing trend.

Professional Quality of Life Scale (ProQOL- R IV, Rothschild 2006) -click to take screening.    

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