Many people chalk burnout as a simple case of high stress and lethargy, but it is so much more. Dental professionals function in high-pressure and demanding environments, and their mental health is bound to take a hit. Moreover, this stress can transfer over to dental auxiliaries, affecting the entire clinic. It is crucial to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes an enormous problem. Therefore, you should have systems to identify and tackle burnout as soon as possible. Otherwise, you will soon have a staff that is snippy, irritated, and exhausted. Plus, such behavior can be detrimental to your practice. However, it is easier said than done. The symptoms of burnout are quite general and very easy to miss since they look like stress. Therefore, we will cover the causes of burnout in this article as well as several methods to tackle it.
What are the causes of burnout in dental practices?
Burnout is an inevitable result of working in healthcare, and yet we do not talk about it often enough. Many professionals ignore or cover up their symptoms. Partly due to fear of prejudice caused by the lack of mental health awareness. Partly because they do not realize they are experiencing burnout.
1. Continuous high-stress environment
Healthcare workers work non-stop for several hours with patients. Hence, they are working in an industry where they can not make errors while making sure their patients are comfortable and happy. This results in a high-pressure environment, and it is the same every day. While it is an expected part of the job, continuous stress can harm the body and mind. Therefore, you should be aware of the workload and the hours you can put in without it affecting you negatively. You should be aware of your capacity and never cross it.
2. Lack of relaxation time
If you are not unwinding regularly and for not long enough, your body will start ‘storing’ the worry and stress. It can manifest in the body as body aches, acute acidity, ulcers, headaches, dizziness, weakness, or even illness. If you do not take a break, your body will force you to by getting sick.
3. Low social interaction
Humans are very social beings, and limited social interaction can negatively affect the psyche of a person. This is why it is incredibly crucial for professionals to have a few friends outside of work. Moreover, social interactions in this case are not limited to meeting and talking to people. It also includes physical contact, such as hand-holding, hugs, etc. Physical touch has many benefits, such as the release of dopamine and serotonin. The lack of social interaction and physical touch leads to depression and high levels of anxiety.
How to manage burnout in dental practices?
More often than not, dental professionals do not go in for treatment even when they know they are experiencing burnout. Therefore, by the time they decide to treat it, burnout goes from a small issue to a problem that affects their life and work. The key to treating burnout is to spot it as soon as possible. The longer it goes untreated, the harder it is to work out. You can also use the following measure to prevent burnout by reducing the reluctance to address the issue at hand.
1. Start with a conversation
The first step to solving any problem is to say that you have a problem. This can help people come to terms with the fact that they need help and that they can ask for it. Dental practices must have open lines of communication for topics other than work or business. Simply talking about the problem can significantly reduce stress for many people. Additionally, you are giving other people the opportunity to share their issues and stories by talking about them. Thereby, creating a safe and open environment for you and your staff. From here, you can brainstorm ideas as to how the practice can help in reducing burnout collectively. This way you ensure that everyone is involved and that you care about their opinions and mental health.
2. Mental health along with physical health
You can only take care of your patients when you are taking care of yourself. Hence, you should be in shape physically and mentally. Because physical stamina is nothing without the mental stability to optimally utilize it. And we are not just talking about having a sharp mind. We are also talking about training for a mindful mental state. Plus, you need to practice mindfulness consistently for maximum benefits. It can include meditation, a walk in the park, or a few minutes of quiet in the morning. Prioritizing mental health allows you to build resilience to mental problems.
3. Take regular breaks
Contrary to popular belief, dental professionals do not get off work after their clinic hours ends. This is because dental professionals are like any other professional. Hence, they have to work outside of working hours, such as house chores, social commitments, etc. So when we say take breaks regularly, we do not confine the statement to your clinic schedule. Optimizing your clinic is important, but it is also imperative to take a few minutes of breaks between appointments so that you can start the session with a fresh and clear mind. You should also apply this to your schedule outside of work. Make sure you have at least 30 minutes a week if not more to yourself doing what you like if you can not afford a few hours.
4. Spend time on other things
Most dental professions are swamped with appointments, treatment, conferences, networking, and other work-related activities. It is crucial for healthcare professionals to have some semblance of life out of their work. That does not mean you start on spring cleaning months before spring comes around. It means that you should invest your time in hobbies to reduce stress, give you a break from worrying, and something that makes you feel happy. That can include a variety of things such as knitting, reading, going to book clubs or coffee shops, or hiking. The gratification that hobbies bring is proven to reduce stress and instill a sense of wellness.