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What is burnout?

The Definition

“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions.

1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
3) a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”

World Health Organisation, ICD-11

Burnout for a Pharmacist

You consider yourself a good Pharmacist. Solid clinical knowledge, a willingness to help, empathetic, reliable, decisive decision-maker, team player with a positive attitude and battle-hardened for long hours. Armed with your smock, a smile, a pen and compassion, you approach each day with the goal of making lives better. Then, one day, things start to change.

The day you realise you have made it to Burnout Town.

One day you drive to work and instead of taking in the surroundings, your to-do list rolls around in your head with such force it feels like you’re standing at the base of a waterfall and the noise is deafening. As you wander through the door, the to-do list that was so loud suddenly seems to desert you. You can’t decide what to start on first. Dispense? Check DAAs? Maybe you’ll write the email that you didn’t reply to yesterday. All of a sudden, an hour is gone and you have done nothing.

Cognitive overload

reduced efficiency

decision fatigue

Mrs Jones who lost her partner a month ago, is yearning for even more of your time than usual just so you can explain the same thing to her that you explain to her every.single.time. She comes in, you go through the motions, don’t hear a word she says and then (shock), become short with her. That’s never happened before.

Compassion fatigue

Sarah, the staff member who relies extremely heavily on you for every answer and ongoing support becomes too much… you say, ‘I don’t know’ to her questions and snap when won’t think for herself.

Irritable

Your day rolls on, you get a lunch break, but the thought of getting out of your chair to return to the floor seems equivalent to the effort it would take to climb Mount Everest.

Exhaustion

Then, the email comes through from Head Office. ‘We just want you to complete these extra ten pages of documentation for us each week to make our reporting easier.’ Are you serious?! You think they don’t care about you, you’re just a number, they pile these things on because they don’t like you. While you’re going, you begin to question why you even do this job. Do you even like it? You think you’ll just stop caring. That’s the answer… Caring less… Go in, do your job and leave.

Negativity

Apathy

Cynicism

Finally, you finish your shift. Dinner? Meh, can’t decide. You think you should go for a run, no… chips on the couch and a Netflix binge sound better, you are exhausted. A friend messages you to catch up on the weekend…No, you can’t be bothered talking, a weekend of sleep is what you need. Besides, you have nothing to talk about, all you do is work and really, you don’t even know what you accomplish there so you will just be boring or whinge anyway… While burnout is an occupational phenomenon, it rolls over and the symptoms infiltrate other parts of your life further amplifying the fact that work has consumed you.

Does this sound familiar? The thing with burnout is you don’t get to here overnight. You’re not either burnt out or not, it’s a sliding scale. Small changes in energy levels, attitude and how you show up can slide into big changes if they go unchecked. The beauty about this is there are things in your power to help minimise your level of burnout and minimise your workplace stress.

What is NOT Burnout?

It is important to note that burnout is not classified as a mental health disorder.

As per the World Health Organisation, burnout is not:

❌ Adjustment disorder

❌ Disorders specifically associated with stress

❌ Anxiety or fear-related disorders

❌ Mood disorders

If you feel that your symptoms go beyond workplace stress alone and generating solutions is outside your control, I encourage you to seek help from your General Practitioner or an appropriate support agency listed in the ‘Important Resources‘ lesson.

What next?

Information and definitions are great. They allow us to label what we’re experiencing and make us feel less alone. A label is a great start but it’s only the first step. The next lesson is going to show you how to use the Reset and Reignite Kit to get some real insight into your situation and create a practical plan to reignite.

What are you waiting for?! Click ‘Mark Complete’ and hop along to the next lesson. See you there.