The Essential Network (TEN) – helping nurses and midwives manage burnout in 2021
Hospitals and medical practices have never been more stressful. With increasingly infectious variants of COVID-19, vaccination rollouts, staff isolating and patients facing visitor restrictions at vulnerable times, it’s little wonder nurses and midwives are under pressure. Add to those concerns family stress, lockdowns, home schooling and a lot of uncertainty, it’s not surprising to see burnout and stress increasing in the medical workforce.
To help manage burnout and support the mental health of healthcare workers, the Black Dog Institute created The Essential Network (TEN). TEN is a digital mental health hub designed by health professionals for health professionals, focused on maintaining strict confidentiality for healthcare workers worried that seeking help may be seen as a liability or weakness by their profession. TEN understands that confidentiality is extremely important to health professionals. It is not funded by Medicare and interactions with the service are not recorded on ‘My Health Record’. Through TEN, all Australian nurses and midwives can access the following free of charge:
- telehealth clinical consultations with a psychologist or psychiatrist
- confidential mental health screening
- self-help resources
- digital mental health tools
What is burnout?
With the ongoing effect of COVID-19, nurses and midwives are currently experiencing elevated levels of burnout. While burnout is not a mental illness or diagnoses, the World Health Organisation recognises burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress. It can involve feelings of low energy or exhaustion; increased emotional distance from your work; negative or cynical feelings towards your job; and a sense of being less effective.
“Healthcare workers and especially nurses are at a higher risk of burnout due to the demands of their role,” says Dr Peter Baldwin, clinical psychologist and researcher for the Black Dog Institute.
“The good news is that burnout is a specific cognitive, behavioural and emotional experience that can be managed.”
“There are strategies to manage burnout. Some emotion management, setting boundaries, asking for help, and seeking support can make a big difference,” says Dr Baldwin.
What causes burnout?
In high-risk organisations such as medical workplaces, it’s the occupational stress that can build up that take a toll. Issues such as rostering, transparency of promotions, access to PPE and lack of adequate support to conduct their work safely all add to the stress.
Researchers looking into the commonalities between those experiencing burnout have discovered that traits such as perfectionism may be red flags for developing burnout.
“Burnout seems to have a number of causes, such as working in an environment that’s high pressured but doesn’t really acknowledge that you’re a human being with limits,” says Dr Baldwin. “It can be intensified by particular styles of thinking, such as having unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others.”
In one of UNSW’s studies responses from more than 1,000 people indicated nine other factors commonly affecting people experiencing burnout. These included: anxiety/stress; depression and low mood; irritability and anger; sleep disturbances; lack of motivation or passion; lack of concentration; memory loss or brain fog; withdrawal from others; and physical symptoms such as aches, headaches, nausea and low libido.
There are several helpful things you can do to start to manage burnout. These include using mindfulness and emotion regulation techniques, setting boundaries, managing time to create structure in your workday, asking for help, and seeking professional help through services like TEN.
“Don’t suffer stress or burnout alone,” says Dr Baldwin. “There is confidential help available that can support you to do the vital work you trained so hard to do.” Through TEN, nurses and midwives can access support to help them manage burnout and maintain good mental health.
Find out how to get support at https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/the-essential-network/
This content was sponsored by the Black Dog Institute.