Meeting the challenge of burnout

Apr 19, 2018, 19:33 PM by Shannon Porter
Dr. Christina Maslach talks about employee burnout as part of the 2018 Provost Lecture Series.
“Burnout” is a word that gets thrown around a lot—especially between busy, working professionals.

However, research shows that it’s not just a busy schedule that can trigger professional burnout. In fact, there are various levels of burnout that can be experienced by all types of professionals from all walks of life. In the world of health care, more than half of U.S. physicians report experiencing some form of burnout—and that’s not including nurses and other medical staff who may also experience the same feelings.

“Among other important concerns, patient safety is at risk with burnout,” said Dr. Danny Jacobs, executive vice president, provost and dean of the School of Medicine at UTMB.

In February, Dr. Christina Maslach, a professor at the University of California–Berkley, creator of the Maslach Burnout Inventory and author of “The Truth About Burnout,” kicked off the 2018 Provost Lecture Series by addressing the growing trend of burnout, especially in health care.

“This should be a catalyst to spark more conversations about the topic of burnout,” said Jacobs.

Maslach is widely recognized as a pioneer in job burnout research and has identified six “mismatches” that make a person more likely to burnout, including: lack of control, insufficient reward, breakdown of community, absence of fairness and value conflicts. The more mismatches a person identifies with, the more chances there are for burnout, she said.  

“If there is some imbalance in one of these areas in the job, there will be some sense of burnout,” Maslach said during her talk.

To help offset any imbalance, it is essential to make sure workload, control, reward, community, fairness and values are in check.

“All areas don’t have to be in good shape,” Maslach said. “It may be that a person is not being paid enough, but the values of the organization are carrying them through.”

To help get a workplace more balanced, working to build engagement, conducting regular organizational assessments, and early detection and prevention can be key.

“Efforts to achieve a positive goal may be better than trying to reduce a negative,” Maslach said.

And while change is not an easy process, research shows that improvements in working environments can help prevent burnout and build engagement.

“We are affected by the environment we work in, but we are also the people who create it,” Maslach said. “We are the ones that have to implement the change.”

To watch Maslach’s presentation on employee burnout or view other lectures in the series, visit www.utmb.edu/provost/home/provost-lecture-series.