Valley Journal
Valley Journal

Attitude of gratitude used to combat workforce fatigue

‘3 good things’ practice helps prevent burnout for healthcare workers

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Last summer, a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 1,327 front-line health care workers in the United States showed that medical burnout had reached epidemic proportions, accelerated by the COVID pandemic. 

According to a story by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the survey of 1,327 frontline healthcare workers revealed that 55% reported burnout (defined as mental and physical exhaustion from chronic workplace stress), with the highest rate (69%) among those 18 to 29. 

It’s a predicament local healthcare institutions know all too well, but try to address by cultivating positive work environments. 

“We find – and research supports this – that if we talk to our staff about practices of gratitude, and if people can reflect on good things, they can recharge their batteries a little easier,” said Steve Todd, CEO of St. Luke Community Healthcare.

To help buoy spirits during dark times, the staff has implemented “Three Good Things,” a strategy pioneered by J. Bryan Sexton, director of the Patient Safety Center at Duke University. His research has shown that a gratitude practice can help decrease burnout, improve work-life balance and diminish conflict and depression. 

The practice is simple: Before bed, write down three good things that happened that day and reflect on why they happened. For maximum impact, repeat this daily exercise for at least two weeks. 

Studies show that with practice, the brain begins to more effectively recognize and interpret the positive moments that people experience each day, instead of focusing on the negative. Among healthcare workers, the exercise reinforces the importance of self-care and appears to promote wellbeing, which might ultimately strengthen resilience.

According to Todd, this simple strategy “can have a profound impact on your sleep, your ability to recover, and depression. I hear through the grapevine stories from our staff about how people are doing it and doing it with their kids at home and it’s having a positive impact.”

Of course, expressing gratitude and appreciation to healthcare workers during this time of ongoing and unprecedented stress is also helpful, as Devin Huntley, COO at Providence St. Joseph in Polson, points out. Last week, he gave a shout out to healthcare workers across Montana:

“I am so proud of the work that has been done over the last 18 months of this pandemic,” he said. “I may not know every caregiver in the state by name, but I know them by their spirit … I know how hard they have been working and how much of themselves they have given to care for their communities and how fatigued they are.”

“I may not know every caregiver in the state by name but they are all in my thoughts and prayers every day.”

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