February is Psychology Month. Psychology is rooted in science that seeks to understand our thoughts, feelings and actions.​ Stay tuned for more stories on PHC News recognizing the month and sharing helpful resources.

Exhausted? Apathetic? Feeling cynical? These are some of the signs of burnout, which threaten the wellbeing of health care workers, and those under their care. The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) define burnout as “a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress”.1 In addition, burnout presents as “disengagement and produces a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, with loss of motivation and hope. It can also lead to depression and detachment”. ​

Frontline workers are higher risk for psychological distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.2,3 Prior to the pandemic, health care workers already reported stress and burnout, so it is no surprise that reports of the same persist and are worsening.3

The effects of burnout can be significant to the individual experiencing symptoms, impacting work and all areas of life. Physician burnout in the workplace can lead to increased adverse outcomes for patients and high health care costs.4 A pre-pandemic report by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions published in 2020, reported that 63.2% of nurses experienced some symptoms of burnout, while 29.3% of nurses experienced clinical symptoms of burnout.5

With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic unknown, and the ongoing opioid crisis, it is uncertain when health care workers will feel a sense of reprieve. Identifying signs of burnout can be a critical first step in managing impact. CAMH highlights the importance of recognizing early signs of burnout such as sleep disturbance, reduced appetite, feeling withdrawn, low mood, and a feeling of helplessness.

Treating burnout during the current climate of persistent stressors and uncertainty is challenging, but small efforts may help. Maintaining a social network and utilizing self-care strategies are some ways we can help create some work life balance, limiting burnout.

Self-care suggestions include:

  • Socializing with coworkers rather than working in isolation
  • Regular exercise ( find more info on the PHC fitness discounts page.)
  • Healthy eating ​

If you are feeling burnt out, please reach out for help. 

Below are some free and confidential mental health care resources for PHC Staff.

  • Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) – Homewood Health
    • Short term counselling (video and chat)
    • Life coaching
    • Online resources accessible here or via the Homeweb mobile app (iOS and Android)
    • Contact 1-800-663-1142  ​
  • Care to Speak – Care for Caregivers
    • Contact 1-866-802-7337 or chat live with a Peer Responder here
    • The Care to Speak hotline and chat are available Monday to Friday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Ten Percent Happier (mindfulness app for iOS and Android)
    • 12 month free access
    • Email healthpromotions@vch.ca for details​
    • The Government of Canada COVID-19 Mental Health Resources page is accessible here.
  • Read the last Pulse Check survey results and learn more about the steps PHC has taken to support staff and medical staff wellness.