by Cheryl Hall on July 2nd, 2019

Are you irritable with coworkers, do you drag yourself to work in the morning, have you become cynical about the occupational therapy profession?

Yes, yes and yes? You may be burned out on your job, and I know exactly how you feel.

I was working as an OT in home care and after a few months with a new agency, I was dreading going to work each day. I loved my job, but I felt exhausted before I even saw my first patient.

At the time I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me, but hindsight is 20/20, right? I was experiencing job burnout and there were three big contributors.

I had been assigned a string of patients with very challenges conditions where progress seems to move backwards more than forward. When circumstances are beyond your control, like your patient‘s health, you can feel defeated despite your very best efforts and that is emotionally draining.

My work schedule was chaotic. I was assigned cases across the region, so drive time was eating significantly into my day. On top of that, I had an unrealistically high patient load and the agency had just introduced a new software system for charting. I was working super long hours and going full blast all day just to keep up.

Finally, I was working without a support network. I had very little contact with my supervisor, fellow OTs or even the other members of the home care team – nursing, PT or aides. On top of that, I was pretty new to the city I was working in and hadn’t built up a social network yet.

While, my trip back to job happiness was more organic than deliberate, it did address each factor. I talked to my supervisor and scheduling was tightened to a more defined geographic area, my patient mix shifted to one where I could have greater impact (and satisfaction), I eventually got faster with the new charting software, and I started a dinner group with some of my fellow OTs at the agency.

I also started taking more time for myself. Sometimes you have to work to create more balance between work and the rest of your life. There is a wonderful quote by Anne Lamott, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…..including you.” So, take some time to sit in the sunshine, take a long bubble bath, or walk in the woods. You and your work will benefit from some time spent “unplugged” from everything.

Last month, the World Health Organization recognized job burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon. For those who have experienced burnout first hand, you may be happy to be validated, but also wonder why it took so long! With this classification, more attention and resources are being devoted to the topic so reach out for help if you are struggling. OT is a wonderful, helping profession and sometimes we have to focus that help on ourselves.

Cheryl Hall, OT

  • About Me

    Cheryl Hall
    Occupational Therapist
    Maryland, United States

    Welcome to a site devoted to sharing experience, knowledge and resources to make your job of being a great therapist a lot easier.

    I have been an occupational therapist for more than 30 years. I graduated from San Jose State University with degrees in Occupational Therapy, Gerontology, and Early Child Development. My passion is working with adults and children in home health but I have also worked in rehab, sub-acute rehab, hand therapy, transitional living for TBI, and hospital-based outpatient settings.

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