Reading The Signs: Early Action Against Burnout

As part of the ancient Hippocratic oath, each physician would swear ‘I will do no harm or injustice to them (patients)’. Given the pressures and stresses of modern medical practice, it would make sense if health professionals also made a promise to safeguard themselves. And kept it.

Those very stresses lead, in many cases, to burnout. Although the prevalence of burnout is difficult to measure accurately, potentially half of practitioners are at risk, and one-third could be suffering complete burnout ­– or heading that way – at any given time.

The key weapon against burnout is early recognition and intervention.

A comprehensive definition of burnout suggests it develops in stages. Initially, high levels of enthusiasm and commitment – highly prized qualities in a healthcare professional – can rapidly lead to overwhelming stress and emotional and physical exhaustion, which is one of the recognised components of burnout.

Taking action at this early stage is effective, immensely valuable and also empowering. When healthcare practitioners seek help to identify physical, emotional and intellectual stressors in the workplace, and manage their stress responses, they reduce the risk of depleting their energy and resilience.


In reaching out for support, health professionals can:

    • Increase their awareness of stress-causing factors in the workplace
    • Be more alert to the early signs of burnout
    • Make a commitment to self-care
    • Have access to WiseMINDS professional peer support.

Left unmanaged, stress and exhaustion lead practitioners to become negative, cynical and detached, which affects their health and wellbeing, destroys their sense of purpose and worth, and damages relationships. Their professional competency eventually suffers; this poses a threat to patient care and can affect the whole organisation, as well as individual careers.

If you suspect you, or someone you know, might be experiencing the early signs of burnout, be proactive: check out our Peer Reachout service.

Act early. Act now.