Ten Things to know about Burnout

This is a copy of the blog/Twitter post that I wrote for the 10 Things to Know website. This awesome group aims to support NHS staff by providing guidance, support and encouragement through their postings on various social media platforms. Please do go and have a look at their output, you won’t regret it.

Here are my ten things to know.

Ten Things to know about Burnout


1) What is Burnout?

There is no specific, agreed definition so this can make it difficult to diagnose. It isn’t about having the occasional bad day, or even bad week, at work but instead usually involves a significant, sustained negative change physically, emotionally and behaviourally.

2) So it’s people crying in a corner then?

Sometimes but it looks different in different people: the nurse who starts being rude to patients; the consultant who starts shouting at juniors; the physio who stops caring about the quality of their work – all could be burning or burnt out.

3) How could I help then?

Watch for changes in colleagues and be prepared to reach out. Most people know they’re in trouble, they just don’t know where to start. Try asking this…

‘I’ve noticed you seem XXXX these days and that’s not like you, is there anything I could do to help?’

4) And if they say they’re okay?

Ask again. This ‘double tap’ signals we are ready for more than just the routine ‘I’m fine’ answer we are all programmed to give… then listen.

If you’re still worried, ask a colleague because you might actually need to intervene for their own good.

5) What if I think I’m struggling?

You are worth saving. Please, be brave, find someone you trust and tell them how you are feeling. Don’t be ashamed, you are not alone, you are not a failure and by reaching out you are doing the right thing for yourself and for your patients.

6) Is this the end of my career?

No! Many staff take time off for burnout and come back to work. Some go back to their job just as before, some reduce their hours and some move in a different direction.

This isn’t the end, it’s a chance to clarify the direction you want to travel.

7) Is there a way to protect myself from Burnout?

There’s no one easy answer but people who feel engaged with their work, find it worthwhile, enjoy interests outside of work and have a few good friends to talk with generally seem to be less prone to burnout than others.

8) So that’s work life balance then?

Not really. Work life balance implies work is all bad, life is all good… that simply isn’t true. Think more ‘stuff that makes me feel positive v stuff that makes me feel negative’ and try to balance those out. These can change quite often!

9) Work as a positive?!

Yep. I know it’s tough but as you leave each day, try to recall three good things that happened. The grateful patient. The colleague you helped. That joke the porter told. These memories help block the negative thoughts and remind us why we do our job.

10) Anything else?

Be kind. Nothing damages us quite so much as the pain that comes from those we think should understand us best. Let’s try to  look after each other at work: be slow to get angry, quick to forgive; generous with our praise; and compassionate in our relationships.


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