3 Good Things – A Simple Way to Reduce Burnout

October 26, 2015   |  Tags: Blog   |  Tags: Culture , Clinician Vitality , Care Teams
Rebekah Bally

Do you or your team experience any of the following in your workplace? :

These are all signs of burnout and can wreak havoc not only on the well-being of individuals, but entire organizations. A 2013 survey conducted by CareerBuilder showed 60 percent of health care workers reported experiencing burnout (Career Builder, 2013). In Oregon’s 2014 Physician Workforce Survey, less than 40% of physicians reported feeling ‘very satisfied’ with their career in the last 12 months and about 25% of physicians reported being either ‘somewhat dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with their jobs in the last 12 months (Oregon Health Authority).

While Oregon paves the way for health care transformation, primary care practices have been in the middle of prolonged transformation to the point that some may have felt (or may currently feel) ‘change fatigue’ a common partner to burnout. Continual improvement is great if it improves patient care and outcomes, however, it may cause burnout if too much is asked of staff and providers at one time. This is an important yet delicate balance to be aware of as we continue to move forward. How can we avoid burnout while still operating at the high levels needed for improvement to occur?

There are endless theories on how to reduce stress and countless more on how to reduce workforce stress, but one theory being utilized by Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina is as simple as taking 5 minutes before bed to do a reflective exercise. The Three Good Things exercise includes a short (less than 5 minute) reflection each night before you sleep about three things that made you feel good that day or that went well. The ultimate purpose of the exercise is to reduce stress, depression, and burnout over time. The reasons why it might be successful, as based on the original study by Seligman, Steen, and Peterson (2005) include the facts that:

  • “We are hard-wired to remember the negative”
  • "We have “enhanced recall of material reviewed during the last 2 wakeful hours”
  • “With practice (by day 4 or 5) reflecting on the positive leads [you begin] to notice more positive [events]” (Sexton, 2013)

Duke University Medical Center tried this with their staff, providers, and residents in the NICU and found substantial improvement in the areas of stress depression and burnout after just two weeks, along with better work-life balance. Watch this video to learn more and consider whether Three Good Things might be a useful exercise for your team.

Health care transformation is here for the long-haul. Let’s make sure our workforce is prepared and as stress-free as possible.

Rebekah Bally, MPH, CPH joined the Q-Corp team as the Facilitation & Improvement Specialist in 2015 to work on the Million Hearts campaign as well as to support Q-Corp programs like PCPCI. Her passion is bridging the clinical and population health perspectives through meaningful partnerships and learning opportunities. Rebekah grew her love for this work through her involvement in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Open School where she was able to simultaneously develop skills in both clinical quality improvement and community organizing. She is also a newly appointed leadership team member for the 100 Million Healthier Lives Campaign, a global initiative addressing health and inequity at various levels. Rebekah earned her public health masters in health management and policy from Portland State University in Oregon and enjoys playing Frisbee with her dog, exploring the Pacific Northwest and embarking on copious hiking and camping trips in her spare time.