Burnout, a menace that will only get worse unless there is change
The best academic literature on burnout from leading specialists around the world has been compiled and carefully analysed by the Medical Protection Society (MPS). It has used this work to inform and create workshops it now runs across the world to help medical professionals recognise and cope with burnout. Similar programmes for dentists are nearing completion.
In the vanguard of this work at MPS is Dr Suzy Jordache (pictured), Senior Medical Educator, who, along with her colleagues, is passionate about tackling a problem which she only sees getting worse unless change comes soon, particularly to the environments and circumstances in which doctors and dentists are working today.
Her focus has been on burnout, a phenomenon in its own right and not to be easily linked to, or confused with, the mental health issues of anxiety and depression. The evidence points to their being a significant difference, says Dr Jordache. And it lies in the fact that time away from the coalface can bring quick relief from the effects of burnout. It is, however, only a trained specialist who can tease out the difference and provide guidance on how to cope with either, or both.
In essence, she explains, the urgency for addressing burnout in the profession can be encapsulated in a simple equation: burnout = errors = complaints = claims.
“It’s obviously a great deal more complicated than that but we are coming at the problem from the perspective of managing risk,” she said.
As part of Scottish Dental’s drive to raise the profile of these issues, Dr Jordache will be writing in the next edition more fully on burnout, its causes, and what can be done to tackle it.
It’s OK not to be OK
A welcoming smile or a simple “how are you today?” can be the start of creating a culture of mental health awareness in a dental practice, according to Lisa-Jane Aitken, Breathing Space’s National Development Officer.
She said: “To support people’s wellbeing it’s important to create a culture where people know that it’s OK not to be OK, and for colleagues to support each other through kindness and genuine concern.
“Very often, we can get consumed in our own busy day and lose the care and compassion that we should be displaying as human beings that encourages people to talk about things.
“We can do many simple things that can really help people’s wellbeing on a day-to-day basis without doing anything radical. Practices could display mental health posters in the staff room or use mental health messages in regular staff meetings.
“It’s all about removing the stigma around mental health and supporting people.”
Words: David Cameron, Stewart McRobert, Tim Power