July 11, 2020

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Gratitude Can Reduce Caregiver Burnout

By Bruce A. Bartoo, CFRE, Chief Philanthropy Officer, Senior Vice President, Philanthropy

Helping to prevent the complicated issue of burnout by caregivers can be as simple as small gestures of gratitude, and MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital in Leonardtown is helping to share that information with the public.

When a person chooses to show gratitude after an exceptional care experience, that person serves as a direct example of the definition of philanthropy, or “love of humankind.” An expression of gratitude can be shown in many ways, for instance, by giving a verbal “thank you” to a nurse, therapist, physician, or other caregiver; through a philanthropic gift; or via a simple written thank-you note. By expressing gratitude, a person can often positively impact a caregiver’s day, which helps deliver a great experience to other patients as well.

Many people don’t realize the greater impact that simple acts of gratitude can have, and how gratitude matters – to those who express it and those who receive those expressions.

Why Caregivers Face Burnout

As is the case for many professionals, caregivers face challenges in their work environments. Not only are they serving people at an often-hectic pace, but providing positive experiences in the midst of offering the best health care can be stressful at times. Also, technology is quickly changing the nature of the health care workplace, enhancing quality and safety, but also challenging the interpersonal relationships that are such a key part of care experiences.

Because of these and other challenges, caregivers often report feelings of frustration and less fulfillment from their work. In fact, according to a recent physician lifestyle report by MedScape, a staggering 46 percent of doctors reported that they felt the negative effects of burnout.

Common symptoms of burnout include:

  • Appetite changes
  • Depression, or feelings of sadness and loss of interest in normal activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep

As burnout often impacts caregivers’ well-being, studies show that it can lead to decreased work efficiency, dissatisfaction with work, negative attitudes, emotional exhaustion, and reduced patient satisfaction, along with other effects.

It might be hard for patients to imagine that the caregiver to whom they are grateful is experiencing signs of burnout. After all, they may have made a significantly positive impact on the patient’s health, healing, and recovery. And yet, despite all that positive interaction, they might actually be struggling with burnout.

One possible way patients can help to combat caregiver burnout is by doing something that many patients and families naturally want to do: expressing gratitude during or after a positive care experience.

How Expressing Gratitude Helps Caregivers

Countless doctors, nurses, and therapists over the years have indicated that receiving a heartfelt “thank you” brightened their day. When thanking care providers, patients put a smile on their faces, giving greater meaning to their work, and positively impacting them. Recognition serves as inspiration. Importantly, an expression of gratitude often serves as a reminder to caregivers of why they chose the healthcare profession: to serve others.

Gratitude matters, and its effects create lasting impact on the patients and the care team. Many patients have shared that expressing gratitude helped them during their healing process.

For more information and one-click access to a full list of resources available at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, visit its Leader member page.

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