From doctors to nurses to PTs and athletic trainers, burnout is all too common among medical professionals. The combination of long hours, weekends, and a lack of personal time can lead to diminished interest among even the most dedicated clinicians.
For athletic trainers (ACTs), it doesn’t help that long games, impromptu practices, and surprise requests from athletes make it even more difficult to schedule downtime: 32 percent of collegiate athletic trainers experience some degree of burnout, and 50 percent of those work at Division 1 schools.
While the athletic trainer’s job is inherently hectic, there are ways to refresh, recharge, and avoid burnout. Here are nine tips that will help overworked athletic trainers stay refreshed at work and home.
1. Keep an eye out for symptoms.
How can you tell whether you’re just tired or truly burned out? Common symptoms include stress, anxiety, physical and emotional exhaustion, and most of all, apathy. Even if you’re devoted to your athletes, burnout will leave you struggling to care. Some HR professionals even use the Athletic Training Burnout Inventory to make a precise assessment.
2. Understand why you’re burned out.
According to the Association for Psychological Science, burnout comes in three forms. “Overload” burnout is closely related to exhaustion. Burnout from a lack of professional development coincides with avoidance, depersonalization, and cynicism. Finally, motivational burnout is seen in people who simply are too stressed to even try to tackle their goals. By recognizing why you’re burned out, you can more effectively address the problem.
3. Keep up with your own training.
A lack of physical activity is a common cause for burnout. An ACT’s job is physically demanding in and of itself, but are you keeping up with your own training or exercise regimen? The feelings of wellness and satisfaction that follow a hard workout can’t be beat; regular exercise is imperative for staying motivated and focused.
4. Eat well and hydrate.
You probably lecture your athletes about proper nutrition and hydration. Are you following your own advice? Like regular exercise, nutrition and hydration are key to staying at the top of your game, both mentally and physically.
5. Plan daily downtime.
Even if you don’t feel like you have time to spare, it’s essential that you make time for yourself. If at all possible, schedule brief breaks between busy periods in your day. If you can’t, make downtime a daily ritual before and after work. Avoid phones, computers, and other modes of communication, and give yourself some space to breathe.
6. Seek help from other athletic trainers.
You spend all day treating other people’s injuries, but how are you holding up? Most ACTs are athletes themselves, and they’ve got their share of aches and pains. Massage therapists and PTs understand the importance of their own medicine, and you shouldn’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with a colleague if you’re in pain.
7. Focus on patient care.
Depersonalization is another common reason for burnout, and it tends to occur among overburdened ACTs who can’t give each athlete the attention they need. If this is a problem for you — and if you’re struggling to stay focused on quality patient care — talk to your employer about your schedule. The last thing any athletic department wants is for its athletes’ injuries to take longer to heal.
8. Communicate with family and friends.
Work stress is far more manageable with a supportive family and close circle of friends. As you approach your busiest times of the year, make sure you talk to your loved ones about your stressful schedule. Instead of becoming frustrated with your frequent absences, they’ll likely pitch in to help with your responsibilities outside of work.
9. Check in with your employer.
If all else fails, you’ll need to address the root cause of your burnout and talk to your employer. Most ACTs have hectic times of the year, but if your schedule is consistently unmanageable, you’ll need to make a change. If you’re a hard working go-getter like most ACTs, your boss may not even know you’re struggling!
Ultimately, a frank discussion with your employer might even be an impetus for a department-wide change. Hiring more trainers, purchasing better equipment, or even expanding your facility — these changes start with dedicated ACTs.