Are you lacking motivation, irritable, or fatigued? Do you have difficulty sleeping, experiencing memory loss, or feeling nervous and anxious? You are not making it up, these are some of the symptoms associated with burnout. According to the Mayo Clinic “job burnout is a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
I have had the opportunity to work alongside many great physical therapists during my career. Physical therapists are highly dedicated and compassionate professionals; they are knowledgeable and lifelong learners. Most are driven and want to see their patients succeed. The job is both physically and emotionally demanding, and often there is an emphasis on productivity and there pressure of the never ending Medical Necessity Documentation. Add the stress and burden of college debt; it is easy to see why some physical therapists burnout.
How do I stay passionate after all these years?
I focus on the things I enjoy most about my job which includes being positive and having fun interactions with my co-workers, colleagues, and patients. I try to make my work environment a positive nurturing space, I want everyone in the clinic to feel like they are being welcomed into “my home”.
I try to be efficient with documenting to reduce working during personal time. I strive for “game time documentation”. Which means I challenge myself to have each patient's note completed (or mostly completed) before they leave the clinic. During the mid-day break, I finish morning notes leaving an empty documentation queue after lunch. To do this, I review with each patient their current status and function and ask them how they have changed since the evaluation. The activities performed will be based on the identified functional limitations. In the assessment, I document the patient's performance with the functional activity completed during the session and make note of gains and/or barriers toward goals. In the plan I indicate what I will implement next to progress the patient toward their prior function.
I find that less experienced therapists have difficulty when their patient is not progressing. They often question themselves and doubt their ability. To combat this, improve your ability to accurately diagnosis by pairing up with a strong clinical mentor and or participating in quality continuing education and fellowship programs.
What can you do if you continue to feel dissatisfaction in your job? Remember being a physical therapist is a highly rewarding career with so many different opportunities. Consider becoming a traveling physical therapist. Being a traveling physical therapist offers high salaries and an opportunity to experience multiple patient populations, clinical settings, management styles, and treatment philosophies. Travelling allows you to move on if you are unhappy with the job or location; conversely if you find you like the location many times you can extend the experience.