In this episode, Associate Professor in the Doctoral Program of Physical Therapy at Rutgers, Dr. Ellen Anderson, talks to Dr. Stephanie Weyrauch about burnout in physical therapy.
Today, Ellen talks about her dissertation on burnout, the distinction between normal stress and burnout, and how these markers of burnout fit into the anecdotal accounts of burnout seen in blogs and magazines. Why is data so limited on burnout in physical therapy? Which settings within physical therapy experience the highest rate of burnout?
Hear about the many factors impacting the number of therapists affected by burnout, how Covid-19 has affected recent graduates and students, and the causes of burnout, all on today’s episode of The Healthy, Wealthy & Smart Podcast.
- “When people work with people who are in crisis, there are a lot of demands placed on them – very different than in other kinds of work, for example.”
- There are 3 categories in burnout:
- Emotional exhaustion.
- Personal Accomplishment.
- “When we think about just being stressed out, it’s hard to know what that means because everyone’s stressors are different.”
- “If a physical therapist has high perceived stress, that’s correlated with emotional exhaustion, which is a part of burnout, but not the full definition of burnout.”
- Researchers have suggested that there’s 2 ways to look at burnout:
- The Personal Approach. Make the person resilient, and they will be able to handle any kind of environment.
- The Work Environment. Make a nurturing environment that’s conducive to good work, and supporting people who are in crisis, then you’re supporting the workers and you’ll have less burnout.
- “Younger physicians have higher rates of burnout than do older practitioners.”
- “When people in healthcare feel as though they don’t have control of the situation, or they cannot contribute to good patient care, effectiveness, and efficiencies, that the burnout rates are higher.”
- “There needs to be an understanding on how stressful and difficult it is to work with people who are at risk and people who are in crisis.”
- “We need to be thinking about ways in which physical therapists can have some participation in systems that supports everyone in that work environment.”
- “One of the things that’s very detrimental when people share thoughts and ideas, is that the first response they get is ‘we cant’ or ‘no’ without any kind of real honest investigation into the suggestion or recommendation.”
- “Breathing practices and meditation are two strategies which help people be able to manage their stress effectively. The idea is that you practice those things so that when you need it, you can use it.”
More about Stephanie Weyrauch
Dr. Stephanie Weyrauch is employed as a physical therapist at Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine Centers in Orange, Connecticut. She received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy and Master of Science in Clinical Investigation from Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Weyrauch has served as a consultant for a multi-billion dollar company to develop a workplace injury prevention program, which resulted in improved health outcomes, OSHA recordables, and decreased healthcare costs for the company’s workforce. She has served on multiple national task forces for the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and actively lobbies for healthcare policy issues at the local, state, and national levels of government.
Currently, she serves as Vice President of the American Physical Therapy Association Connecticut Chapter and is a member of the American Congress for Rehabilitation Medicine. Dr. Weyrauch is also the co-host for The Healthcare Education Transformation Podcast, which focuses on innovations in healthcare education and delivery.
Dr. Weyrauch has performed scientific research through grants from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation at world-renowned institutions including Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis. Her research examining movement patterns and outcomes in people with and without low back pain has led to numerous local, regional, and national presentations and a peer-reviewed publication in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, a top journal in rehabilitation.
More about Ellen Anderson
Ellen Zambo Anderson, PT, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Doctoral Program of Physical Therapy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey where her primary teaching responsibilities are in Therapeutic Exercise, Development Across the Lifespan and Clinical Inquiry. Dr. Anderson, a Board Certified Geriatric Clinical Specialist, earned a BS in Physical Therapy from West Virginia University, an MA in Motor Learning and Control from Columbia University and a PhD in Health Sciences from Rutgers University. She is the Assistant Director of the Rutgers Community Participatory Physical Therapy Clinic, a student-run, pro-bono clinic in Newark, NJ, and serves as the Special Olympics Global Advisor for Young Athletes.
Dr. Anderson is the co-author of the textbook, Complementary Therapies for Physical Therapy: A Clinical Decision-Making Approach and has spoken internationally on physical activity, mental health, and complementary health practices. She is also co-owner of YogiAnatomy, a company that provides continuing education for rehabilitation professions on topics related to complementary approaches for managing well-being, health and function.
Physiotherapy, Research, PT, Health, Therapy, Healthcare, Education, Training, Stress, Burnout, Wellbeing, Mental Health, Stressors, Support, Covid-19, Exhaustion, Depersonalisation, Accomplishment, Environment,
To learn more, follow Ellen and Stephanie at:
Facebook: Stephanie Sandvick Weyrauch
LinkedIn: Stephanie Weyrauch
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Read the Full Transcript:
Speaker 1 (00:07):
Welcome to the healthy, wealthy, and smart podcast. Each week we interview the best and brightest in physical therapy, wellness, and entrepreneurship. We give you cutting edge information. You need to live your best life. Healthy, wealthy, and smart. The information in this podcast is for entertainment purposes only and should not be used as personalized medical advice. And now here’s your host, Dr. Karen Litzy. Hey everybody.
Speaker 2 (00:37):
Welcome back to the podcast. I am your host, Karen Litzy and today’s episode. We have our good friend of the podcast back, Dr. Stephanie Y rock, and she is interviewing Dr. Ellen Anderson all about burnout in the physical therapy profession. I’m not going to go into Dr. Anderson’s bio because Stephanie reads that in the beginning of the podcast. We don’t need to double up on that, but what you’re about to hear, I’ll give you some highlights is they talk about the three categories of burnout and does the research definition of burnout jive with the anecdotal accounts of burnout that we see on blogs and podcasts and things like that. They also talk about the difference between stress and burnout or perceived stress and burnout. The main causes of burnout in physical therapy, how COVID is affecting burnout. And Dr. Anderson talks about some things that perhaps you can do as an individual to help with your perceived stress.
Speaker 2 (01:41):
And she hypothesizes on some things that perhaps some businesses, some physical therapy businesses can do to help their employees with stress and burnout. So thanks to doctors why rock and Anderson and everyone enjoy today’s episode. Hello everyone, and welcome to the healthy, wealthy and smart podcast. I’m your guest host today, Dr. Stephanie, why rock and, or once again, going to partner with the American physical therapy association, private practice section to discuss a topic that has been in the forefront in healthcare and that’s burnout. This is an especially relevant topic. I think as COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on, and I’ve actually been asked to write an article for PPS impact magazine on this. And so when I went to do some research on this topic, I of course found a lot of blog posts and opinion articles by physical therapists throughout the profession on this topic, but was really surprised to find that there’s really not a lot of research in physical therapy on burnout.
Speaker 2 (02:50):
And I was surprised by that because it’s so frequently discussed in our profession. So eventually my literature review led me to our guest today, Dr. Ellen Anderson. So Dr. Ellen Zombot Anderson is an associate professor in the doctoral program of physical therapy at Rutgers university in New Jersey where her primary teaching responsibilities are in therapeutic exercise development across the lifespan and clinical inquiry. Dr. Anderson is a board certified geriatric clinical specialist and earned a BS in physical therapy from West Virginia university, an ma in motor learning and control from Columbia university and a PhD in health sciences from Rutgers university. She is the assistant director of the Rutgers community participatory physical therapy clinic, which is a student run pro bono clinic in Newark, New Jersey, and serves as the special Olympics global advisor for young athletes. She’s the coauthor of the textbook complimentary therapies for physical therapy, a clinical decision-making approach, and has spoken internationally on physical activity, mental health and complimentary health practices. She’s co-owner of yoga, Yogi anatomy, a company that provides continuing education for rehabilitation professions on topics related to complimentary approaches for managing wellbeing, health, and function. So thank you so much Dr. Anderson for joining us today on our podcast. And again, I read your dissertation and I’ve, I found it really interesting that you decided to tackle burnout for your PhD dissertation. So maybe summarize your dissertation a little bit, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and how you became interested in this area of research.
Speaker 3 (04:38):
Okay, great. Yes. It’s a pleasure to be with you, Stephanie. Thank you very much. Initially I became very interested in complimentary therapies and through the work that I do with my colleague, Judy Deutsche, where we published a textbook in that area, I was interested in the application, the safety and the efficacy of complimentary therapies for patient populations. And that got me to realize, or helped me realize that there is a fair amount of data that suggests these complementary therapies can be useful for our patients, particularly in the areas of mood reduction of stress, as well as reduction of pain. And so that got me thinking about using approaches such as Reiki or yoga, meditation, breathing practices for self care as well as patient care from that point. However it was determined that we really didn’t know what stress was in physical therapists or what burnout is in physical therapist, because as you’ve identified, a lot of people are talking about it, but there hasn’t been a lot of research in that area.
Speaker 3 (05:57):
And so I started to embark on trying to get a handle on what is the stress and burnout in physical therapists. My focus took me to burn out. And the reason for that is because burnout was defined by fruit and burger back in 1975. And it was based on his observations in working with healthcare providers. And what he observed is that when people work with people who are in crisis, there are a lot of demands placed on them, very different than in other kinds of work, for example. And he began to categorize some behaviors that he saw in people who were becoming more and more stressed. And then it was Nass latch who developed the mass latch burnout inventory. And so what mass latch did was kind of support the observations of fruit and Berg by saying there are three categories that we need to look at in this thing called burnout, that there’s emotional exhaustion, there’s depersonalization and there’s personal accomplishment.
Speaker 3 (07:16):
And so when we think about just being stressed out, it’s hard to know what that means because everyone’s stressors are different. So what stresses you out is different than what stresses me out, you know, when you kind of come to your work with a certain constitution about what keeps you even keel and what are your triggers? The burnout goes a little bit further because it’s not just emotional responses. And in this case, emotional exhaustion is that sort of physical, mental exhaustion that many people might be feeling. That’s just one part of burnout. So the next part of burnout is this deep personalization. And what that means is that you kind of begin to separate yourself out from your patients. And there’s this phenomenon of, of I’m sick of thinking that the patient is to blame for their problems. You know, so they brought it on themselves and some psychologists and researchers suggest that perhaps this deep personalization is really kind of a protective mechanism because you’re dealing with people in crisis all the time. And then you have the personal accomplishment and that’s where you feel like your, a rat in a, in a maze or in a wheel. And you just keep going round and around and you ask yourself, finally, what am I doing this for? Am I really making a difference? So the, the, the curiosity for me is, was understanding the D the difference between just job stress and burnout, and that physical therapist in fact, would fall into a category of people working with people who are in crisis most of the time.
Speaker 2 (09:28):
I think that that’s really interesting that, you know, we have a defined a true research definition of burnout. I’m wondering what your opinion is on how this definition fits with these anecdotal accounts of burnout that we’re seeing in some of these blog posts that people post or that TA magazine has been posting about regularly.
Speaker 3 (09:50):
It doesn’t really jive a very well, to be honest with you. So when, when I see comments about burnout, I just say to myself, well, people are stressed out and, and we should honor and respect the fact that people are very stressed out. That burnout technically from a research standpoint has a different definition. And what I found through my research is I did study and survey physical therapists, both using the mass latch burnout inventory, which has the three part, but I also included the perceived stress scale. And so the perceived stress scale, I think, is a very valuable tool because as I mentioned, previously, stressors for you are different than stressors for me. And the perceived stress scale has been used in thousands of studies. And it’s looked to be sort of a gold standard if you will, to get a finger on the pulse of people’s stress, because it is about perception of your stress.
Speaker 3 (11:04):
And, and so what I found in my, in my dissertation was that all, although physical therapist had better perceived stress scores than the national sample that I compared it to, there was a relationship between a high perceived stress score and burnout especially in the category of the emotional exhaustion piece. And so what we, what we saw was that if therapist had high emotional exhaustion, they were seven, seven times more likely to actually have burnout. So let me tell you what burnout is. According to those three parts is if you do the burnout scale, and you’re very high where you’re high in emotional exhaustion and you’re high in deep personalization, and then you have low professional accomplishment, you fall into the category of burnout. And so what I found was that 29% of PTs are high in emotional exhaustion, and that is consistent with what people are talking about in the blogs related to being stressed.
Speaker 3 (12:27):
Okay. The other thing that I want to know is that in a lot of studies that are being done with physicians and nurses with burnout, sometimes the headline is 50% of physicians have burnout. And what they did was that they used the burnout scale, but they focus their, their headline on the fact that it was emotional exhaustion. And so there was recently a systematic review that looked at just that is the reporting of burnout and how it’s a little bit of a mixed bag now where it traditionally had been the high score in exhaustion depersonalization on a low score in professional accomplishment. But now people are reporting even just on the emotional exhaustion. So when we think about PTs and what I found was that 29% had emotional exhaustion and then 12% had actual burnout. And so that’s, that’s really a concern because we’re talking that we have a vulnerable PT workforce out there when it comes to stress and when it comes to burnout.
Speaker 2 (13:56):
So if somebody has, if a physical therapist has high perceived stress, that’s correlated with this emotional exhaustion, which is a part of burnout, but not the full definition of burnout.
Speaker 3 (14:09):
You got it, it’s perfectly stated.
Speaker 2 (14:11):
So do you think that we, that our research needs to maybe reassess the definition of burnout? Or do you think that people, that we just need to get the word out there about what burnout actually is and educate people that, you know, you’re not quite burned out yet? You’re, you’re emotionally exhausted. Here are the steps that you can take to decrease this high emotional exhaustion to prevent burnout, or what, what’s your kind of opinion on that?
Speaker 3 (14:39):
Well, it would be a wonderful thing if it was so simple. But the reason why it’s not simple is because people have looked at well, what comes first is an emotional exhaustion, and that leads to depersonalization followed by lower professional accomplishment. And the answer is not clear. So there are different models that have been proposed and tested to show that it can be multi-directional. And so it’s not easy to say that if we manage stress, as we know stress, the perceived stress that we will have made a dramatic effect on burnout, because if depersonalization is what drives emotional exhaustion or low self-efficacy kind of low personal accomplishment, low self-esteem that type of thing in your workplace, if that drives burnout, then managing stress may not have as dramatic effect on those areas. So I, I think it’s, I think it is behooves us to think about the complexities of stress and that mirrors the complexities of burnout.
Speaker 3 (16:04):
But I think that the first step is to be thinking about what are those stressors in the workplace because researchers have suggested that there’s two ways to look at burnout, and that is the personal approach, so that you’re more resilient to that stress, to that emotional exhaustion. And then the other area of focus should be on the work environment and the, the experiences that a person has at work. So we see that there’s both sort of schools of thought that you, you make a person resilient and they will be able to handle any kind of environment. And then the, and then the counter is that if you make a nurturing, caring environment, that’s conducive to good work and supporting people who are in crisis, then by that you were supporting the workers and you’ll have less burnout.
Speaker 2 (17:14):
I think that those are some very interesting points. You know, this is obviously a very popular topic in our profession. Why do you think there’s then we had, we’ve talked about that. There’s not a lot of data for this. And just so our listeners know, like there’s maybe a few studies, including Al including Dr. Anderson’s recent dissertation, which was published in 2014, there’s a couple of articles that have been published since then, but most of the research has been, was done in like the eighties and the nineties. So it’s like over 20 years old. Right. So why do you think that data regarding burnout is so limited in our profession? And is there really any research going on in this area right now in our profession today?
Speaker 3 (18:00):
Yeah, I I’ve thought about that quite a bit, and I’m not sure why there hasn’t been much, much research in the area. You can imagine that when I was working on my dissertation, I was shocked that there wasn’t anything that was substantial. Everything was very old, as you had mentioned. And it was done in very discrete populations. So one was in rehab inpatient facilities in Massachusetts. Another wasn’t a head injury unit in the Pacific Northwest. So very specific, nothing quite as broad as a national sample. Why, I don’t know. I, in general, though, the efforts in looking at burnout has been focused on nursing and in physicians and MDs. And the only thing that I could come up with is there’s a difference in the way we think and do things if you’re medicine versus when you’re rehabilitation. And I think that in comparing some of my findings in, especially in the areas of deep personalization and personal accomplishment, is that PTs typically were scoring much lower than nurses and physicians in those two categories.
Speaker 3 (19:24):
And I speculate that perhaps it’s because of the kind of relationships that we have with our patients, that because we spend more time with our patients, we get to know our patients, families, and a lot of instances that it’s very hard for us to depersonalize when you really spend a lot of time with someone. And that may also contribute to the fact that PTs score better than people in medicine, in the area of personal accomplishment, because although things may be crazy in your, in your practice setting, the fact that you can see a difference in the individual clients and patients that you see may in fact be reinforcing for that personal accomplishment.
Speaker 2 (20:16):
So is your belief then based off of what you found in your research, that kind of the difference between say physical therapists and nurses and physicians, which are more studied than what our profession is that we have better really, you know, longer lasting relationships with our patients and get because of that, we get a lot more accomplishment. Whereas physicians and nurses are more short term relationships with their patients. And so kind of those better scores and deep personalization and in personal accomplishment kind of help us save us from being burnt out. Like maybe our physician and nursing colleagues is that a,
Speaker 3 (20:57):
That is my hypothesis, but I haven’t tested it. But that in looking at some of the publications in physicians of, of all different practice settings they are scoring typically higher, interestingly, except for those in mental health fields. So that may be a situation, two fold. Number one, is that a person working in mental health may actually have more skills to deal with their own stress and burdens. But they also may be spending more time with their patients because of the kind of therapeutic relationship that would occur in, in mental health.
Speaker 2 (21:44):
I think that your hypothesis is a very logical one, because if you think about, so if we, if we look at those studies from 20 years ago, obviously our profession has changed a lot. I mean, healthcare in general is just always changing. So, you know, right now student loan is at an all student loan debt is at an all time high wages for physical therapists are basically the same as what they were in the nineties. And the two thousands, we continue to experience decreases in payment. We have rising productivity expectations in order to maintain that bottom line. And so a lot of these factors are kind of cutting into our ability to form these relationships, so to maintain those good scores and depersonalization, and to have that personal accomplishment. But I’m interested in potentially knowing your opinion on how you think these factors have impacted the number of physical therapists affected by burnout.
Speaker 3 (22:43):
Yeah, I think that it has one of the, one of the findings that I observed in my research and that others have observed in medical populations is that younger therapists, younger physicians have higher rates of burnout than do older practitioners. And it’s speculated that it’s because the more seasoned therapist or physician has learned how to manage, right. They’ve learned how to manage sort of the, the game, if you will. They’ve also learned strategies for self preservation. So that gets us into that twofold area again, right. The personal, you know, wellbeing, and then the institution as something separate, I think it be worth it to take a look now, even compared to five years ago, with all the things that you’ve described, they were occurring five years ago when I did my dissertation, but then along comes higher expectations for productivity.
Speaker 3 (24:01):
And now, you know, let’s throw in a worldwide pandemic onto that. Right. And so I think that what we’ve, what we’ll, what we will see is that institutional changes that people may not have been able to keep up with because it’s happened so rapidly over time, or it’s sorry, that’s weird. It’s happened so rapidly within a short period of time that I think it would be worth looking into what changes have occurred in perceived stress or burnout. Within the past couple of years in physical therapy, because I would predict that those numbers would be greater than they were back in 2014.
Speaker 2 (24:51):
Well, I mean, that leads me beautifully to my next question is how do you think COVID-19 has contributed to burnout in physical therapy amongst physical therapists?
Speaker 3 (25:01):
Right. So when, so, although I didn’t ask the question in my survey about what’s causing you to be burned out or, you know, identify things that are stressors in your life. What I know, what I know from the literature is that when people in healthcare feel as though they don’t have control of the situation, or they cannot contribute to good patient care effectiveness and efficiencies that the burnout rates are higher. So there is something to be said about this time in COVID where in our physical therapy world, we went from non essential to essential. We went from, you know, not doing rehab to doing nursing care. I colleagues of mine who were sent to the Mork colleagues of mine who worked security desks because in order for them to keep their job, they needed to say I would do assigned duties. So if we know that having little say about your work environment, little, say about how much time you spend with patients or what your responsibilities are, or what responsibilities you can delegate to other people, we know that that’s contributing to burnout then hello, because that’s exactly what happened to the physical therapy profession during COVID.
Speaker 2 (26:39):
So you teach at Rutgers what types of what types of instances of burnout or stress have you experienced amongst your students who are now like fresh into our profession and the students that are maybe still in PT school? How have they reacted to this COVID-19 pandemic in relationship to burnout or perceived stress?
Speaker 3 (27:04):
Right. So I think that we, we probably have cooked two cohort of students, the ones that graduated in 2020, who did a big sigh of relief because, because of in our program, the amount of weeks and hours they had got in for clinical experiences was complete by the time that they started to be pulled out of their clinical rotations. So all of our students were able to reach a level of competency and entry level so that everyone graduated in 2020. So they were like, just so relieved the group that is scheduled to graduate in 2021 have been dealing with the stresses, the traumas that come with changing responsibilities and different expectations because of COVID. But I think that by and large, they’ve had excellent clinical instructors, so kudos to the physical therapy profession and that they have been able to take the challenges in stride in part, because of the support from the institutions and their clinical instructors.
Speaker 3 (28:30):
I think that the students that are engaged in academic work, their stressors come from the fact that they know that they are in a program that’s delivering information very different than the previous year and their hands-on experience has been truncated. And, and that, despite the efforts of the faculty to give them all the experiences that they normally would have in person that we are limited by the COVID restrictions of our university. So what we’ve, what we’ve attempted to do is to speak about the virtues of tele-health. We have some testing opportunities for students to engage in tele-health and improve their skills with communication and observation. Also giving directions watching movement from like you and I are right now from across the screen. And I do think that that is something that many therapists are learning. There’s many courses and, and many workshops that you can do for best practices in doing telemedicine. So I think some of our students will be better equipped coming out because they have had some work in that area.
Speaker 2 (30:09):
So we’ve talked a lot about some of the different stressors that potentially could lead to burnout, but do you think are the main causes of burnout amongst physical therapists?
Speaker 3 (30:19):
Yeah, I think number one, I think autonomy is, and, you know, we got out from under the physician prescription. But if you think about autonomy from many practices in which the productivity demands is so high that you feel as though you’ve lost some sense of autonomy, and that comes from not being able to perhaps schedule your patients based on their needs. So, you know, if 30 minutes session versus 45 versus an hour so that contributes to a decrease in, in autonomy, which we know is that, which is a stressor when it comes to burnout. The other thing that is a big factor is redundancy. And it can be primarily in documentation where, you know, we’ve all experienced that you fill out one form, then you fill out another, then you have to do this chart and so on and so forth.
Speaker 3 (31:20):
You have this information in four or five different places, and that contributes to burnout because what happens is you feel as though you’ve imparted your professional opinion and you’ve made your professional observations, and that should be good enough. And you know what, Stephanie, it probably should be good enough. The fact that we have to, you know, regurgitate it in three different ways for different purposes is, you know, sucking the life out of people. All right. So the other thing that happens is that acknowledgement of credentials and continuing education and bettering yourself when that is not honored and respected by an employer or by a setting that contributes to burnout. And so in the physician world, they talk about having their board certifications. And we could also think about that in physical therapy as well. So even if you’ve got staff that have qualified or are now OCS is, or sports, clinical specialists is they need time to maintain that expertise.
Speaker 3 (32:35):
They need to do continuing education. They need to see the right patient caseload. They need time to do some outcome measures so that they can maintain that level, that high level of expertise, and that needs to be respected and time needs to be given to those professionals. Otherwise you can see an erosion of professional accomplishment. So it, it’s not from my, my work, but from the readings that I’ve done in other professions, you know, predominantly medicine and nursing, these are the institutional things that contribute to burnout. And I can see that how that can they can have a big role in physical therapy as well.
Speaker 2 (33:23):
So I recently did a very unreliable and bias social media study pool on this topic asking you know, what, which physical therapy setting is burnout most prevalent. And I had 147, a sample size of 147 on, and I was kind of surprised by the results, but here were the results. 48% said private practice, 23% said, hospitals, 24% said skilled nursing facilities, and 5% said home health agencies. Do you think based on kind of what your research showed and based off of what you’ve read and potentially what your alumni have said, do you think that there is a higher rate of burnout amongst physical therapists in certain settings? And if so, what settings do you hypothesize put people most at risk for burnout and how can leaders within those settings decrease the rate of burnout amongst their employees?
Speaker 3 (34:25):
Okay. So I don’t have to hypothesize because I actually have the data that was not part of my dissertation. So I will share that with you now. All right. So the winner in the burnout rate is skilled nursing facilities at 24%. Okay. followed by home a home care at 14% closely followed by the hospital outpatient department at 13% and private outpatient at 12%. So 12, 13, 14%, you know, sort of in the ballpark, but the standard, our skilled nursing facilities. And in, in a statistical analysis that I even still don’t remember or can explain the one that stands out is truly statistically significant difference are those people who practice in skilled nursing facilities. And I mean, I would have to say that that number is probably in a higher, I mean, look what our colleagues in skilled nursing facilities had to deal with with COVID.
Speaker 3 (35:39):
You know, people were not being able to have visitation by family members, right. Trainings for going home sometimes were done via zoom sometimes in person for maybe five minutes. But think about that, think about all of the subacute rehab, people who didn’t have family support when they’re, you know, they’re following surgery. They’ve never been in that kind of situation before, and they had to do that totally alone. And the demands that were placed on the rehabilitation staff and the nursing staff to keep moving forward with subacute care, nevermind all of those residents in long-term care that needed attention. So it, it back several years ago, it was still ranking pretty high as a stressful burnout written place to be long-term care. And I think it’s still gonna sort of be at that level if not higher, what can they do?
Speaker 3 (36:50):
I still, I still have to go back to having compassionate supervisory support that there needs to be an understanding on how stressful and difficult it is to work with people who are at risk and people who are in crisis. And with that compassionate understanding supervisor comes a system that optimizes the physical therapist clinical decision-making professional opinion and allows therapists to continue to impact people’s lives as positively as we do and not be burdened or, you know block or have a blockade set up through unreasonable demands and expectations. I think that the other the other idea that I didn’t speak about earlier also is this sense of fairness and justice, and that comes from also the supervisor and, and the institution, and that it appears that when there’s good transparency by knowing what everyone’s case load is by knowing what the expectations are and that everyone is contributing to a a great unit or a great facility and that there’s rewards and acknowledgements.
Speaker 3 (38:37):
And sometimes it doesn’t have to be an actual bonus or reward. Those are nice, but sometimes it’s just the acknowledgement. And at the same time that there shouldn’t be any kind of punitive action on people who are not able to accomplish the same benchmarks. So I’ll give you an example of something that happens in medicine quite a bit is that physicians who work in clinics are, have their appointments, you know, done by a scheduler, and they will have an income based on bonus based on how many people that they see. But what happens is when people cancel, they don’t see anyone and there’s no one there to fill in that spot. So physicians are, who are in that situation, feel like I’m not pulling my weight, but it’s no fault of my own. And now I’m also being penalized because I don’t have that slots filled. So I can’t generate a ticket if you will, in order for a charge to go in, and yet it’s by no fault of their own. And so we need to be thinking about ways in which physical therapists can have some participation in systems that supports everyone in that work environment.
Speaker 2 (40:17):
Do you have any advice on any of those systems or any thoughts behind developing those systems?
Speaker 3 (40:24):
I don’t actually, I think that those are for, for different minds than mine right now. And I bet that there’s plenty of people in the private practice section who have looked into different types of systems that include participatory type management strategies.
Speaker 2 (40:48):
I think you’re probably correct on that statement, Dr. Anderson and, you know, most physical therapy facilities, including private practice, we’re moving towards using data to make decisions. So how, what advice would you give to private practice owners? How can they use data to measure burnout amongst their employees?
Speaker 3 (41:09):
Yeah, I mean, I think, I think one of the the easiest tools to use is actually the perceived stress scale. It’s by Cohen, it’s free, you know, there’s plenty of places where you can find it online and know how to score it. And one of the reasons why I, this is because I’ve done the perceived stress scale with groups of therapists who take continuing education courses with my partner and me and they are often surprised at what their score is. So some who thought they would score really high on this perceived stress scale, realize that no, they really didn’t. And those who thought, you know, they were getting along pretty okay. When they went through those questions, they’re like, Oh, I didn’t think I would score that high. And so it, it leads to a conversation about that personal side, right? So what are you think that your stress, but your perceived stress scale kind of comes out a little bit low.
Speaker 3 (42:22):
So what are you doing in your life? How do you approach your day? What are the things that you do to manage your health and wellbeing? And I think that facilities that make that part of the culture will do really well with being able to use some of that information from the perceived stress scale, not where they’re collecting the data, but they’re increasing the awareness of their employees and the people that work together. And it opens up the opportunity to have a conversation about the stressors at work, the stressors at home, and how people can support each other and how people are coping with their stressors.
Speaker 2 (43:09):
What advice or solutions do you have for private practice owners or any, or organizational leadership on managing burnout amongst their employees once they kind of figure out some of the data points that you mentioned previously?
Speaker 3 (43:23):
Yeah, I, I think that one of the things that has come out in some of the literature is the fact that when you’re working with highly intelligent people. And so remember that burnout came from people who were working in healthcare, right? They, they are licensed healthcare providers. They often have advanced degrees. They often have specialties. One of the keys is to give people a voice regularly. And then what is also been found is that when people are given a voice and suggestions are made for changing in the environment or something that could help greater efficiency, that the response from the administration is that I will look into that and then come back with information to either support that idea or to say at this time, and in this situation, that idea won’t work. And here are the reasons why, but one of the things that’s very detrimental is when people share thoughts and ideas, is that the first response they get is we can’t, or no, without any kind of real honest investigation into the suggestion or recommendation. And so I think that that’s a very sound place to start and trying to have a clinic or a facility that is going to be resilient against all of these forces that are going on in healthcare and have a happy and healthier staff.
Speaker 2 (45:23):
What about employees? What type of advice do you have for employees who are maybe close to, or are experiencing burnout?
Speaker 3 (45:32):
Yeah. institutional change takes a very long time, and sometimes it can be really frustrating, particularly if you don’t have those empathic caring supervisors who are going to sort of beat the drum for you. And so you have the chance to turn to yourself. And what we know from some work site studies that have focused on healthcare providers is that breathing practices and meditation are two strategies, which help people be able to manage their stress effectively. And the idea is that you practice those things so that when you need it, you can use it. So, you know, you could always think, well, like when I get really anxious or whatever, I just stop and I take some deep breaths. Oh, okay. That’s great. But when do you, do you always have an opportunity to like, just stop, pause and like take your deep breaths? No, you, you have to anticipate that this is happening and you have to be really good at pulling that up very quickly. And that comes from a regular practice. And I think that in general, we know those practices are really good for managing the balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. We know that those practices help increase heart rate variability, decreased blood pressure, decreased heart rate. And so it’s not, those are strategies that are not just great for managing stress, but they’re also great for managing your overall health.
Speaker 2 (47:27):
Well, Dr. Anderson, this been a great conversation. I know that I have learned a lot and I’m really looking forward to using some of this information to write my article. One last question that I want to ask you, that we ask everybody on this podcast is knowing where you are now in your life and in your career. What advice would you give to your younger self?
Speaker 3 (47:53):
Huh. I think, I think to my younger self, well, Hmm. Okay. There’s two, there’s two sides to this sword. One is that if I wanted to be more accomplished, I would say in my career I would have focused earlier on, on a line of inquiry or a line of research. However, not having done that. I can’t say that I have a lot of regrets and I have dabbled in a lot of things so that you, you saw from my bio, that I have a lot of different interests and I don’t do anything with a half effort. So, you know, a lot of research went into the book. A lot of research went into my being the advisor for young athletes for special Olympics. You know, there’s, there’s, I haven’t really ever fallen into anything. I feel as though I’ve put a lot of effort into that and, and all of those parts of who I am. I enjoy immensely and I wouldn’t want to give anything up. So my advice is if I had a clear career trajectory, I should have focused more on one area. But I don’t know if that was really me to begin with.
Speaker 2 (49:34):
Yeah, don’t we all want to have one area that we want to focus on and have a very clear trajectory. I think of 2020 has taught me anything. It is, that is not something that’s going to happen most of the time. Well, I want to thank you so much, Dr. Anderson for joining us today on the podcast, and thank you so much for your time. Thank you to our, thank you to our listeners for listening to another episode of healthy, wealthy, and smart, and hopefully you will stay healthy, wealthy, and smart.
Speaker 1 (50:10):
Thank you for listening. And please subscribe to the podcast at podcast dot healthy, wealthy, smart.com. And don’t forget to follow us on social media.