The burnout syndrome is an important psychosocial problem produced in work environments in which the person perceives great stress and a lack of adequate support and resources. It is especially prevalent in healthcare professions who are on the front line of patient care.
Between his features stand out emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and low personal fulfillment. It causes emotional distancing and a lesser response to the needs of the patient. All of it decreases the effectiveness of applied treatments.
In healthcare professionals, this process has been related to a increased alcohol consumption and lower job satisfaction, increasing the intention to quit your job or retire early.
Obviously, all of this leads to a decreased productivity, which affects communication and patient satisfaction, in addition to increasing medical errors.
The higher the level of studies, the more tired
According to a new study carried out by researchers in the area of Physiotherapy and the SALBIS research group from the University of León, the group of Spanish physiotherapists suffers significantly from this syndrome. The partial results have been published in the Personalized Medicine Journal.
In this study it is revealed that more than 70% of physiotherapists suffer from emotional fatigue. Furthermore, more than 85% suffer from depersonalization and more than 80% have a poor level of personal satisfaction at work. In particular, those who are dedicated to the private sphere experience this syndrome even more.
However, the variable that most influenced the worsening was the level of education of the professionals. In other words, the higher the level of studies (postgraduate, master or doctorate), the more emotional fatigue was perceived. This could be due to having to combine studies and work.
In addition, a high professional qualification coupled with the inability to apply the knowledge obtained (due to job limitations or lack of time) could lead physiotherapists to boredom. All this would cause dissatisfaction with the company, one of the main sources of burnout syndrome.
How does it affect patients?
Empathy is one of the emotions that mobilize the desire to help others. It is necessary to build satisfactory relationships in health contexts.
However, the levels of emotional fatigue and depersonalization that this syndrome entails in physiotherapists cause difficulty in understanding the patient’s emotions. It generates an emotional distance between the two.
On the other hand, this situation also generates stress and personal anguish, which conditions the professional to make quick decisions no time for reflection. This causes wrong therapeutic actions.
Finally, low personal fulfillment implies in the professional a negative view of himself. This has consequences for both the intrinsic tasks of physiotherapists and their relationship with patients.
Self-confidence is a prerequisite or an important conditioner to build trust in the patient. A health professional who does not have such quality could have difficulties to generate an adequate connection.
Role of scientific knowledge in this situation
One of the actions that helps reduce the risk of suffering from this syndrome is to practice treatments based on scientific evidence. Patients perceive these methods as effective and advantageous and, at the same time, the healthcare provider experiences more with them. feeling of mastery and self-efficacy.
This could happen because, as shown by various studies, physicians with higher levels of stress due to uncertainty have a higher risk of burning. But with the increase in actions and care based on evidence, the professional decreases the feeling of uncertainty associated with much of health treatments.
On the other hand, the attitude of healthcare professionals towards evidence-based practice also improves the bond with the patient. They perceive that physiotherapists are open to exploring new treatments, dialogue and change. These professionals would avoid making judgments in the face of criticism of their actions and would try to integrate new opinions.
All these factors have been recognized as important conditioning factors that facilitate the therapeutic relationship, since the professionals who reach agreements on the treatment with their patients are the ones who put into practice a greater number of evidence-based treatments.
Therefore, a greater attitude towards evidence-based practice not only improves personal satisfaction, but also leads to better therapeutic relationships.
In short, studies show that Spanish physiotherapists suffer a high level of professional burnout. This phenomenon reduces their ability to empathize with their patients and makes it difficult to establish a quality therapeutic relationship.
To avoid all this, a positive attitude towards treatments based on scientific knowledge and the implementation of actions based on evidence could diminish it and improve the relationships between physiotherapists and their patients.