Interview with Burnt Out to Lit Up

by Premier Medical Staffing Services on June 9, 2020 in Career Development


Erika and Mike del Pozo, Burnt Out to Lit Up podcasters & bloggers at Joy Energy Time

In a recent blog post, Premier Medical Staffing Services examined what healthcare worker burnout is and how it can be treated/prevented. To that end, we are honored present our interview with Erika and Mike del Pozo, hosts of the Burnt Out to Lit Up podcast and owners of the Joy Energy Time blog.  

As experienced healthcare professionals, Erika and Mike have seen firsthand the devastating consequences that healthcare worker burnout can have on clinicians, patients and healthcare facilities. Keep reading to learn more about this occupational phenomenon and how Erika and Mike are changing the way healthcare workers address their stress and burnout.

1. What are your backgrounds and education within the healthcare field?

I (Erika) am an occupational therapist and my husband, Mike, is a physical therapist. We met while we were both in grad school in South Florida. I have a Master’s in Occupational Therapy (MOT), and Mike has his Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT).

2. What initially attracted both of you to a career in healthcare?

We both fell in love with the idea of having an exciting career where you get to help others. I was fascinated by the creativity of the occupational therapy field, and I loved that you were up on your feet working with patients all day. Mike has a background in kinesiology, and he loves the body. This drew him to the physical therapy field.

3. When did you first notice or experience healthcare worker burnout?

We both experienced healthcare worker burnout in our first jobs out of school. The extremely long hours, on top of cumbersome documentation and high expectations, were a rude awakening for us. Thankfully, my job at the time listened and supported me when I was going through that tough time. I transitioned to another job when we moved, and I experienced burnout ten-fold while working in a corrosive or “toxic” environment.

4. What are some of the classic signs and symptoms that a clinician may be dealing with healthcare worker burnout?

The big three components of healthcare worker burnout are exhaustion, cynicism (or depersonalization) and a decreased sense of personal accomplishment. The exhaustion typically hits first and hard and is a response to chronic work stressors. The demands are high, and you do not have the resources to replenish them. You feel drained and used up. You then begin to detach and may notice you’ve developed negative feelings about your patients or the profession as a whole. You dread going into work. Lastly, you begin to feel a sense of hopelessness and ineffectiveness, which may ultimately lead to depression.

The big three components of healthcare worker burnout are exhaustion, cynicism (or depersonalization) and a decreased sense of personal accomplishment.

~ Erika del Pozo, Burnt Out to Lit Up ~

5. On your website, you talk about healthcare professionals having to keep feelings of burnout to themselves. In your experience, how is the “suck it up” mentality reinforced by the clinician themselves and their peers?

We’re in a helping profession where we put others first. Signaling that you need help may be perceived as a sign of weakness. The “toughen up” culture is a leftover of an outdated culture of silence in medicine and in healthcare. Workplace bullying, harassment and injustice are actually quite more common in healthcare than you’d think. Also, sometimes people land themselves in management without ever signing up for it because it was the next logical step. You see a lot of people in management that have not been prepared to be a leader.

6. What are some of the consequences, both personally and professionally, that result from not addressing healthcare worker burnout?

You may observe anything from fatigue and irritability to substance abuse and suicidal ideation. Healthcare worker burnout is a problem that involves all players, individuals, teams and organizations. Burnout affects the physical and mental health of individuals, patient safety and satisfaction and it also financially hurts organizations with presenteeism, absenteeism and high rates of turnover.

Healthcare worker burnout is a problem that involves all players, individuals, teams and organizations.

~ Erika del Pozo, Burnt Out to Lit Up ~

7. What advice or suggestions would you give to a healthcare professional that thinks they may be dealing with burnout?

Observe yourself for a week and conduct a personal audit. What do you notice is the source of your burnout? You may be stuck in a chicken or the egg type of situation if you have several symptoms of burnout but are having trouble tying it to a root cause(s). For example, burnout has a bi-directional relationship with insomnia. If you experience sleepiness and exhaustion throughout the day, did that come first or did something stressful at work compound over time and is now impacting your sleep? Do some deep digging and get as clear as possible.

8. What can our clinicians expect when they listen to your podcast, Burnt Out to Lit Up, or visit your website, Joy Energy Time?

We aren’t strictly a clinical show, meaning we bring on guests from the health and wellness space that aren’t always healthcare professionals. We address things like sustainability, spirituality, clinician well-being, etc. We have a casual, informal tone because we can’t be serious for too long, especially in our introductions.

9. What resources can you offer our clinicians that would like to learn more about burnout or develop the skills to address it?

We have a lot of resources on our site, including blog posts and our latest assessment: Where Do You Fall on the Burnout Spectrum. After you take the assessment, you will be emailed a Burnout Basics Checklist with some personal and professional questions and other major red flags to get you started moving past burnout.

10. Is there anything else that you would like our clinicians to know?

Your health and well-being matter more than any job out there. You come first.

In an effort to support the medical community during the current COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers that subscribe to the Joy Energy Time Club now, will receive their first full month of club membership for free. Start your journey to wellness, community and personal growth today. 

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