Training Requirement: Beating Burnout in Healthcare

Last Updated: 04 September 2023

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This article is part of our Training Requirement Series where we provide comprehensive guides to meet the actual training requirements that are often needed/requested of learning and development departments within Australia's healthcare organisations. This series includes both general requirements, such as burnout, but also focuses on the specific requirements stemming from the NDIS, Aged Care and NSQHS Quality Standards.

As a Learning and Development Coordinator within the Australian healthcare system, you are likely aware that burnout among healthcare professionals is a critical issue. The following guide aims to assist you in developing an effective training program that not only identifies the symptoms of burnout but also offers sustainable solutions for management and recovery.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It happens when healthcare professionals feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet the constant demands of their role. It's not just a passing 'rough patch'; burnout is a chronic condition that requires systemic solutions.

Ignoring burnout is not an option, as it can result in a decline in the quality of patient care, increased absenteeism, and severe health issues for the affected staff. In Australia, where healthcare professionals already face unique challenges in servicing both metropolitan and rural areas, the impact of burnout can be even more detrimental.

Stress and Burnout in Healthcare Setting

How to Identify Burnout in Staff

Burnout often manifests gradually, making it difficult to pinpoint until it becomes severe. However, there are some clear indicators to watch out for:

  • Emotional Signs: Increased irritability, mood swings, emotional detachment from colleagues and patients, and a general sense of dissatisfaction with work.
  • Physical Signs: Chronic fatigue, frequent illnesses, headaches, and digestive problems. It's crucial to note that these symptoms should not be dismissed as mere signs of a stressful work week.
  • Performance-related Signs: Decreased quality of patient care, an increase in mistakes, lowered productivity, and disengagement from work tasks.

If multiple of these signs are observed over an extended period, it’s highly likely that the individual is experiencing burnout.

How to Support Staff Experiencing Burnout

Supporting staff through burnout requires a multi-faceted approach:

  • Flexible Scheduling: Utilising systems like Enterprise Workforce Management can help in automated scheduling, ensuring that workloads are distributed evenly.
  • Professional Support: Many healthcare organisations are offering counselling services. Additionally, healthcare professionals can benefit from support services like those provided by the NDIS, Medicare, and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in Australia.
  • Wellness Programs: Exercise sessions, mindfulness activities, and dietary planning can also be beneficial. Wellness programs that focus on both physical and mental health often yield the best results.
Burnout Counselling

Strategies to Support Employees in Beating Burnout

To foster a supportive work environment, several proactive strategies can be employed:

  • Education and Awareness: Holding regular seminars that educate employees about the early signs of burnout, its consequences, and how to seek help can lead to early detection and treatment.
  • Leadership Training: Train department heads and team leaders to identify the symptoms of burnout early and encourage open discussions around mental health.
  • Regular Check-ins: Weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings between staff and supervisors can serve as a forum for discussing workload, stress levels, and coping strategies.
  • Encourage Breaks: Short, frequent breaks can help staff recharge during their shifts. Initiatives can include break rooms stocked with snacks, or ‘quiet rooms’ for relaxation.

Evaluating Burnout

Surveying is often the easiest method to conduct both the pre and post-training measurement of competence and knowledge. Here is a sample set of six survey questions you could use to evaluate the skill of burnout.

Burnout Survey - Example Only

  1. On a scale of 1-5, how confident are you in identifying the early signs of burnout in yourself or others?

    • 1. Not confident at all
    • 2. Somewhat confident
    • 3. Confident
    • 4. Very confident
    • 5. Extremely confident

  2. How comfortable are you in talking openly about burnout with your team members?

    • Not comfortable at all
    • Somewhat comfortable
    • Comfortable
    • Very comfortable
    • Extremely comfortable

  3. How aware are you of the support services and resources available to deal with burnout?

    • Very Aware
    • Somewhat Aware
    • Neutral
    • Somewhat Unaware
    • Very Unaware

  4. On a scale of 1-5, how confident are you in taking action if you or a colleague is experiencing burnout?

    • 1. Not confident at all
    • 2. Somewhat confident
    • 3. Confident
    • 4. Very confident
    • 5. Extremely confident

  5. Do you feel the current training programs are sufficient in tackling burnout?

    • Yes
    • Somewhat
    • No

  6. How prepared do you feel to incorporate burnout prevention strategies into your daily routine?

    • Very Prepared
    • Somewhat Prepared
    • Neutral
    • Somewhat Unprepared
    • Very Unprepared

Understanding the complexities of burnout and effectively combating it is vital for the longevity and success of healthcare professionals. While this guide provides a comprehensive start, remember that battling burnout is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort and systemic changes.

Ausmed's Burnout Modules

Organisations using Ausmed's workforce capability products including the Ausmed Library and the Ausmed LMS can benefit from being able to access up to 1,250 pre-built training modules straight out of the box. Here are a few that support training relating to burnout.


  • Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W.B. and Leiter, M.P., 2001. Job burnout. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, pp.397-422.
  • Smith, P., Kendall, L. and Hulin, C., 1969. The measurement of satisfaction in work and retirement. Chicago: Rand McNally.
  • Shanafelt, T.D., Hasan, O., Dyrbye, L.N., Sinsky, C., Satele, D., Sloan, J. and West, C.P., 2015. Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2014. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 90(12), pp.1600-1613.
  • West, C.P., Dyrbye, L.N., Erwin, P.J. and Shanafelt, T.D., 2016. Interventions to prevent and reduce physician burnout: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet, 388(10057), pp.2272-2281.

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