If you work in long-term care you know how rewarding the job can be. And how stressful. It’s fulfilling and frustrating all at the same time. And that’s why this field experiences a high rate of burnout and turnover.
Even those that consider long-term care a calling of sorts, can’t help but occasionally experience the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion associated with this type of work. It’s a challenge – and that’s part of what makes it the best job ever. And the worst.
The rewards are obvious. Like most long-term care workers, you probably chose this work to serve others. There’s a lot of satisfaction from helping residents and their families – with physical needs as well as emotional and logistical issues. The job offers variety. And the good days are really good.
But who knows what the next day will bring? Maybe you’ll arrive at work and find that a usually sweet resident is combative. A family is angry because their dad is missing his glasses – again. Two staff members are out sick. And your toddler was up all night with the flu. Does it feel like you just don’t have enough time – or energy – to deal with it all? It almost makes you want to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over your head. But of course you can’t do that.
So how do you cope? Not just today, but everyday? The key is to reduce your stress and make your job – and your life – more manageable. At work, you need to collaborate with other staff and managers to perform your jobs more easily and efficiently. And at home, focus on taking better care yourself. We suggest you do both!
<h3>On the job</h3>
Delegate, delegate, delegate. Taking on all of the work or all of the responsibility is a sure recipe for burnout. It leads to exhaustion – which often leads to mistakes. And mistakes lead to stress. It’s a vicious circle. And to make matters worse, research conducted at St. Louis University concluded that stress is actually contagious. When you’re feeling stressed, your co-workers may experience second-hand stress. And that’s not good for anyone.
Consider utilizing onsite medication dispensing such as the InSite System from Talyst. This isn’t an immediate fix like delegating, since remote med dispensing requires the commitment and financial support of LTC management, but facilities already using the system will tell you it more than pays for itself in the long run – in terms of time, money, stress-relief and more. Having the capability to dispense single doses of resident medications right in your facility saves valuable time that you used to spend ordering new and repeat meds and accounting for every dose ordered and dispensed – including dosage changes and emergency meds. It reduces medication waste and increases both pharmacy and LTC staff satisfaction. Onsite dispensing also increases patient safety, which in turn helps drive more business to your community. And that makes everyone happy.
Make use of the latest technology. This can run the gamut from computer programs — to keep track of everything from census to scheduling to purchasing – to instant-read thermometers, Hoyer lifts and the use of effective but non-disruptive alarms to prevent resident elopement. These will result in freeing up more time for the things that are really important.
Take your break. Simple? Yes. Important? Yes! When you get busy, the tendency is to work through your break and just forge ahead. But that’s when you need to take a break the most. Studies show that a short “break” from your work will give you a chance to relax and regroup – making you more efficient when you get back to it.
Keep regular staff schedules. Changing work hours from days to nights to p.m. shifts has a negative effect on your body, which doesn’t have a chance to adapt. Keeping staff on the same shift will help them adjust, improving efficiency – and satisfaction.
<h3>On your own</h3>
You’ve probably told family members and caregivers how important it is that they make time for themselves. But now it’s time for you to take your own advice to heart – and take care of yourself. Recognize the symptoms of stress. Physical exhaustion, irritability, trouble sleeping, forgetfulness and trouble focusing are a few of the many. And then take action.
• Go to bed at the same time every night.
• Resist the temptation to eat fast food and snacks on the run. Make healthier choices – and don’t skip meals.
• Exercise regularly. It doesn’t have to be fast and furious – even a brisk walk will help you de-stress.
• Find someone you can talk to. It can be a best friend or spouse in a totally different field or a co-worker who can completely relate.
Long–term care is an extremely rewarding field. But you need to remember that you can only take care of others if you take the time to care for yourself first.