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Burnout in the physiotherapy industry: Here's how we can prevent it

In today's society, the term "burnout" is unfortunately all too familiar. But what exactly does it mean to be burnt out? And why are physiotherapists in particular at an increased risk of burnout? This and more is discussed in this article.

02/12/245min read
    Man is overwhelmed and tired from his work.

    Physiotherapists are an indispensable part of our healthcare system. They play a central role in rehabilitation after injury, illness or surgery. They alleviate pain, prevent future injuries and encourage a healthy lifestyle. Their holistic approach not only alleviates symptoms, but often treats the causes of ailments, saving further treatment and associated healthcare costs in the future.

    However, physiotherapists have many burdens to overcome: their working day is characterized by time pressure, they perform physically and emotionally demanding work with a lot of overtime and earn below average wages despite extensive studies and further training. 

    In addition, according to Swiss radio and television SRF and the Physioswiss association, there is a growing shortage of specialist staff - only half as many physiotherapists are being trained as are needed in Switzerland. Therefore, many physiotherapists are working overtime to cope with the influx of patients.

    As a result, more and more physiotherapists are suffering from burnout: A study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that up to 50% of all physiotherapists are affected by burnout in the course of their career. Burnout not only has an extremely negative impact on the well-being and health of the person affected, but also on the quality of patient care, as staff shortages increase due to long-term sick leave caused by burnout. It is therefore of great importance that physiotherapists and their employers take appropriate measures to prevent burnout. 

    What is burnout?

    Burnout syndrome describes a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion caused by excessive stress and prolonged strain in the workplace. Burnout can manifest itself through a variety of symptoms and often has a serious impact on the personal well-being and professional performance of the person affected.

    Word BURNOUT spelled out.
    Being responsible for the well-being of other people can be a great psychological burden.

    Typical burnout symptoms include

    • Chronic fatigue and physical as well as emotional exhaustion
    • Sleep disorders and difficulty resting
    • Concentration problems and declining performance
    • Mood swings and increased irritability
    • Feeling of hopelessness
    • Physical complaints such as headaches and back pain
    • Reduced interest in work and social activities
    • Withdrawal from personal and professional commitments
    • Susceptibility to illness due to a weakened immune system
    • Decreased self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy

    How does burnout occur and why are physiotherapists particularly at risk?

    People who work in helping professions such as physiotherapy are particularly at risk of burnout - their profession is not only physically but also emotionally demanding. They often work with patients suffering from pain and limitations and have a responsibility to help these people and accompany them on their recovery journey. This requires a high degree of empathy and commitment, but can also lead to great psychological stress if one's own limits are not respected. Burnout is usually caused by a combination of chronic stress, inadequate stress management and a lack of support and resources.

    Healthcare professional is exhausted from day to day life.
    Up to 50% of all physiotherapists suffer burnout in the course of their career.

    Below we have collected the various causes of burnout in physiotherapists:

    1. High work pressure:
      As a physiotherapist, you often work under high pressure to provide patients with the best possible care. They often have to adhere to tight schedules, complete many tasks at the same time and work in a stressful environment.
    2. Long working hours:
      Physiotherapists often work long shifts, sometimes even at weekends. The lack of freedom can lead to a poor work-life balance, which in turn encourages burnout.
    3. Lack of support:
      Support from superiors and colleagues is essential to create a good work ethic and distribute the workload evenly. If this is not the case, a feeling of frustration and isolation can arise.
    4. Unrealistic expectations from the general public:
      Both patients and our healthcare system often expect unrealistically fast results in physiotherapy. These expectations can lead to a feeling of failure and being overwhelmed.
    5. Perfectionism:
      While performance-oriented work is valuable, perfectionism can lead to dissatisfaction with oneself and the inability to live up to one's own expectations. This can also lead to great stress or burnout.
    Words "Work" and "Life" on a scale.
    Regular breaks, practicing mindfulness, hobbies and social activities support a healthy work-life balance.

    Tips for burnout prevention

    As a physiotherapist, it is important to take preventative measures to minimize the risk of burnout. Here are some tips that can help:

    • Prioritize self-care
      Put your own health first. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.
    • Set clear boundaries
      Know your own limits and learn to fight back when you're overloaded. It's important to recognize when it's time to say no.
    • Schedule regular breaks
      Integrate short breaks into your working day to recover and recharge your batteries. Longer recovery periods, such as vacations, are also crucial.
    • Supervision and exchange
      Seek regular exchanges with colleagues or a supervisor. Sharing experiences and receiving support can help you to cope with stress.
    • Mindfulness and stress management
      Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques, such as meditation, autogenic training or breathing exercises, to reduce daily stress.
    • Healthy working environment
      Actively contribute to creating a positive and supportive working environment. Open communication and teamwork are key to this. 
    • Set realistic expectations
      Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and your patients. Accept that you can't or don't have to control everything. Much of the responsibility also lies with the patients.
    • Promote work-life balance
      Find a healthy balance between work and leisure time. Make time for hobbies and social activities to reduce stress.
    • Seek professional help
      If you notice that the workload is becoming too much, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Talking to a therapist or psychologist can be supportive in the prevention or treatment of burnout.
    Akina Software in a patient's living room.
    Akina: The tool for advanced patient support and optimized healthcare.

    Akina as a tool for preventing burnout

    Of course, we are aware that all of this is easier said than done. Particularly when it comes to time management, changes can only be made to a limited extent as long as the working conditions in physiotherapy do not change.

    This is where Akina comes into play. With our AI-supported software, we offer an innovative tool for remote therapeutic monitoring. The interactive platform not only improves the therapy experience for patients, but also makes the day-to-day work of physiotherapists easier. Akina does this by enabling paid remote work, which in turn helps physiotherapists manage staff shortages, increase care planning accuracy, strengthen the therapist-patient relationship and increase practice revenue.

    Want to learn more about Akina and our platform? In the article Akina - Better begins today we present our mission and software in more detail. Sign up to Akina using the button below to be notified of our launch.

    02/12/245min read

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