Many people enter the health professions with altruistic motivations of helping to improve the health and lives of others only to be greeted with a dysfunctional system, chronic staff shortages, a paucity of resources, hostile environments, professional impotence and relentless re-structuring.
And yet, some stay.
This paper describes one approach to increasing resilience and thereby increasing staff retention and job satisfaction.
Burnout, compassion fatigue and lack of job satisfaction are significant risks for health professionals. The oncology setting adds to the burden of stressors through increasingly complex treatment regimens and the intimate engagement with suffering and death. The need to address these issues is urgent and requires a multi-tiered and system-wide approach.
A review of the literature on building resilience informed the development of a 3-day residential workshop “Resilience in the Workplace: a program for health professionals working in oncology and palliative care”. From 2007 to 2012 more than 500 health professionals participated in the workshop. Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity and importantly, resilience can be learned.
The Resilience in the Workplace experiential workshop focuses on capacity-building and practical tools. It provides a toolkit of strategies, from brief stress-relief tips to longer-term, restorative interventions, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, transactional analysis, nutrition, mindfulness meditation and assertiveness skills.
Evaluations of the workshop consistently showed an overall reduction in stress, greater work-life balance, improved job satisfaction, and greater capacity to provide the standard of care and compassion desired and the techniques were still being used and effective three months later.
As individuals we deserve a job that does not compromise our well-being; as patients we deserve quality health care; and as employers we have a moral obligation and business imperative to ensure staff avoid burnout by providing access to programs and support that develop resilience. This is one such program.