Burnout tips for the professionally flammable

By Emma McCleary, Manager Communications and Events

7 November 2021

Category: Clinical


Late last year I interviewed 10 GPs about their burnout and their tales were scorching, covering the gamut from cinders to full flame, to rising from the ashes like the Phoenix. They weren鈥檛 for the faint-hearted but were incredibly powerful stories that the College presented anonymously to the Minister (and Ministry) of Health to give a 鈥榝ace鈥 to burnout. We already had the data from our burnout survey but wanted to make sure we were convincing when the College advocated for better systems and conditions.听

These 10 GPs; all strangers, spread across the country and both men and women of varying ages, had several things in common. Like many GPs and rural hospital doctors I鈥檝e encountered they were Type-A personalities. They were also hugely empathetic, and hard-working and wanted the absolute best for their patients. Mix those ingredients into a health system that constrains appointments to 15 minutes, loads up the administration requirements, and delivers increasingly complex clinical needs and that鈥檚 an ideal recipe for burnout.听

Which is why we asked Nigel Latta to speak about burnout at GP21: the conference for general practice (pictured above). He鈥檚 a clinical psychologist and a funny guy 鈥 I cried laughing while he spoke, trying to subversively take notes while he admonished the audience for taking notes 鈥測ou鈥檒l never remember this.鈥 Yet here we are in a snap Level 4 lockdown, with the College membership once again on the frontline of 麻豆视频入口鈥檚 pandemic response. Some tips on dealing with burnout seemed ideally placed.听

Nigel Latta speaks at GP21 about burnout
Nigel Latta speaks at GP21 about burnout

The idea of another lockdown, the same old run-round on the hamster wheel can feel overwhelming but as Nigel said, 鈥渇ocus on what you have done.鈥 Individually your achievements, and what makes you feel valued, will vary but as a profession you鈥檝e adapted to working in a worldwide pandemic situation that is fluid, changing, and unpredictable. You鈥檝e tested, you鈥檝e vaccinated, you鈥檝e delivered the quality community healthcare you always do, sometimes while stretched for resources and space and sometimes fully kitted out in PPE.听

While a good portion of Nigel鈥檚 speech at conference was delivered with levity, which had the audience in raptures, there were some seriously good tools underlying his mockery of golf and those people who panic buy all the toilet paper.

Readjust your thinking to improve your outlook:

  • Instead of perfectionism, try good enough
  • Instead of getting rid of all the things that are stressing you out, try embracing that life is suffering
  • Instead of focusing on external nonsense like money and status, try changing your focus
  • Instead of counting on good things lasting, try embracing impermanence
  • Instead of running on the pleasure and habituation treadmill, try gratitude practices
  • Instead of suffering compassion fatigue, try focusing on what you have done and what you can do

Take two minutes聽

One of the things I noticed in speaking with those GPs last year about their burnout is that it can burn away like an unnoticed ember for quite a long time (some people said years) before it fully ignites. And even then, people carry on.听

Coming back to normal can take two minutes at a time. As Nigel mentioned, if you want to start a new habit then don鈥檛 start with 鈥淚 want to exercise every morning to reduce my stress鈥 鈥 that鈥檚 too big. Pick something that takes two minutes鈥. 鈥淚鈥檒l get out of bed and put my shoes on.鈥 That鈥檚 it. Shoes on. Job done.听

Then build on that. Two more minutes the next day or week. And the one after until your behaviour has changed.听聽

Seek the three things that humans need:聽

  • Pleasure
  • Calm
  • 颁辞苍苍别肠迟颈辞苍听

What makes you happy? Hard question when you can鈥檛 remember anymore鈥 but spend some time mulling that over. Nigel鈥檚 happy is watching videos of people online fighting over the last roll of toilet paper during a panic-buying frenzy. Mine is wearing bright coloured dresses and making Instagram stories. Are these things high-brow, worthy of adding to a CV? No. Do they bring joy? Yes.听

One of the hardest parts of burnout is always being 鈥榦n鈥 and part of that is overthinking 鈥 carrying work with you wherever you go. Nigel鈥檚 solution? Have the thought, then say to yourself, 鈥渏ust ruminating鈥 and put it down. Repeat. And again, until you鈥檙e moving away from constant thoughts of work.听聽

Moving on from burnout is possible, even when you鈥檙e flammable.听

Other support for members聽

We all need a bit of support from time to time. If you or someone you know is struggling right now, there are free help and support services available.听


All College members can access free EAP services confidentially by calling 800 327 669 (international number +64 9 353 0906). They have clinical psychologists, budget and financial advisors, legal advisors, and other professionals ready to support you. Please mention 麻豆视频入口 when you call. View more information on the .听

Small Steps聽

Small Steps are digital tools, developed by Te Hiringa Hauora in partnership with Clearhead. The Small Steps website https://www.smallsteps.org.nz is a place where people of Aotearoa (and further abroad!) can take small steps on their journey to improve wellbeing.听

Health Care 麻豆视频入口 resources聽聽

The team at HealthCare NZ has introduced a聽聽to support 麻豆视频入口鈥檚 frontline health and community care workers in response to COVID-19. Supporting the resilience and wellbeing of 麻豆视频入口鈥檚 frontline health and care workers is a priority for us all and vital in our fight to unite against COVID-19.听

The Wellbeing service is free, private and tailored to suit.听 It is as simple as calling 0800 820 080 or by emailing聽hcnz.wellbeing@healthcarenz.co.nz聽and they look after the rest.听