A CARE PLAN For Burnout Prevention

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By Dr. Michael J. Zappa

Too much of a good thing can sometimes be a problem; there is a risk that caring too much can result in burnout. Even a profession that is literally and figuratively built on it, as is healthcare, there is not immunity to an overdose of caring.

You might be thinking: “What healthcare leader would ever tell a member of their team to care less?”  Self-reflect and visualize your peers and the people you are leading.  Do any of these characteristics seem familiar? 

  • Constantly worries about what people think

  • Always feels obligated to fix things

  • Has a hard time letting things go

  • Starts the day with a list of worries

  • Ends the day with a list of worries

  • Stresses about staff turnover

  • Stresses about staff happiness

I’m sure you can identify with some of these tendencies personally or amongst your team.  The answer is not to stop caring about patients, staffing, getting through your “to do” list, or about being liked; the answer is to care just the right amount! Think of care as sugar; in the words of Mary Poppins it takes “Just a spoonful of sugar…!”

Care enough to progress toward your goals, being visible and open, maintaining control while knowing when to let go, and earning respect.  Care about being liked, but do not rest your self-worth on it. Sound advice you might say, but easier said than done.  Try this CARE PLAN:

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Creating a plan will require you to work backwards from 90 days; establish goals for 90 days, 60 days, 30 days, weekly and daily.

Achieving objectives daily guarantees you a good day; completing these helps you progress toward your goals.

Require reports from your team; have the important ones automated, and remember to share the results with everyone impacted.

Evaluating results is important to allow course corrections.  Remember sometimes you are going to be wrong. Don’t be afraid to admit it.  Above all, celebrate the wins!

Promoting the plan gets buy-in and increases the probability of success.  This lets the whole team know what their leader is busy doing.

Laugh often, with your team, at yourself and at the folly of the uncontrollable!

Accept some losses such as unexpected results, staff turnover, and some unhappy staff. Remember, each individual is responsible for their own happiness. 

No is an acceptable answer sometimes.  We can’t accomplish everything, meet everyone’s timeline, and meet all the needs of our team.


So, follow the CARE PLAN and rest easy at night.  Caring just the right amount, knowing you did your best, smiling as you think about the silly people who can accept nothing less than perfect! This just might be the key to preventing burnout.