Give Thanks: The Role of Gratitude in Combating Burnout

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Many healthcare organizations are trying a new tactic to reduce rates of burnout: gratitude.
Many healthcare organizations are trying a new tactic to reduce rates of burnout: gratitude.

With burnout rates continuing to rise, many healthcare organizations are trying a new tactic: gratitude.1

Currently, more than half of physicians around the country say they have experienced burnout. Burnout doesn't just hurt healthcare professionals, it can also affect quality of care for patients. Gratitude is a new technique that organizations are encouraging staff to practice in their daily routine.

Aside from the mental health benefits of giving and receiving gratitude, studies show that it can even improve heart health.

Sutter Health, a network of hospitals in Northern California, for example, coordinated a 2-month campaign to teach employees the benefits of gratitude and how to practice it in everyday scenarios. They discussed the science behind gratitude, how to express gratitude through journaling, and even created glow-in-the dark gratitude bracelets to remind staff to stay thoughtful.

“Paying attention just once a day to what you appreciate is enough to have an effect on your life,” wrote Renee Burgard, LCSW, a psychotherapist at Palo Alto Medical Foundation and featured expert on a Sutter Health blog about gratitude. “Gratitude is paying attention to what you have and cultivating a heartfelt sense of appreciation for it.”2

Kaiser Permanente also has creative ways to spread gratitude throughout its hospitals and medical centers. The staff hung gratitude trees around the buildings so people could add notes about who and what they are thankful for. Staff members also led gratitude challenges through the organization Thnx4, with nearly 400 employees sharing notes on why they feel grateful.

“Researchers are finding that people who keep a simple gratitude journal tend to exercise more, sleep better and longer, are more likely to help others, and are generally happier,” said Raymond Dougherty, the Spiritual Care director for Kaiser Permanente in the site's practicing gratitude blog. “You don't have to feel grateful to be grateful. Research shows that the people who feel the least grateful or happy before doing a gratitude practice actually benefit the most.”3

Practicing gratitude can be accomplished in a variety of ways in and outside of the office. For clinicians feeling the pressure of burnout, the simple act of putting aside 5 minutes to consider the positive aspects in life might help ease some of the stressors of daily life.

References

  1. Brozena C. How gratitude can reduce burnout in health care. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_can_reduce_burnout_in_health_care. January 11, 2018. Accessed November 29, 2018.
  2. Burgard R. Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude. Sutter Health. https://www.sutterhealth.org/health/mind-body/cultivate-an-attitude-of-gratitude. Accessed November 29, 2018.
  3. Radding D. Practicing Gratitude. Look insideKP Northern California. https://lookinside.kaiserpermanente.org/practicing-gratitude/. June 7, 2017. Accessed November 29, 2018.

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