Infection Control Today's Round Table on Burnout: More on Recognizing, Preventing, and Addressing Challenges in Health Care Leadership

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Continuing the round table discussion, experienced IPs continue their discussion on recognizing and preventing burnout, emphasizing leadership roles, peer support, and fostering open conversations in health care settings.

In the second of 2 installments of an insightful Round Table discussion, 4 distinguished infection preventionists (IPs) spoke with Infection Control Today® (ICT®) to shed light on the pervasive issue of burnout in the health care sector. While sharing valuable perspectives on recognizing and preventing burnout. These seasoned professionals emphasize the significance of effective leadership, peer support, and fostering open dialogues within health care teams. Their insights examine the challenges faced by IPs, the demanding nature of their roles, and the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to tackle burnout. The discussion unveils practical approaches to alleviate the burden on IPs, offering a valuable resource for health care professionals navigating this critical issue.

Infection Control Today's topic of the month: Mental Health

Infection Control Today's topic of the month: Mental Health

The IPs in the Round Table discussion include the following:

  • Isis Lamphier, MPH, CIC, is the manager of infection prevention at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and a member of ICT’s Editorial Advisory Board (EAB).
  • Heather Saunders, MPH, RN, CIC, is the senior nurse program research manager at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Infection Disease in Baltimore, Maryland. She is also the owner of Broad Street Prevention and a member of ICT’s EAB.
  • Sharon Ward-Fore, MS, BS, MT(ASCP), CIC, FAPIC, an infection prevention consultant, ICT’s EAB member, and ICT’s 2023 Educator of the Year.
  • Brenna Doran, PhD, MA, ACC, CIC, is currently the system director of hospital epidemiology and infection prevention at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as founder and CEO of Innovative Partners Institute, a coaching and consulting company.

The first installment can be found here.

During this installment, Doran explains that to help her direct reports, she asks them how they are doing. “What is top of mind? What is giving you heartburn this week?” She says she sees her role as trying to help alleviate the issues before they get bigger. Talk to them when they are tired. Remember they are individuals and find out more about them personally and professionally, so when there is a problem, you know how to help them already. “There are a lot of beautiful ways, within your 1 on 1s or in team meetings, to create space to listen to your team and also create space to talk about those challenges and provide them space to talk about solutions in a way that makes everybody feel valued and recognized.”

Recently, Lamphier went from IP to the manager of infection prevention. ICT asked her how she transitioned without burning out. One thing that I tried to do is remember that, before I am a manager, I am an IP. So [I am still] trying to help in any way that I can; I'm still doing our [Catheter-associated urinary tract infection] and [central line-associated bloodstream infection] surveillance, if I can help out or [surgical site] surveillance, trying to help my team in any way. If I see that someone might have a lot on their plate, I'm trying to alleviate that as well. So, I think that's critical for managers or directors so that they can help out trying to do some of those small components that make up an IP’s day but can add up to a lot of a workload."

Saunders agreed and said that discussions on burnout aren’t happening often enough. “I think we're pushing through it thinking it's going to go away, and it's not just going to magically disappear. And so it is on the leadership, yes, to have regular meetings about this, and to strategize with their staff and have open conversations and dialogue and encourage vulnerability, peer-to-peer sharing, because I think there is still some of that stigma, and we're not talking about it enough. So, I think having regular conversations like this, and being open with what's going on…is an important first step.”

Ward-Fore said that finding someone to talk to about burnout before it worsens can start outside the infection prevention department. “Some of my favorite people or the staff on the floors, and I could lean on them, and they could lean on me. And some people I still have in touch with now, many years after leaving the hospital, are folks from environmental services, and [sterile processing department] technicians…Because burnout is not exclusive to IPs. It's everyone. And I think we all need to lean on each other a little more and maybe not be so hard on each other…and not just in health care, but in any workplace situation."

(All quotes are edited for clarity.)

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