Osmosis's Top 3 Tips to Avoid Burnout

Osmosis Team
Published on Sep 18, 2020. Updated on Dec 8, 2022.

The life of a medical, nursing, or PA student can be stressful at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. Whether you're on your way to becoming a health professional, or you already are one, it's important to be aware of the signs of burnout. Osmosis is here to provide tips to help you find balance before burnout becomes an issue.

How do you describe burnout?

Burnout is a physical, mental, and emotional collapse. It is more than the result of long hours worked, but additionally the stress associated with that work. The exhaustion leads to a lack of interest and potentially a decline in job performance. Left unchecked, burnout could wreak havoc on more than one aspect of your life. We won’t leave you hanging: here are tips to avoid burnout.

Tip 1: Use hacks

Make sure that you’re using hacks, or tricks, to save time. There are a lot of hacks to get around the bureaucracy of medicine. 

You’ll encounter this at lots of hospitals: paperwork. Save time on paperwork! Some hospitals may help you out with this by providing a medical scribe, someone else who writes the notes for you. It’s not always an option, though, so a suggested alternative is to make a template. Take your notes and then have templates set up for each chief complaint on your computer (i.e. a template for taking notes regarding chest pain, abdominal pain, asthma, etc.) Having those templates set up ahead of time helps you fill out the paperwork easily and it also helps in triggering your memory to ask certain questions when talking to the patient. 

(Side tip: most residents on the floor have their preferred template. If you ask nicely, they might share it with you!)

Medical student on her laptop and a doctor with a patient

Another hack is to bundle your work, meaning, group similar tasks together: take all your notes at once, do all your discharges at once, do pharmacy runs all at once. Think about what tasks are on your to-do list and which can be done together to save time.

Tip 2: Set boundaries

We’re talking personal boundaries. This includes setting up a time when you should plan to leave the hospital every day, making sure everything is all set before you leave, but make it a hard stop. Practice setting a firm time as if you had to be somewhere each time or you had to leave to get to an event. Don’t linger. Creating very firm limits about when you get into the hospital and out of the hospital really helps a lot with burnout and stress levels. You have something to look forward to and you simply won’t always be at the hospital. 

Medical student finishing her shift and hanging her white coat on the hook

Tip 3: Establish a healthy work-life balance

Having a solid work-life balance is challenging with such a busy schedule and it’s often life that suffers. 

While you might be rolling your eyes at the advice, a work-life balance could be as simple as reading for 30 mins a day from a favorite book or taking a dance break listening to your favorite song. Try to always do that favorite thing to relieve stress rather than risk frustration and take it out on someone else. 

Balance is choosing little things that make you happy and save your sanity. Long walk outside, talking to friends, making a habit of calling friends after a stressful shift all attribute to work-life balance. Creating little habits to have something to look forward to can help avoid burnout. 

(Side tip: do something you enjoy first thing in the morning to start the day off on a good note!)

Osmosis illustration of student in his house singing and dancing

Signs you may be experiencing burnout

Preventing and addressing burnout is becoming a part of the workplace conversation in most industries, however, we also need to listen to ourselves and address the signs of burnout. Forbes describes 10 signs of burnout, and in addition to our suggestions, some ways to address it:

  1. Exhaustion

  2. Lack of motivation

  3. Frustration, cynicism, and other negative emotions

  4. Cognitive problems

  5. Slipping job performance

  6. Interpersonal problems at home and work

  7. Not taking care of yourself

  8. Preoccupied at work when you’re not at work

  9. Generally decreased satisfaction

  10. Health problems

Osmosis illustration of a list of the 10 signs of burnout

Alright, as a quick recap...

The three tips for avoiding burnout include:

  1. Use hacks.

  2. Set boundaries.

  3. Establish a work-life balance.

Taking care of yourself helps you to better take care of your patients. Check out this blog if you want to read more on how to improve your lifestyle to avoid burnout!


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