When I was at the height of my burn out, I was working in the school system at a fairly standard caseload, had fantastic support from the principal and assistant principal, and worked with great teachers. I had taken over mid-school year for someone who had quit and it left me with an extremely difficult schedule, difficult therapy sessions and a lack of community. I had also been laid off, then fired, from previous jobs, so I was feeling bitter towards the profession in general. This was a great job, but the only one I could find and it was a huge pay cut. I had also just finished my yoga teacher training and wanted nothing more than to teach yoga full-time.
Despite my training in a holistic practice, I was in a constant state of stress, anxiety and exhaustion.
As SLPs, we are considered to be in a “helping” profession, which puts us at a greater risk for burn out than most others. And, I believe, that we might be in one of the highest positions, since we fall under both healthcare workers and education professionals. As an SLP, you are constantly having to work with patients/students, families, and the school or care team, as well as organize your therapy materials and keep up with your continuing education and professional licenses. You are also sometimes the sole person who understands how your client needs and wants to communicate their desires and needs, which, at times can seem like the weight of the world on your shoulders. And while there are plenty of rewarding moments in your career, most of the time you may find you feel underappreciated and misunderstood as a professional.
While all of this can lead to a cycle of burn out, there are a few more factors that make us prone to burn out. The main 4 factors for burn out are:
- When I was an SLP graduate student, I felt a constant pressure to do more and do better. There was a competitive mindset to the class, which was often fostered by the professors of the classes themselves. It was very rare to have an instructor praise us for something other than receiving top marks, and most of the time, we were told what we were doing wrong. This really wore me down and made me feel as if I was never doing enough.
- As an SLP, you might always feel like someone out there is doing more, doing better and doing it the “right” way. There are pinterest boards dedicated to the latest and greatest DIY therapy tools, FB groups full of people spending their weekends working on SLP lesson plans and loads more trainings to take. It makes it easy to seem like what you are doing, especially if you are a type “b”, is not enough or not worthwhile. (These are all lovely things and can be super helpful, but can also be super overwhelming).
- This can also lead to a bit of pessimism. When our patients don’t get better, or our students just don;t grasp that /r/, we can start to feel cynical about our profession. When I was going through burnout, I often stated that I felt like I was baby-sitting my students or just a glorified “snack lady” in the SNF setting. I would say that I didn’t think the profession mattered as much as we were trained to think. I was bitter, pessimistic and ready to quit. If you have a high caseload, no respect from co-workers, or patients/students that just don;t seem to be improving, it can be easy to slip into this mode of thinking.
- High Achiever
- I am not a Type “A” personality. I am a Type “B” with “A” tendencies, or a Type “A-“. Many SLPs, however, are Type A. They like to plan, be organized and have everything in order for each therapy session and each client. They want to know that they are doing everything exactly how it should be, with no mistakes. With such high caseloads and demands each day, this can be nearly impossible to achieve. When it doesn’t happen, it can make it seem as if you are not doing enough, not serving your clients as they need to be and not doing a “good job” as an SLP, even though you are doing fantastic.
- High Need for Control:
- It can also be extremely difficult to delegate as an SLP, if possible at all. In some places, there is no one else there to help you take on new clients, copy paperwork or organize therapy tools. You may be the sole SLP in your facility and the go-to person for everything from articulation to swallowing to cognitive and memory deficits. When you are able to delegate, it can be difficult to communicate the way you would be doing the therapy, what your client is capable of and what risks the client is facing. Taking on every task, every work day, can really start to wear on you and make you feel as if you can;t have a break or have time to take care of yourself (or work on any of your passions for the field).
Take a moment to see if you relate to any of these 4 factors. Be honest with yourself, as these are not negative traits, just realities of being an SLP and a human being. If you do relate to any of the factors, you might be heading towards burn out in the future. Burn out is no joke and can lead to more health issues and a total disengagement from your work and career. Try taking charge of burn out before it begins with a few simple daily practices, such as self-care, exercise and eating well, or try one of these 3 practices.
Do you relate to any of these? If so, which one has the biggest impact on your work life and what is your plan for working through it? Leave a comment below to share and help inspire another SLP. If you want additional help towards preventing burn out, send me an email or fill out the form below to schedule a consultation.