As a healthcare worker, you work in a stressful environment, which can negatively impact your mental health and well-being. COVID-19 is further adding to your stress. You fear catching the virus and passing it on to your family and patients, toil as the number of cases surge and struggle to keep up with the ever-changing processes.


Not successfully managed, such chronic workplace stress  leads to burnout - you feel emotionally exhausted, inefficient, and compelled to distance yourself from work. You have no sense of fulfillment and purpose.

Burnout affects patient care

Research shows that burnout is associated with lower patient satisfaction due to negative reaction or response to patients. There are also high infection rates in healthcare workers and patients because burnt out workers tend to take short cuts. And when staff are not focused, there are higher incidents of medication errors. There are also more adverse events.

Resilience is the antidote for burnout

You cannot change or control chaos. But you can control how you respond to the situation. So resilience is simply about choosing to focus on what you can change.

Let me share with you 7 ways to strengthen your resilience. Instead of experiencing an overwhelming downwards spiral when you encounter stress in your life.

7 steps to building resilience to fight burnout

  • Be grateful. Do you know that gratitude builds resilience? When you train your brain to look for the good stuff you filter out the negative.
  • Get connected. Building strong, positive relationships with loved ones and friends can provide you with needed support and acceptance in good and bad times. Establish other important connections by volunteering or joining a faith or spiritual community.
  • Make every day meaningful. Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment and purpose every day. Set goals to help you look toward the future with meaning.
  • Learn from experience. Think of how you've coped with hardships in the past. Consider the skills and strategies that helped you through those difficult times.

  • Remain hopeful. You can't change the past, but you can always look towards the future. Accept and even anticipate change. This makes it easier for you to adapt and view new challenges with less anxiety.

  • Take care of yourself. Tend to your own needs and feelings. Participate in activities and hobbies you enjoy. Include physical activity in your daily routine. Get plenty of sleep. Eat a healthy diet. Practise stress management and relaxation techniques, such as yoga, meditation, guided imagery, deep breathing or prayer.
  • Be proactive. Don't ignore your problems. Instead, figure out what needs to be done, make a plan and take action. Although it takes time to recover from a major setback, traumatic event or loss, know that your situation can improve if you work at it.

Becoming more resilient takes time and practice. But first, you must admit that you have burnout and need help. You might have difficulty acknowledging that you need help because you think that you have everything under control – especially since you are in healthcare where you help others. Why wouldn't you need help? Are you not human, too?


Karen Perera is a familiar face with all of us at SGH. She has 41 years of experience in nursing, clinical quality and patient experience. Karen has been a strong advocate for patient safety and quality improvement in healthcare. She is currently Director of the SGH Office of Patient Experience and has been instrumental in driving key initiatives such as building a psychologically safe environment in SGH by encouraging staff to speak up, Safety and Quality Management, and process improvement.


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