Congress Daily - Pre-Issue 2

Leader and Coach: The Solution for Unhappy and Weary Nurse Anesthetists

  • Aug 5, 2019

On Sunday, Aug. 11, Len Robinson, MS, CRNA, APRN, will present "Leader and Coach: The Solution for Unhappy and Weary Nurse Anesthetists. Bridging the Gap Between Anesthesia Leadership and Those They Lead," from 9:15 - 10:15 a.m. in Crystal Ballroom B, Lobby Level, West Tower, Hyatt Regency Chicago hotel. Staff from the AANA Congress Daily asked Robinson about his thoughts on assessing burnout in the nurse anesthesia profession, and what can be done to improve the situation through leadership.

Congress DailyHow does someone assess burnout in another person?  What are some of the telltale signs that someone is burned out or is getting burned out?

Len Robinson:
Without opening too much of my kimono, I will highlight what I feel is the most concerning sign of burnout. The most concerning sign of burnout is cynicism. Cynicism because it potentially leads to lower-quality patient care. Cynicism and reduced professional efficacy (i.e., slipshod work) are telltale signs of burnout and place patients at risk. 

The key to addressing this syndrome involves education, prevention, and eliminating conditions that lead to our anesthesia colleagues suffering an unreasonable level of physical and emotional stress. My belief is that anesthesia leadership should be equipped with tools and strategies to optimize the well-being of their staff and prevent burnout from ever occurring.

I'm excited to deliver a practical and effective framework for the prevention and reversal of burnout. When adequately prepared, everyone in high-stress work environments, particularly those in leadership positions, can genuinely have an impact on the prevention of burnout and increase job satisfaction for staff and leaders alike.  

Congress Daily
: With the long hours and grueling surgical schedules these days, how could a supervisor or team leader help to provide relief to someone who is suffering from burn out?

Robinson: Sadly, because of the insidious and progressive nature of burnout, much of the time it goes unnoticed by management. That is until the performance of the individual is greatly diminished. Therefore, leadership should implement a screening and education program to help identify those at highest risk for developing burnout. 

In my presentation, I will share a useful screening tool as well as an overall strategy for the prevention of burnout among our CRNA colleagues. 

An effective prevention program is so much more than merely recognizing the cardinal signs of "burnout.”

Again, I firmly believe that adequately prepared front-line leadership will be the linchpin to solving the burnout phenomenon facing healthcare professionals. 

A little secret I can't wait to share with you is that coaching philosophies, models, AND strategies are a crucial element to staff engagement and a positive work culture, ultimately leading to a lower incidence of burnout. 

Congress Daily
: Are there group activities among a staff that can help alleviate stress and burnout or is the solution more of a personal, individual nature?

Robinson: I will describe that a sense of community has perhaps the most significant impact on employee engagement, job satisfaction, and stress reduction. I'm excited to discuss "tribe building" strategies you may easily implement in your anesthesia department.

You will also learn that well-being optimization and burnout prevention are both an individual journey and a tremendous community-building experience.  

Congress Daily: What can someone who begins to feel burned out do to relieve stress and/or situations that can cause burn out?

Robinson: First and foremost, those at risk (e.g., CRNAs) should learn what is "burnout" and what causes it. The World Health Organization (WHO) now considers burnout "a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." Here is the WHO definition.  

To relieve stress and/or burnout involves an individual well-being assessment and the development of powerful new habits. These habits are very coachable. I look forward to describing this process in detail during my presentation.  

From the leadership standpoint concerning burnout prevention, a Workplace Culture-Assessment, and the implementation of an effective Workplace Culture Optimization Plan can be a game-changer. This too will be described in detail during my presentation.

Congress Daily: Do you have any suggestions for how an organization like the AANA might help in reducing stress and burnout for its members?

Robinson: I feel it's essential to shine a bright light on the current gap in research regarding the incidence of CRNA burnout. There is an abundance of empirical research regarding burnout among anesthesiologists, resident physicians, and critical care registered nurses (CCRNs). Conversely, though we have no shortage of anecdotal evidence regarding the incidence of "burnout" among CRNAs, we have virtually no empirical data to back this up. In fact, a recent integrative review in the June 2019 AANA Journal backs up my claim. This revealing research (Burnout and The Nurse Anesthetist: An Integrative Review) by Brian Del Grosso, MS, CRNA and Suzanne Boyd, Ph.D., MSW highlights the scarcity of empirical studies that focus on CRNA burnout (only two studies identified.)       

Therefore, it's my opinion that the AANA should support ongoing research to clearly identify the incidence of burnout among CRNAs, specifically in the United States. It would also be beneficial to provide AANA members the most current understanding of this well documented "syndrome caused by chronic stress at work" (updated definition by the World Health Organization.) In tandem with research regarding the incidence and causative mechanism of burnout among CRNAs, models and frameworks for identifying, treating, and preventing burnout among CRNAs must be developed and empirically evaluated.  My Legendary Leadership framework may be a great place to start.  

There is a massive movement to combat burnout in corporate America. Why not borrow some of what's working well within the corporate world and apply it to healthcare?  This is what I accomplished with the development of my "Legendary Leadership Framework." The Legendary Leadership Framework is an adaptation of many of the best leadership practices used in major American corporations. These best-practices are modified and strategically applied to healthcare management, namely, anesthesia leadership.

NoteBe sure to check the AANA Meetings app for the latest room assignments and information.