Sustainability: How Mission-Driven Individuals Can Prevent Burnout and Thrive in Healthcare

Sustainability: How Mission-Driven Individuals Can Prevent Burnout and Thrive in Healthcare

As a mission-driven performer, you’ve proven that you have patience, passion, and perseverance. You’re driven to solve a problem, initiate change, help your community, or otherwise contribute beyond your role. However, one thing we know at Lancaster Leadership is that when you’re committed to serving others, sustaining this drive can be a challenge and burnout is a very real possibility.

Burnout can happen to any of us. But does it seem to happen more for mission-driven performers? According to the National Library of Medicine article, rates of burnout in healthcare workers are statistically higher: “37.9% in physicians compared to 27.8% in the control population.”1

Healthcare organizations are certainly not the only mission-driven companies, but the impact of burnout in healthcare workers can potentially have wider spread ramifications such as lower quality care, lower patient satisfaction, and increased medical errors.1

That’s why we’re sharing the three focus areas to help you not just survive but thrive in your industry.

Work From Your Why

Let’s take Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) as an example. They specialize in comprehensive community healthcare for the typically underserved population.2 There are numerous benefits to working for FQHCs, such as increased skills from treating a wide range of patients,3 but is that why you started working there? Is it what gets you out of bed in the morning to give it your all each day? As a mission-driven performer, you need to define your clear and compelling vision to tap into when you’re having those long, tough days.

We recently interviewed Eric Black, Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), current Dental Director at United Community Health Center, to see how he has sustained his almost 20-year career in the public health sector. Eric’s why is connecting with patients. “Maybe you cannot connect with every single person,” he said, “but you can be a hero for at least 1 hour by listening, showing compassion, and meeting people where they’re at.” Knowing that he has helped at least one person each day has helped him maintain his compassion and purpose throughout the years.

Create Your Community

In addition to connecting with patients, you should also create a supportive community of colleagues, friends, and family. You’ll rely on these relationships throughout your career for connection, encouragement, and to maintain your overall well-being. In fact, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report on the current priorities of the U.S. Surgeon General, it promotes community and social connection to mitigate burnout caused by feelings of loneliness and isolation.4

Having strong connections in your workplace will also enhance your performance. There is a great quote from a Forbes article I read that says, “You could cultivate all the knowledge, skills, and values you need to make an exceptional impact on the world, but unless you get out and interact with other people, you’ll never realize your full potential.”5 When you have a community of people you trust at work, you can communicate better, set realistic expectations, delegate, and overcome challenges.

Cultivate Your Curiosity

According to the Harvard Business Review, one specific area that can produce feelings of burnout is the perceived lack of control.6 Instead of letting situations, people, or processes create frustration, doubt, and other negative emotions, seek to understand. You do this by asking better questions when there’s something that didn’t go as planned. By being empathetic to others when they didn’t do what you expected. By recognizing that you don’t know the full picture when there is a miscommunication. By being adaptable and letting go of things that are outside your control.

Another important way to cultivate your curiosity is through self-development. Assess your soft skills, like communication and emotional intelligence, and take action to improve areas that will directly contribute to your performance and your mental health. Eric Black, DDS expressed,”The better I am, the better I can help people, the better my life. If I’m not learning, I’m not improving.”

Fortunately, continuing education resources are abundant online and most likely some tools available within your organization. For example, Colorado Plateau Center for Health Professionals provides programs, support, and training to grow the community of medical professionals at North Country Healthcare FQHC.7

As a mission-driven performer, it’s vital to take active steps now to prevent burnout so you can continue serving your purpose and build a successful career.

Your why is likely the sense of purpose and fulfillment you get from helping others. Use this motivation to create a strong community, both inside and outside of your organization, which will provide support, safety, and collaboration. Focus on developing your skillset in areas that will help you better collaborate and serve others. You can maintain your mental health while still performing at a high level.

I know that when you are intent on helping others it can feel awkward or even selfish to focus on self-care. You have to put your mask on first before you can help someone else. Burnout is a very real thing, but it doesn’t have to be real for you if you shift your mindset and implement these recommendations.

  1. De Hart, Stefan. Burnout in Healthcare Workers: Prevalence, Impact and Preventative Strategies. National Library of Medicine – National Center for Biotechnology Information. Published online Oct 28, 2020.
  2. HealthViewX. Improve Your FQHC’s Operational Efficiency and Increase Your Revenue. Payoda Technology, Inc. Accessed March 29, 2023.,Medicaid%20patients%2C%20and%20malpractice%20coverage
  1. Adaptive Medical Partners. Benefits of Working for a Federally Qualified Health Center. Accessed March 29, 2023.
  1. US Public Health Service Dept of Health and Human services. Addressing Health Worker Burnout -The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Thriving Health Workforce. 2022.
  1. Wilson, Marta. The Three C’s: Cultivating Connection, Communication, And Collaboration. Forbes. July 22, 2020.
  1. Ferrazzi, Keith and Jiménez, Jacinta. Talking About Burnout Is Still Taboo at Work. Harvard Business Review. October 7, 2022.
  1. CPCHP. About page. NAHEC. Accessed March 29, 2023.

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