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We’ve seen a lot in the media over recent years about the risk of burnout among healthcare professionals. Yet, we sometimes forget that volunteers are vulnerable to burnout, too.
Volunteers interact with residents experiencing pain, people who are dying, residents with challenging behaviors, and families who are hurting. Besides what they experience at the nursing home, volunteers may also develop stressful issues in their personal lives that compound their risk of burnout.
A regular employee receives a paycheck as a motivation for them to address burnout and stick with their job. A volunteer may find it easier to simply call it quits. Today let’s look at burnout from both the perspective of the volunteer and also the volunteer’s supervisor. We need to find a way to keep those priceless volunteers!
When You’re The Volunteer
How to recognize you may be experiencing burnout:
- Your volunteer work no longer feels fulfilling and you begin to doubt if you really make a difference in the lives of your residents.
- Rather than being excited about your assignments, you feel resentful.
- You start to think up excuses not to go to the nursing home when you’re scheduled to volunteer.
- When you get home from volunteering you feel mentally and physically drained.
- You find yourself feeling easily irritated by other people.
- You start to feel like nobody else can do your volunteer work as well as you can, and you worry about your residents when you’re not at the nursing home.
What to do if you feel like you’re burning out:
- Give yourself permission to take time off. The nursing home really will be okay without you for a little while, and you’ll return refreshed and ready to do your best work.
- Take good care of yourself so you can take care of others. Be attentive to your needs for nutrition, exercise, and sleep.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re concerned about something at the nursing home. After all, nobody can fix something if they don’t know about it.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by too many responsibilities in several areas of your life, check out this online class. (Crystal Paine is one of my blogging heroes, and she offers awesome advice on how to overcome burnout.)
- Take a bit of time each day to do something nice for yourself. Listen to music, soak your feet, go for a walk, meditate, or whatever restores your soul.
- Find someone to talk with about your feelings. Since you need to be careful about HIPPA regulations, your volunteer supervisor, or a chaplain or social worker at the nursing home may be good options.
- Remember that it’s okay to say “no”. Only you know how many assignments you’re able to comfortably handle.
When You’re The Volunteer’s Supervisor
How to recognize burnout in a volunteer:
- They seem distracted and start to make mistakes or don’t finish assignments.
- Rather than being a cheerleader for the facility they begin to find fault.
- They start to call in when scheduled to volunteer or they simply don’t show up.
- Residents or staff notice a change in the volunteer’s attitude or performance.
- You notice that they’re spending an excessive amount of time at the nursing home.
How to help prevent volunteer burnout:
- Be sure you have enough volunteers so nobody gets overwhelmed, and to allow them to cover for each other when someone needs time off. Check out these tips for recruiting volunteers.
- Check in with each volunteer on a regular basis and ask if they have any concerns or questions.
- Offer a change in assignments periodically so their work doesn’t become tedious or boring.
- Take the time to thank each volunteer personally and remind them how they make a difference for your residents. Check this post for ideas on how you can show appreciation for your volunteers.
- Be careful that volunteers aren’t given the grunt work that nobody else wants to do. While it’s sometimes okay to assign them where they’re most needed, be sure to also give them the opportunity to do what they truly feel passionate about.
- Avoid piling extra work onto a volunteer just because they’ve been doing well at their assignments so far.
- Offer opportunities for volunteers to debrief after difficult situations such as the death of a favorite resident.
- Take good care of yourself. We don’t want the volunteer supervisor to burn out either!
What did I miss? What other suggestions can you share? Please let us know in the comment section.