My experience working in a skilled nursing facility has many advantages including autonomy as a therapist, a bustling team atmosphere and working with my favorite group: the tough-as-nails geriatric population. However, being a full-time PTA in a SNF has its drawbacks as well.
This could not be better illustrated than by the working day I just experienced. When I arrived to work today, one of my colleagues called in sick. Due to no available PRN staff, myself and the remaining therapists had an additional patient or two tacked onto our schedules. As well, the facility was experiencing a norovirus outbreak, thus therapy sessions were to be completed in patients' rooms under contact precautions. And then I found out one of my patients had passed away the previous evening.
This was just another Wednesday. Actually, that was a heavier day than my usual, but my work days have been running 8-10 hours long recently and often I find myself walking through my front door at 7 p.m. By Friday, I'm spent physically and emotionally, and ready for nothing but -- bed. My situation is a bit more unique living in the Great Northwest of this country, where daylight hours are amazingly short and the sun sets before 4 p.m. Having said that, I'll take the short days over the Northeast snowstorms any day.
As I was warned by many experienced therapists when I first began my career, "Eventually you'll burn out in a SNF!" I'm feeling the fatigue set in. So how am I trying to avoid this professional "burnout," you might ask? First, when I leave the SNF doors for the day, I also leave my job stress in my cubby. Somehow, I've found a way not to take it home with me. It helps that my life is just as frenetic at home as a single mom with two kids.
Secondly, I run. Correction, "jog fast," as a form of physical and emotional fitness (side note -- it took me nearly five years to enjoy running, but well worth the wait!). On many levels, exercise reduces my stress and cluttered thoughts. And finally, writing this blog has helped me "vent" my thoughts on the vast topic of my profession.
Trust me, I know I'm not unique. Whether you work in a SNF, hospital or private clinic, every one of us faces stress daily. What I want to know is how do you avoid the "burnout?" Are you able to find a balance between a stressful work environment and your sanity? Love to hear your thoughts.