Burnout and letting go

Burnout was always a systemic problem, not a lack of self-care

Have you read Jill Lepore's article on burnout in The New Yorker? She notes:

"Burnout is a metaphor disguised as a diagnosis."

The creators of the Maslach Burnout Inventory wrote:

“We never designed the MBI as a tool to diagnose an individual health problem,” they explained; instead, assessing burnout was meant to encourage employers to “establish healthier workplaces.”

How many generations of people need to be diagnosed as burnt out before things change?

How can we protect ourselves from caregiver burnout when everyone is burnt out?

What inventory do we use to measure an unhealthy medical system?

How do we protect ourselves from a medical system that causes nearly everyone it touches to burn out?

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Burnout was always a diagnosis of a systemic problem. It didn’t point to a problem with the individual person. It points to a toxic system.


Meanwhile, the hospital at home model is expanding. During the pandemic, having patients who would normally be hospitalized remain in their homes has become an alternative for setting up field hospitals and surge plans.

Medically Home sets up all the necessary tools, such as remote monitoring technology as well as an integrated care team, to monitor and offer care to patients in their homes. They estimate 30% of hospitalized patients can benefit from the model.

Take a guess about who will be providing the hands on care to these patients in need of hospital care.

"If you think about being admitted to the hospital, in the physical room itself, you have a bed, you have oxygen, you have other equipment. But more importantly, you have access to the nursing station and physicians checking your chart," Rakowski said.

In less than an hour, the group sets up technology including an iPad and other platforms to allow the group to monitor the patient's vitals in real time, see the patient and communicate with the patient as well as with the family.

If you guessed an unpaid, untrained family member, you’re right. The nurses and doctors are able to observe the patient. The “care” the medical team is providing is the care of issuing orders to family members around the clock.

The accolates go to the doctors, the nurses, and the technology. It’s simply assumed that the family can and will provide the physical labor.

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People often frame their life as being on hold while they prioritize care work. I wonder how many of us — if any of us — pick up where we left off.

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I found myself wondering this while reading an essay by Rainesford Stauffer, who recently published An Ordinary Age:

"Often, there’s a desire to cling onto how we thought life should go, sometimes until it outweighs the reality of how it is going — what makes us happy, versus what we feel should; what is truly stimulating or fulfilling, versus what we’ve been told should be chased and sacrificed for.

A question I ponder is: How do we untether ourselves from the people we imagined we’d become?"

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A video to watch: Eight migrant care workers share their stories with Toronto's Myseum.


Are you part of a community of care?

If you feel like you're on your own, rather than part of a community where you can be vulnerable, accountable, and interdependent, check out the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective's Pod Mapping Worksheet.


I’ve moved my plants — and myself — to my summer home: my balcony. Which is where I’ve been spending my days.

When we think of murmurations, most of us don't think about pigeons. The pigeons outside my building regularly put on an impressive show, swooping in formation whenever they feel threatened.

Aeon has a delightful video from Dennis Hlynsky celebrating the movement of small creatures.