November 2020 President's Corner

November 2020 President's Corner

Burnout as an Audiology Student

Since starting college eight years ago, every year right around this time of the year, I would start getting tired - physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some years were worse than others, but the overall feeling was tired. For me, when that was mixed with seasonal depression, the combination led to cycles of burnout.

If you’re not personally familiar with burnout, it’s broadly defined as exhaustion due to prolonged stress. However, since you’re likely an audiology student reading this, you’ve likely experienced burnout too, considering 22-55% of graduate healthcare students have endured moderate to high levels of burnout (Bullock et al., 2017). To underscore the relevance of burnout, the World Health Organization (WHO) included burnout as an occupational phenomenon in its newest revision in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). Its inclusion in ICD-11 allows WHO to develop evidence-based practice guidelines on mental health in the workforce (“Burn-out an ‘occupational phenomenon’,” 2020).

The sooner we recognize the signs of burnout, the sooner we can tackle it head-on and break the proverbial cycle. Although burnout is primarily characterized by exhaustion, other related signs and symptoms may include (“Burn-out an ‘occupational phenomenon’,” 2020; “Dealing with burnout as a grad student,” 2018; Gray, 2016):

  • Increased mental distance from your job (being a student is a full-time job!)
  • Feelings of negativity or cynicism towards your job
  • Reduced professional efficacy
  • Decreased motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Declined academic performance
  • Changes in social patterns (e.g., friends, food, substance use)
  • Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and irritability 

Thankfully, burnout is both reversible and preventable. As with many mental health treatments, we must take care of the very basics. Generally speaking, the basics are adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, exercise, and sleep! There are also plenty of other small tweaks we can make in our lifestyle and daily routine to manage burnout. Below I’ve shared three tips that have worked for me when dealing with burnout as an audiology graduate student.

  1. Tell someone. Tell your friend, your classmate, your mother, really anyone; there is an excellent chance this person has also experienced similar feelings. The simple act of voicing your feelings of burnout brings them into reality and can help start the process of reversing burnout. If you’re comfortable doing so, I encourage you to share these feelings with your preceptors, clinic coordinators, and/or professors. They have been an audiology student before, and I bet they have some words of wisdom, too.
  2. Set boundaries. This can be easier said than done (trust me, I know), but the best place to start is setting school boundaries. It will look different for everyone, but I took every other weekend off from all school-related work during the second year of my audiology program. Making this change gave me more structure and time management during the weekend before and the week of because I knew I “wouldn’t have time” the following weekend to finish the work.
  3. Inform yourself. Knowledge is power; the more you know about burnout, the more likely you can move through it! I hope this article is a good starting place, but I’ve also included additional resources on burnout, including general research articles and articles specific to audiology.

Burnout is prevalent among graduate healthcare students. Up to half of your audiology cohort has likely experienced burnout at some point! I share part of my personal experience because I’ve felt varying burnout levels for my entire college career, and I want you to know that you’re not alone in these feelings. Although this short article only scratches the surface on the signs of burnout and ways to reverse and prevent it, research shows it has detrimental effects on our health; physically, mentally, and emotionally (Salvagioni et al., 2017). I want you to be the best audiologist you can be, so I urge you to be mindful of the signs of burnout and remember that it’s both preventable and reversible.

If you or someone you know is feeling especially bad or suicidal, get help right away. You can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance. Visit https://www.mhanational.org/get-professional-help-if-you-need-it for more information.

References and Relevant Resources

Blood, I. M., Cohen, L., & Blood, G. W. (2007). Job burnout, geographic location, and social interaction among educational audiologists. Perceptual and motor skills, 105(3 Pt 2), 1203–1208. https://doi.org/10.2466/pms.105.4.1203-1208

Bullock, G., Kraft, L., Amsden, K., Gore, W., Prengle, B., Wimsatt, J., Ledbetter, L., Covington, K., & Goode, A. (2017). The prevalence and effect of burnout on graduate healthcare students. Canadian medical education journal, 8(3), e90–e108.

Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases. (2019, May 28). https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/.

Burnout. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/burnout.

Dealing with burnout as a grad student. (2018, November 28). https://www.colorado.edu/today/2018/11/28/dealing-burnout-grad-student.

Gray, A. (2016, August 29). Stress and Burnout in Graduate School: Recognizing, Preventing, and Recovering. http://ijobs.rutgers.edu/wordpress/2015/10/27/stress-and-burnout-in-graduate-school-recognizing-preventing-and-recovering/.

Salvagioni, D., Melanda, F. N., Mesas, A. E., González, A. D., Gabani, F. L., & Andrade, S. M. (2017). Physical, psychological and occupational consequences of job burnout: A systematic review of prospective studies. PloS one, 12(10), e0185781. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185781

Severn, M. S., Searchfield, G. D., & Huggard, P. (2012). Occupational stress amongst audiologists: compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, and burnout. International journal of audiology, 51(1), 3–9. https://doi.org/10.3109/14992027.2011.602366

Smith, M., Segal, J., & Robinson, L. (2020, October). Burnout Prevention and Treatment. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm.