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Defense Health Agency Works to Prevent Health Worker Burnout, Build Supportive Community

Image of Defense Health Agency Works to Prevent Health Worker Burnout, Build Supportive Community. “We need to put down the multiple screens and give the folks around us, our teammates, our attention and our listening ear,” said U.S. Navy Capt. Meghan Corso at a Defense Health Agency panel on building community. “This allows us that opportunity to really connect with each other. The more connected we are, the more we trust each other in the work environment, which is really important for success.” (Credit: Airman 1st Class Quion Lowe)

Health worker burnout can happen in the Military Health System just as it does in the private health care setting. Taking steps to prevent and recover from burnout among health care workers and support staff is a priority for the Defense Health Agency.

This was the subject of a virtual panel, “Taking Care of Each Other: Building a Stronger DHA Community,” addressing employee health and wellness in the workplace and the importance of community on Sept. 28, 2023.

Featured speakers included U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Troy Brown, senior enlisted leader, assistant director for support; Kate McGraw, chief of the Psychological Health Center of Excellence; and U.S. Navy Public Health Service Capt. Meghan Corso, chief of Behavioral Health Clinical Operations.

Over 550 participants from DHA facilities worldwide attended to discuss their own experiences and offer suggestions for promoting workplace wellness.

In his opening remarks, Brown spoke about the risk of burnout in health care.

“Working in the military hospitals and clinics and in the health care setting is tough,” said Brown. “I’m sure many of us have struggled with burnout for numerous reasons. I know I have. Identifying burnout helped me look at opportunities to really focus on my whole person wellness journey, which has helped my overall resilience and improved my work life balance.”

The panelists outlined some common signs of burnout and explored ways to prevent it, focusing on the power of social connection, healthy boundaries, self-reflection and self-care

"Social connection is beneficial not only for mental health but for overall wellness. Make sure that you support one another,” McGraw said.

Corso emphasized the importance of being emotionally present for your team.

“We need to put down the multiple screens and give the folks around us, our teammates, our attention, and our listening ear,” said Corso. “That allows us the opportunity to really connect with each other. The more connected we are, the more we trust each other, which is really important for success.”

The panel also focused on the role of leadership in developing a culture of wellness and support at the DHA.

“If you're leading a team and someone's on leave, don't call them while they're on leave. Protect that space. Most things are not so urgent we need to interrupt the rest and relaxation of somebody who's already feeling stressed,” McGraw said.

Corso and McGraw reminded participants that leadership can be top down, but it can also be bottom up.

“You can be a leader within your own section regardless of what kind of leadership you have above you,” said McGraw.

Corso echoed that sentiment, saying, “We’re all responsible for contributing to the morale of our workspace.”

The panelists wrapped up with advice for a more balanced perspective when feeling overwhelmed.

“My journey started when my wife asked me, ‘What do you enjoy?’ and I really, really struggled to answer that,” said Brown. “I had to do a lot of self-reflection.”

Brown now tries to find some time daily to reflect, even if it’s just five or 10 minutes, “to give me a little bit of armor to protect myself.”

“People are people; they're not machines,” said Corso. “They have real lives. We need to empower them. If it gets to be too much, you can say no.”

Brown added, “We can break pretty easily. So, care is one of the pieces of my leadership motto—the most important piece. If you care, just a tiny bit, it goes a long, long way.”

Resources

The Military Health System has many resources available to help service members, families, or veterans who are struggling with mental health challenges.

If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis, need immediate assistance, or simply want to talk to someone, confidential help is available 24/7:

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Last Updated: November 03, 2023
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