Burnout Buddies

Imagine: a teen in a high school guidance office is eagerly showing the counselor a pamphlet about nursing courses in the community college. You can see the excitement in the youngster’s face – new horizons, new adventures – it’s all there in black and white. They just need one more scholarship and they’re in!

The counselor, Mary, glances at the material, leans back wearily into her chair, and says, “Don’t worry about it, if you don’t get in you’ll eventually forget even had dreams.”


Mary has burnout – she’s toast.

The rest of the guidance department have noticed some changes lately…

  1. Mary is exhausted . She not only slouches at her desk, but barely has the energy to walk to the staff lunchroom. She’s drained emotionally and physically.
  2. Diminished caring not only pervades Mary’s comments, but also her commitment and attitude to life. She often thinks, “Why bother – nothing seems to make a difference anyway.” She feels powerless in the face of everyone’s needs and demands.
  3. Mary is having difficulty motivating herself to do anything, including getting to work. In fact, this is her first day at work this week; it’s Wednesday.
  4. On a scale 1- 10, where 10 describes “High Job Satisfaction”, Mary adds a big “O.”  Her job satisfaction has plummeted.
  5. Mary often closes her office door to be alone. She is too overwhelmed to deal with even one more demand by a student or staff member.

Maybe fire gear will protect Mark from burnout…

Mary’s story is similar to those of Marge the hospice volunteer, Matt the registered nurse, Megan the social worker, and Mark the firefighter. Each of stories describes emotional exhaustion, poor work performance and other symptoms of burnout just like Mary’s.

Mary and her burnout buddies could easily find online information to help them cope.


In the meantime, Mary’s astute and compassionate doctor has recommended that Mary cut out espressos # 3 – 5, that she records Stewart and Colbert so she can go to bed before 1 a.m., that she walks Pugsy instead of making him run next to the Jeep, and that she makes a move to the elementary school across the street.  Good start!


Written by Wendy Kurchak B.Ed., B.Mus., DipN, CT

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