The role of healthcare professionals in providing high-quality care to patients is undoubtedly crucial, but often neglected is their work’s impact on their own well-being.

The demanding nature of the job can cause healthcare professionals to experience burnout, compassion fatigue, and moral distress, leading to emotional and physical exhaustion, poor job satisfaction, and even negatively impacting patient care.

This is why robust self-care is so important. 

We recently spoke to Archna Patel on The Healthy Practice podcast. An award-winning acupuncturist from London, she gave us an excellent overview of general well-being and the specific challenges practitioners face. You can listen to the whole episode here:

How to Maintain Your Wellbeing and Run a Practice with Archna Patel

By setting healthy boundaries with our clients, ensuring that we make time for ourselves regularly, and actively seeking out activities that energise us and help us disconnect from work-related stressors, we can prevent emotional depletion from taking its toll on us. 

Self-care allows us to replenish our energy stores to remain attuned to our client’s needs, while nurturing ourselves.

What Is Self-Care?

Self-care can be defined as taking an active role in protecting, maintaining, and improving our physical, mental, and emotional health. While self-care has traditionally been seen as merely a way of preventing burnout in healthcare practitioners, it has become a more holistic approach to overall well-being.

It involves taking the time to tune into your needs, identifying stress sources, and fostering a sense of balance in daily life.

Some examples of self-care practices that healthcare practitioners can engage in include:

1. Mindfulness meditation: Practicing mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduce burnout symptoms while lowering the risk ofmental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.

2. Regular exercise improves overall physical health, reduces stress, and promotes better sleep patterns.

3. Adequate sleep: Sleeping is important for overall health, reducing stress, and promoting better cognitive function.

4. Eating a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet can help boost energy levels and mood while also reducing the risk of physical health problems.

5. Regular breaks throughout the day can help healthcare practitioners reduce stress and rejuvenate their energy levels.

By prioritising self-care, you can improve your well-being, reduce the risk of burnout and other mental health disorders, and ultimately deliver better patient care.

Types of Self-Care

Self-care is a crucial aspect of healthcare practice that enables providers to care for their mental, emotional, and physical health. 

Practitioners can adopt various self-care practices to prevent burnout, mitigate compassion fatigue, and cope with moral distress. 

Here are some types of self-care practices that healthcare practitioners can adopt:

Physical Self-Care:

Physical self-care involves caring for your health through physical activities, such as exercise and adequate rest. 

Healthcare practitioners are often on their feet for long hours, which can lead to physical exhaustion. Engaging in physical activities such as yoga, walking, or swimming is essential to maintain good health. 

Regular exercise helps reduce stress, increases energy levels, and allows for better sleep patterns.

Mental Self-Care:

Mental self-care involves caring for your mental health through mindfulness, positive self-talk, and relaxation. 

Healthcare providers often work in high-stress environments, which can lead to mental exhaustion and burnout. Practising mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and engaging in relaxation techniques such as qigong can help improve mental well-being. 

Positive self-talk and relaxation techniques help healthcare practitioners reduce stress and enhance their mental resilience.

Emotional Self-Care:

Emotional self-care involves caring for your emotional needs by adopting self-care strategies such as journaling and seeking social support. 

Healthcare practitioners are at high risk of compassion fatigue, experiencing intense emotions and moral distress due to the nature of their work. Practising gratitude, seeking social support, allowing personal time, and engaging in cultural interests can help healthcare providers manage emotional exhaustion and build emotional resilience.

The Impact of Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and Moral Distress in Private Practice

As we’ve seen, healthcare professionals face high demands and are often exposed to intense emotional situations, putting them at risk of burnout, compassion fatigue, and moral distress.

These conditions severely impact healthcare practitioners’ mental and physical well-being, leading to decreased quality of care for patients.

Burnout is a form of emotional exhaustion and disengagement resulting from chronic work stressors. Signs and symptoms include feeling emotionally, physically, and mentally drained, a lack of motivation, cynicism, and decreased quality of work. Burnout can affect quality of care as it leads to reduced empathy towards patients and may cause errors in judgement.

Fortunately, proactive steps can be taken for the prevention of burnout. These include self-care strategies like:

  • Creating meaningful activities outside of work to restore balance in life
  • Cognitive strategies such as reframing negative thoughts
  • Managing work demands more effectively
  • Smaller caseloads
  • More flexibility with working hours
  • Reducing paperwork whenever possible

Compassion fatigue is characterised by the decreased ability to empathise and care for patients due to chronic exposure to traumatic or stressful situations. Signs and symptoms include emotional exhaustion, irritability, and decreased ability to connect with patients. Compassion fatigue can lead to decreased quality of care as healthcare providers may become desensitised to patients’ needs and may not fully comprehend their pain and suffering.

Moral distress is the psychological response to healthcare practitioners facing ethical conflicts or moral uncertainty in decision-making. Signs and symptoms include feelings of guilt, frustration, and anger. Moral distress can impact the quality of care as it may lead to neglecting to provide proper care for patients and feeling unable to follow moral and ethical obligations.

Secondary stress is another concept that impacts the well-being of healthcare professionals. It’s the emotional stress resulting from the indirect exposure to the trauma and stress of others, such as patients and families. Secondary stress can contribute to burnout, compassion fatigue, and moral distress by increasing the workload and susceptibility to stress.

Burnout, compassion fatigue, and moral distress are prevalent among health care providers and significantly impact their mental and physical well-being, leading to decreased quality of care for their patients. 

By recognising and addressing these signs and symptoms, you can improve your overall well-being and quality of patient care.

5 Simple Ways for Health Care Workers to Practice Self-Care

1. Set Realistic Expectations

Set realistic expectations for yourselves and others. Prioritise your tasks and focus on the most critical patients’ needs while ensuring you don’t neglect your health and well-being. Setting realistic expectations can reduce the pressure and workload while promoting a healthy work-life balance.

2. Establish Work-Life Boundaries

Boundaries are necessary to help maintain balance and create a sense of self-worth. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the demands of your practice, particularly when people expect us to be consistently available to them at all times.

Setting boundaries allows us the space to take a step back from our frenzied lives and ensure we are taking care of ourselves emotionally, mentally and physically. By setting firm boundaries, we are telling ourselves that it is okay to say no – without feeling guilty or like a burden – so that we can focus on our own needs and well-being.

Establishing boundaries can also give your clients respect for your time and personal responsibilities. You and your clients will benefit from this healthy energy exchange with proper boundary setting.

3. Get Quality Sleep

Sleeping is crucial to maintaining good health and cognitive function. Prioritise getting quality sleep each night to help improve your emotional, mental, and physical well-being. Sleep is a way for us to recharge and renew our energy levels, making us more effective in our roles.

4. Look After Your Physical Well-Being

The overwhelming feelings and effects of mental health conditions often distract us from our physical health.

It’s important to remember that mental and physical health depend on each other for well-being. To ensure balance, consider evaluating your diet choices, activity levels, and sleep habits.

When we are busy, finding the motivation or energy to care for our body can be difficult. Pay attention to what and when you eat to give yourself a source of fuel for added energy support during trying times. Eating several small meals throughout the day and including lots of fresh fruits and vegetables guarantees sustained energy and the proper nutrition your body needs for optimal performance.

5. Reach Out to Others

Having a support system and knowing that you’re not alone is essential. Maintain your social connections and contact family, friends, colleagues, or mental health professionals if you need help. Speaking with someone can provide an outlet for stress and anxiety and give you much-needed emotional support.

Implementing these strategies can help health care workers build resilience and prevent burnout. By maintaining a healthy work-life balance and prioritising your health and well-being, you can continue providing excellent patient care.

Self-Care and Care for Colleagues

Caring for colleagues who may be experiencing compassion fatigue, moral distress, or burnout is also essential. You can do this by listening and offering support, identifying changes in behaviour that may indicate distress, and encouraging colleagues to seek professional help.

Forums such as Schwartz Rounds are also an effective way of creating a space for colleague reflection and emotional processing. Health care providers can use such platforms to share their experiences, reflect on their emotions, and gain insight into how to cope with challenging situations. 

The CDC also recommends strategies such as identifying and addressing physical and mental health needs, monitoring symptoms of depression, getting enough rest, and focusing on positive emotions. These strategies are vital in preventing burnout, compassion fatigue, and moral distress among staff in your practice.

Finally, practice managers are critical in advocating for self-care strategies among health care providers. They should emphasise the importance of valuing oneself and the profession, encourage team-building activities, and create a supportive work environment that promotes work-life balance while delivering high-quality patient care.

Make Your Life Easier by Automating your Practice

Private practice software like WriteUpp is easy to use and affordable, and it lets you take client bookings online, reduce admin time, and improve the overall client experience. 

Because your software streamlines your admin for you, you’ll have more time to concentrate on your own well-being. It frees up hours which you can use to spend with friends or family, delve into new self-care routines, or invest in your physical health. 

Basically, it’s there to save you time and worry!

You’ll spend less time looking for information, preparing notes, and writing client emails and text messages, which will give you more time to grow your practice.

With just a few clicks, you can access a ton of features, including

  • Taking bookings from your clients online, 24/7
  • Eradicating repetitive & time-consuming tasks
  • Accessing reporting to analyse your business income
  • Eliminating paper 
  • Improving your client’s experience 
  • Simplifying your compliance with key regulations like GDPR
  • Reducing the threat of virus transmission

You can grab us for a live chat if you have any questions about what an integrated practice management solution can do for you and your practice.

The button is just there in the bottom right corner of your screen.


Ellie is WriteUpp’s in-house Content Creator. Her research and writing for private practitioners focuses on marketing, business growth, data security, and more. She also hosts WriteUpp’s podcast The Healthy Practice; the show that guides practitioners in the early stages of their careers through every aspect of practice management. Outside of work Ellie writes a mental health blog, studies mindfulness and is a keen nature photographer.