Healthcare Mental Health Opinion

Opinion: What Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation has taught us about stress and burnout


New Zealand Prime Minister’s resignation highlights growing stress and burnout in the workplace particularly in healthcare due to COVID-19.

Bravely admitting that a contributing factor in stepping down was due to understanding the job requirements and no longer having enough in the tank to do it, the recent shock resignation of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern highlights the increasing impact of stress and burnout within the workplace.

In fact, the most recent Work Trend Index shockingly reveals 60% of New Zealand and Australian workers report being burnt out at work, compared to the global average of 48% of employees. Sadly, these high levels are particularly the case with healthcare workers, after a national survey of 9,000 participants saw 70.9% experiencing moderate to severe burnout.

Not surprisingly the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for heightened concerns over health professionals’ well-being, especially frontline workers. In a snowball effect, with the health sector extremely short-staffed and overworked, Australia is facing a shortfall of more than 200,000 full-time care workers by 2050.

With a world leader leading shining a spotlight on this topic, it has taught us the importance of identifying the warning signs and managing stress levels to avoid burnout.

There are three key warning signs to look out for, a sense of emotional tiredness or exhaustion, a depletion of empathy (shorter fuse or grumpy more often) and a decreased sense of accomplishment.

Healthcare workers are encouraged to learn the signs and remain vigilant for any obvious or notable change in their health, both mentally and physically. Identifying the early signs of chronic stress gives healthcare workers the best chance to make small changes to avoid escalation into severe burnout that can negatively impact their life.

My biggest advice for anyone navigating high-stress levels is to practice good self-care – this could look like improving your nutrition, physical activity, getting a good night’s sleep or doing something you love. However, while there are numerous strategies that can be effective in the management of high-stress levels, individuals with severe stress may reach a point where participating in a treatment program is the most effective way to fully recover.

Peter Hayton
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Peter Hayton is the Chief Psychologist at The Banyans Healthcare Group. Peter has worked for over two decades as a psychologist in both private practice and clinical settings. He has also pioneered a variety of health initiatives across education, social enterprise, and corporate sectors.

Along with his experience in counselling and rehabilitation services, Peter has extensive experience in education, training, and staff development. He has provided valuable support with business management and program development, including the management, support and supervision of staff in a variety of employment and training environments. He continues to supervise various therapists, who appreciate his warm and unassuming approach.


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