Employee Burnout Research Project

Burnout and Employee Well-Being the Focus of New Quality Improvement Project

By Mary Boutette, Chief Operating Officer

We want our staff to be the best they can be, for themselves, their families, and above all, for our residents and clients. It is why we are here.

Every day, our colleagues their entire self to serve our residents and clients. It takes a special, selfless kind of person to do this, because the people we care for often depend completely on us, and meeting their needs can be very challenging. When staff members give their entire selves to others, it can take its toll, especially if staff feel they can’t meet the needs they see, or really make a difference in residents’/clients’ lives.

We all want to make a difference.

If a person experiences emotional exhaustion, lacks empathy towards other people, and can’t accomplish what needs to be done, they often describe themselves as feeling “burned out”. “Burnout” in health care workers has been identified as an issue. We are launching a Quality Improvement project at Perley Rideau to investigate and address this. Employees who feel burned out can lack the empathy, resilience, and commitment to provide the excellent care that our residents and clients deserve and need. Even more troubling, employee burnout in Long Term Care has been linked to things like resident/client neglect, abuse, absenteeism, turnover, poor health, difficult family lives, and overall well-being. We want and need our employees to be the best selves that they can be.

As a first step, we are launching a pilot study on G2S and G2N to understand burnout in Personal Support Workers and to explore ways to prevent it. Dementia is more prevalent on those two units which research suggests to be related to caregiver burnout. We are hosting a focus group with a small group of PSWs to help us brainstorm change ideas. Once the change ideas have been identified, we will implement them in small improvement cycles and closely monitor the outcomes. This project is supported by Health Quality Ontario’s IDEAS program, and we are fortunate to benefit from many leading researchers in this area. Their approval of our application further explains the importance of this issue.

The project started this summer and will be completed by Feb. 2019. Currently the study is limited to PSWs on these two units. However, our findings will be applied wherever they are relevant, as soon as possible.

We understand the urgency and will keep you updated on our progress through upcoming newsletters and shared through our social media channels and emails. Here are the four members of the IDEAS project team should you wish to contact us.

  • Lacey Sheng, Performance Improvement Consultant, lsheng@prvhc.com, ext. 2205
  • Rebecca Wilson, Strategy, Transition and Workplace Consultant, rwilson@prvhc.com, ext. 2225
  • Andrea Liu, Coordinator - Centre of Excellence and Interprofessional Clinics, aliu@prvhc.com, ext. 7150
  • Kelly Donahue, Special Approach PSW, kdonahue@prvhc.com, ext. 2346


Step 1: Three staffers don scrubs to get a frontline perspective

 To better understand the complexities of working as a PSW, I suggested that my fellow teammates experience a day in the life of a   PSW by completing a shadow shift. The other three core team members usually work in administration and have limited or no bedside  experience in this setting. They were really glad that they completed this challenge and would like to share their learnings with you.

 I’m grateful that my teammates had the opportunity to see firsthand the exceptional contributions made by our hardworking PSWs  every day. We would like to invite you to recognize the unsung heroes of long-term care by giving them a “Kudos card ”, available  throughout the Health Centre.

Kelly Donahue, Special Approach PSW

A Day in Scrubs

Read the personal accounts of three staff members following a day in scrubs:

Project introduction - download here

  1. Lacey Sheng, Performance Improvement Consultant - download here
  2. Andrea Liu, Coordinator - Centre of Excellence and Interprofessional Clinics - download here
  3. Rebecca Wilson, Strategy, Transition and Workplace Consultant - download here