How PAs Can Take on More Responsibility Without Burning Out

Four Tips to Keep You Sane

September 30, 2019

By Andrea Lowe, MHA, PA-C

One of the main goals for healthcare providers is that we are prepared, committed, and focused on patient care. But as we advance in our careers, it’s natural to want to take on more responsibility. We want to keep growing and developing as people and as professionals. But there’s a tricky balance – as we take on more, we don’t want our PA practice or our enthusiasm for healthcare to suffer. Here are tips on how you can take on more without burning out.

  1. Figure out what interests you.

When you start thinking about taking on more, it’s natural to want to say yes to everything that comes your way. You’re ready to prove yourself and you just need the opportunity. But it’s important to make sure the opportunity interests you. It seems obvious, but if you aren’t interested in something, it’s going to feel like a burden. I always told the providers I worked with there’s no faster way to burn out than saying yes just to say yes.

The opportunity that interests you the most may not be at work. Maybe getting involved in the local PA chapter is what you’re most passionate about. Or perhaps there’s a community group that contributes to public health that you’re interested in. When you’re interested in the work and the outcomes, you won’t burn out.

[Get the tools you need to be an effective grassroots advocate.]

  1. Volunteer for quality improvement projects or committee seats.

Quality improvement projects and committees are great places to start when you’re looking to increase your involvement. They both offer you an opportunity to share your knowledge, meet your colleagues, and increase your responsibilities, while still offering some breathing room for your primary PA practice. Quality improvement projects are a great place to get started; they often have short, defined durations – 30, 60, or 90 days. While committees may ask you to commit to a year, or even two, the meeting frequency is often very doable – once a month, for instance.

Remember, too, that you do not have to apply or be in an official leadership role to function as a leader. Each workplace will have different quality improvement projects or committee openings, and each opportunity affords its own leadership opportunities – whether formal or informal. Say yes to the opportunity that interests you the most, and you may find yourself an emerging leader.

[How to Find Your Voice at the Leadership Table.]

  1. Consider work/life balance.

When you take on additional duties of any kind, you’re going to have to shift things around to make time for them. Review the terms of the commitment before your final yes – do Monday, Wednesday, Friday meetings really work for you? Does the credentialing committee meeting time conflict with your daughter’s softball schedule? Of course, we can all do some juggling, but if it is constantly going to be an uphill battle, you’ll get frustrated and stressed and you’ll be well on your way to burning out. It’s probably best to keep searching.

I was recently approached about a committee position and I was immediately interested in the opportunity. But before I said yes, I spent a lot of time making sure that it would work for me. I asked them a lot of questions: how often do you meet? Could I attend some meetings virtually, or did they need me in person? Luckily, this particular opportunity worked with my schedule, but don’t feel badly about saying no if it isn’t going to work.

[Job Crafting: Make the Most of Your Current Position.]

  1. Evaluate and reflect. 

This is a really important step that’s too often overlooked. Sometimes, like with a shorter duration quality improvement project, you’ll be able to wait until the end to reflect, but sometimes you’ll need to take some time out midstream. Devote time to reflection: what do you want for yourself, your career? What direction do you want your life to take? Consider whether or not you feel comfortable with the position or role, and whether or not you’re getting out of it what you’d hoped. Did the time commitment feel OK to you? Were there any negatives about the experience? When you take the time to reflect and consider what was right and what was wrong, you’ll be even better positioned when the next opportunity comes along.

You’ll feel excited when you’re ready to step up – and you should be! If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll increase your own level of responsibility without burning out, while contributing positively to your workplace, your profession, or your community.

Additional Resources
One Interview Tip I Would Give to All PAs
New PAs: Ask Questions and Know Your Value
Find Your Passion at Any Stage of Your PA Career

Andrea Lowe, MHA, PA-C, is director of employer strategies for CHLM and AAPA. Contact her at [email protected].

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