The Rebbetzin’s Husband’s blog posted a link to a NY Times article published Sunday on the issue of increasing clergy burnout. The article talks about the challenges clergy face with taking time for him/herself and how that contributes to higher rates of burnout. Additionally, as we are in a world of instant communication, this issue becomes all the more prevalent because it is harder to “get away.” In the blog post about the article, The Rebbetzin’s Husband talks about another factor of burnout, namely the need for fulfillment coming from the job instead of from other personal involvements. Interestingly, a couple of years ago, in the Jewish Action, they interviewed seven old time rabbis, all who have served congregations for 50 yrs. One of them stated he didn’t understand the concept of burnout because burnout would only occur if one doesn’t enjoy the work. While I agree burnout is less likely in work that is fulfilling and pleasurable, this doesn’t mean burnout is not possible.
While the article and the blog focus on clergy in religious institutions, I am reflecting on the same as a chaplain in health care. It is very difficult to avoid the pitfall of looking at work as the primary element of one’s life. For example, this is why I have insisted on teaching classes at my local synagogue, as for me that is an outlet. It gives me the opportunity to use other areas of myself, which I feel are underutilized as a chaplain. I also have the luxury of having Shabbat off (though that is soon to change, with a new job on the horizon) in which my phone is shut off for a day. It gives me the opportunity not to worry about needing my cell phone all the time (though with having a smart phone, its not such a burden). Nevertheless, it is hard not to worry about the people you are working with, as they feel a trust in you to be with them in the darkest of times.