Updated 2/15/2021. Originally published 12/12/2014.

I understand exhaustion. Although I do not have the life and death responsibilities in my current role, as a road warrior with an average commute of 15 hours per week – I understand exhaustion. You recognize it immediately.  The bone-numbing moment when you cannot hold your head up another moment and wish that everyone would simply take a moment of silence – if only for 5 minutes.  

Exhaustion recognizes exhaustion.  In this example, it was 15 minutes before the start of the healthcare training course. 

The training center was located within the same complex as the hospital. Given that it was an EMR class exclusively for Surgeons, and it was starting at 8:30 am, I hurried to start the coffee pot.

I had conducted this two-day class, multiple times over previous 5 weeks. Therefore, I was comfortable with the course content, the audience and understood there would-be late arrivals coming directly from the surgery.  

I returned to my classroom with my cup of freshly brewed hazelnut coffee and almost collided with one of the surgeon attendees. After the usual verbal pleasantries and signing the roster, he walked to the instructor’s desk to speak with me privately – out of earshot of the other surgeons mingling before class started.

I understand exhaustion.  Although I don’t have the life and death responsibilities of a surgeon, a

The surgeon indicated that he had just finished surgery moments ago and was exhausted. He uses the EMR software at another hospital and was quite comfortable navigating in the system locating the necessary patient information he needed. He questioned, would it be possible to just complete his assessment and skip the rest of the class? After all, he had just completed an early morning surgery and needed to go to his office to complete other responsibilities.  

Frankly, he was not sure he could sit through an 8-hour class today, let alone return tomorrow for 4 additional hours.  We have all been there.  Our roles and the demands placed upon us requiring inexhaustive supply of focus, attention to details and energy.

What can you do?

How do you manage when your job role and responsibilities are physically and emotionally draining daily?

Organizations have reported that workplace exhaustion can impact:

  • the ability to make decisions
  • the quality of communication within your peers
  • the methods and speed that assigned tasks are completed.

In fact, the article entitled,  “The Costs and Consequences of Workplace Exhaustion“,  suggests that employees who are physically exhausted can result in difficult work attitudes and behavior issues at work.

  • How many times have you attended a meeting, learning event or worked an extra shift after a demanding workday?
  • How much did you listen or comprehend?
  • How empathetic were you to customer demands or the other employee’s viewpoint??
  • If it was a learning event, were you able to complete the new skills learned a day or week later –  without referring to the quick reference guides or notes taken during class?


Dr. David Ballard, head of the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, in an article entitled “10 Signs You’re Burning Out — And What to Do About It”, describes exhaustion as being tired all the time and not having any energy.

Over many years as a corporate trainer, I have observed nodding attendees whose jobs depended upon completed a training course with hands-on exercises and assessments.

One participant in a Wealth Management financial management class leaned back so far in his chair while “nodding off” that he and the chair flipped backward.

Another participant in a Mortgage Underwriter class slept several hours daily in a 5-day class. However, we were not allowed to awaken the participant due to a known medical condition and privacy concerns. Ultimately, the sleeping participant passed the assessment with exceedingly high scores despite sleeping through class!

The EMR class for Surgeons training workshop started on time and continued with all 15+ surgeons present for the scheduled 1.5 days. The primary focus was documenting patient care in physician notes and highlighting procedures addressing patient safety. Everyone successfully passed the course assessment and gained systems access to the new EMR software. 

Hopefully, having learned a tool to improve access to needed patient information and improve the ability to document each surgeon’s finding. Ideally, each surgeon would be able to spend fewer hours dictating physician notes.  

In a perfect environment, that would translate to more available patient “face to face” time and more time resting, thus feeling energized – not exhausted.

Our co-workers would appreciate the productive and energized version of ourselves.

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