How can Support Coordinators deal with burnout?

Tim McNamara

How these steps can help Support Coordinators overcome burnout

Making a positive difference to human life is a passion most Support Coordinators have that keeps them motivated in their role.  At the end of the workday, having given so much of ourselves, it is common to feel drained and overwhelmed.

You might have 20 or more clients needing your attention, and they all are just as important as the other, and you somehow must balance and organise your workload to make sure you keep on top of things.

In addition to managing highly complex caseloads, Support Coordinators are often expected to provide emotional support to clients and their families.

The constant pressure can take a toll on even the most dedicated Support Coordinator. If left unchecked, burnout can lead to depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental health problems.

It is suggested that staff leave the disability sector because of stress and burnout.[1]In the NDIS sector, Support Coordinators are particularly vulnerable to burnout due to the high demands of the role.

What is burnout and how does it affect Support Coordinators?
Stress and burnout among Support Coordinators is a complex problem that cannot be explained by factors in isolation. Burnout is a psychological response to workplace stress and is a common occurrence among people who work within health and community services.

Studies have described burnout as a combination of:

  • emotional exhaustion (feeling drained and worn out without the resources to ‘reload’)
  • depersonalisation (having a detached or negative response to clients or co-workers), and
  • a reduced sense of personal accomplishment (feelings of inadequacy and the thought you are no longer achieving anything meaningful in the workplace).[2]

At its simplest, burnout is a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion.

Do You Think You Are Suffering from Burnout?
As Support Coordinators in the NDIS, we must examine our feelings and reactions to our experiences in order to understand the signs of burnout better.

You may be suffering burnout if you answer YES to any of these questions.

  • Have you become cynical at work?
  • Are you dissatisfied with your achievements?
  • Do you drag yourself to work?
  • Do you have trouble starting work?
  • Have you become irritable with co-workers or clients?
  • Have you started to numb yourself with drugs, alcohol, or food?
  • Have your sleeping or eating habits changed?
  • Do you lack energy?
  • Do you feel disillusioned?
  • Do you get unexplained headaches or backaches? 

Are you better at caring for and looking after others than you are at caring for yourself?

Support Coordinators are regular people who have their own complex lives. Sometimes it can be difficult to compartmentalise personal and work emotions. Support Coordinators commonly experience compassion fatigue and secondary trauma.

Support coordinators who take care of themselves are better able to take care of others.

Be clear about the factors that you are in control of and start to assess them. This can mean asking yourself tough questions.

  • Are you good at asking for help?
  • Do you need to find a community of practice, so that you feel connected and supported?
  • Are you saying yes too much?
  • Do you spread yourself too thin?
  • Are you taking on cases that require additional training or support?
  • Does your workplace have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)?

If you are experiencing personal stress, there are things you can do to help mitigate the impact

Burnout is reversible. If you take swift action, you may be able to stop the effects of the prolonged, chronic stress that is underlying the condition. It is important that Support Coordinators are not suffering from high levels of stress or burnout because it is likely to affect their work quality.

  • Take an inventory of situations that create stress
  • Take breaks throughout the day
  • Establish boundaries with clients
  • There are many benefits to being involved in a Support Coordinator community of practice
  • Think positively, remember why you enjoy your work and rediscover those enjoyable aspects
  • Leave space in your calendar to catch up
  • Practice gratitude
  • Aim for eight hours sleep every night.
  • Regular physical activity helps you deal with stress
  • Make time for self-care outside of work.
  • Learning to say no in general is important
  • Reach out to people you trust for support when you need it.

The high level of stress and burnout is exactly why Support Coordinators require access to and training in using self-care and resilience programs in diverse and challenging environments.

Support Coordinators who are resilient actively take care of themselves.

Support Coordination Academy has created the FREE self-paced learning module, Self-Care within the Support Coordination role for new and experienced Support Coordinators.

Use technology to minimise and automate your administrative tasks

There is undoubtedly a high administrative workload for Support Coordinators.

Good Support Coordinators look to Support Coordination Software to minimise their time on administrative tasks, so they can spend more time focusing on their clients.

It is important to remember that we are all human. We all go through ups and downs. The hopelessness that comes with burnout can feel insurmountable. However, if you take the time to honestly assess the source of your stressors and implement the above recommendations to reduce them, your situation can change.

[1] Harries J. Ng KYY. Wilson L. Kirby N. & Ford J. (2015) Evaluation of the Work Safety and Psychosocial Wellbeing of Disability Support Workers. Australasian Journal of Organisational Psychology 8, 1-13.

[2] Top of Form

Maslach, C., & Zimbardo, P. G. (1982). Burnout: The cost of caring.Bottom of Form

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