Opinion | Workers’ Comp Claims Professionals, Know This: Burnout Affects You Too

By: | November 5, 2021

Michelle Kerr is Workers' Compensation Editor for Risk & Insurance, and chair of the annual National Comp conference. She can be reached at [email protected]

As we were building the 2021 program for National Comp, it was especially satisfying to select the first CompTalks that would appear live in the National Comp Theater.

One that caught my attention early was “Put Your Oxygen Mask on First: Stress Management for Claims Professionals.”

The title resonated with me. Especially in the world we live in right now. Professional and personal burnout are real. Chronic stress can impact even the most upbeat, most energetic professionals.

We’re finally having meaningful conversations on these subjects in the workers’ comp space.

Are we including ourselves in the conversation though? Only rarely. Now is a good time to change that.

Angie Jung made a great start at National Comp with this dynamic presentation. Jung, RN, BSN, CRRN, CCM, is senior nurse case manager/health care program administrator, of ISYS Solutions Inc./CareerSmart Learning. If you missed her CompTalk, don’t worry – you’ll be able catch it online soon.

One of several mental health topics presented this year, Jung’s session deflected the mental health spotlight back onto the industry — frontline claims professionals in particular. But her message is one that everyone in the workers’ comp industry can connect to.

Excellence in claims management starts with a healthy mind and body in order to be as effective as possible for clients, said Jung.

It’s not difficult to grasp why. Chronic stress affects both physical and mental health. It can alter attitudes, cloud judgment and objectivity.

The emotional toll of chronic stress, pandemic-related or not, is that it bleeds into our work, personal perspectives and behavior.

It follows then, that it’s the responsibility of claims professionals to actively manage their stress levels in order to perform optimally as effective advocates for clients and the injured workers they support.

But it doesn’t stop with claims professionals.

I would say that it’s also the responsibility of every member of the workers’ comp ecosystem. Every single one.

We all need the tools to be more resilient, to be at our best in the face of the challenges and curveballs that still lie ahead.

I hope that’s one of the takeaways attendees brought back to their offices this year. Put your oxygen mask on first. Become versed in stress reduction and energy management strategies – and use them.

Then take it to the next level and model it for others. Talk to your team. Talk to the people you mentor. Take away the stigma around acknowledging that the job can be hard. Being in a business built around people who’ve suffered injury or loss can be as draining as is it rewarding. Talk about issues and strategies. Normalize the conversation.

The more we build this message into not just our organizations, but our professional interactions, the healthier and more resilient our organizations will be, and the higher the level of service that each member will be able to provide to the people who depend on them.

We all have the opportunity to lead by example and manage our health and resilience.

In the process, we also deepen the perspective we can offer when helping clients manage the impact of chronic stress across their workforces. &

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