I don’t wish Nursing Burnout on anyone. It is a horrible place to be, but there is a lot of things we can learn about nursing burnout. Part of the healing process is recognizing that you are in fact burned out. Which means you have to know what nursing burnout is, what to do if it happens, and most important to those who haven’t experienced it, how to prevent it. These are the things I would like to discuss. It took me a long time to realize I was dealing with the ugly beast of burnout. Work life balance and nursing burnout were really not discussed in nursing school. If they were, it was skimmed over and I don’t remember. I feel as nurses, we tend to always put others needs before our own needs. We are caregivers, and sometimes we do it, and don’t even realize we are until it is to late. Which, is what happened to me.
What is nursing Burnout?
- Nursing burnout is physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion (Rasmussen, 2017). With the nursing profession we are exposed to heavy levels of stress all the time. If the stress levels continue and are not dealt with in a healthy way, then burnout will result. Burnout can be caused by a lack of support, work schedules, and several other factors. The Primary factor is short staffing (NNU, 2017). A lot of these things we don’t have control of as a nurse. Which, can make it very difficult to prevent burnout. That is why it is so important to take care of ourselves and recognize the signs of burnout which are:
- Constant fatigue
- Feeling overworked
- Feeling under appreciated
- Loss of enthusiasm with profession
- Compassion fatigue
These are just a few signs that nurses need to be vigilant about. I feel there is a stigma around this topic. Nurses are afraid to talk to each other about burnout. Maybe related to fear of judgement, personal egos, or losing their job. As nurses we have a stressful job that requires us to be 100% all the time, and if we are less than that it is frighting. It doesn’t have to be the end of our career. Currently, I am suffering from burnout, and hope to find a light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, it is hard to find people who understand what you are going through. It is important to reach out to other nurses who might very well be feeling the way you do, and discuss your situation.
I am burned-out now what?
The most important step is to recognize that you are burned out. This took me awhile to wrap my head around. I really didn’t want to admit it had happened to me, and for this reason it prolonged the suffering and healing. Burnout cannot be put off or it will just get worse. When I first realized I was burned out, I just wanted to leave nursing all together. I told my job I had at the time I was burned out, and had to step away. The plan was I was going to work in anything, but nursing for awhile, and take a break. After I told my husband he was obviously upset. Like many nurses, we are the sole bread winners of our household, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Plus, I really didn’t share with him everything that was going on, and how it was affecting me. I really kept him in the dark regarding my career, and how I was feeling. Then I made a life changing decision, and didn’t talk to him. Needles to say there was an intervention that day in my living room with my teenage son, husband, and mother-in-law present. I decided maybe it wasn’t the whole nursing profession, but bedside nursing. So one of the first things to consider when burned out is to change specializations. Maybe it is hospital nursing that has you burned out, or the bedside in general. That is the beauty of nursing! There are other areas that we can get into, we just have to be patient and persevere. Also, you have to find a way to cut down on stress. As mentioned I am a christian, so I decided to devote 10 minutes a day to meditation and prayer. I also decided to eat healthier and to start exercising more. While I was caring for everyone else, I didn’t care for myself and my health had started to suffer. Another way I decided to stay engaged in nursing is to go back to school. I want to get my Masters in education. I feel this will help open more doors for me and enable me to reach other areas of nursing. Also, the feeling of accomplishment can help with burnout.
How to prevent burnout?
There is a saying that says an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! I believe for nursing burnout this is the case. Speaking from someone struggling with burnout, the climb is a lot steeper out, but doable! So how does a nurse prevent her/himself from becoming burned out. Learn how to say no! That means to extra shifts, to family who have great intentions, but may not realize how much you are already overextended! It is also good if you have a nursing buddy that you can bounce ideas and feelings off of. Who better to understand what your going through than another nurse! As nurses we have to learn to put ourselves first. I know way easier said than done. There needs to be some time that is yours and yours only. Even if its just minutes a day, its yours! Above all we as nurses have to manage our stress. Find out ways that help you cope with stress and practice it! If you ignore stress it will not go away, but grow and eventually lead to burnout.
Nursing is a wonderful, fulfilling profession, that allows us to be in service of others, at some of their hardest times in life. We are able to make a difference in peoples lives and it can feel great! There are always two sides to the coin and with all these amazing things, does come the reality that nursing is a really stressful job! As nurses we have to take care of ourselves, so we can take care of others. I never truly understood that statement until I myself experienced burnout.
Ericksen, K (2015). Why it happens & What to do about it? Retrieved from: http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/nursing/blog/nursing-burnout-why-it-happens-and-what-to-do-about-it/
NNU (2017). Beating the burnout: Nurses struggle with physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion at work. Retrieved from: http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/news/entry/beating-the-burnout-nurses-struggle-with-physical-mental-and-emotional-exha/
USF (2017). Signs your experiencing nurse burnout. Retrieved from: https://www.usfhealthonline.com/resources/career/signs-you-are-experiencing-nurse-burnout/