Many nurses enter this profession because they want to support and help others. Working in a profession in which your primary role is to provide aid and caring for others in their worst times can be overwhelming. The key to beating burnout is to identify and prevent it. Take a look at the top causes and methods to overcome burnout.
Nursing burnout is work-related stress, specifically of physical or emotional exhaustion that involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. This can present in many ways, but some of the common signs and symptoms of burnout are:
- Lacking the energy to be consistently productive.
- Finding it hard to concentrate.
- Feeling a lack of satisfaction with your achievements.
- Feelings of disillusionment about your job.
- Using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to numb yourself.
- Changes in sleep habits.
- Becoming overly critical and cynical at work.
Causes of Nursing Burnout
Burnout is not always due to staffing and scheduling concerns; sometimes it caused by these things:
- Unclear expectations – This can also be related to lack of support. When supervisors are spread thin, they are unaware of what is being done and what needs to be done.
- No work-life balance – Coming early, working through meals, or staying late to finish up charting can cut into your home life. Additionally, it can be hard to mentally leave work at work, and this imbalance can create resentment.
- Compassion fatigue – Those who work in trauma environments (such as burn units, critical care, emergency rooms, or cancer floors) can experience secondary trauma that is seen as compassion fatigue.
Finding Help and Healing
Feeling powerless is one of the main components of burnout, but the way to find help is to be proactive. There are ways to combat these feelings and to find joy again in your chosen profession. Some of these include:
- Make an appointment to speak with your supervisor – It is important to make a scheduled appointment with them, so it does not fall through the cracks. Come with a detailed list of concerns and questions, as well as some ideas for possible solutions.
- Have dedicated coping mechanisms – How do you deal with trauma? Some nurses find moments of healing through a debriefing with management. Others find solace in the hospital’s chapel, some release balloons, take a hot bubble bath, or have high-intensity workouts. The trick here is to find your coping mechanism and do it.
- Follow your own advice and seek help – As nurses, we often give advice to patients to seek therapeutic assistance through a qualified counselor. Being able to speak with a counselor who is trained in trauma situations can relieve your burden because they understand your concerns in a way that no one else can. This sounding board and mentor can help greatly and allow you to feel supported.
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.” – Etty Hillesum
- Practice self-care – In a profession that focuses on helping and caring for others, it is all too easy to forget to care for yourself. Don’t neglect yourself – exercise, get adequate sleep, and do nice things for yourself. If you enjoy getting a massage, do this monthly. If you love to read or get outside, carve out time each week to do this. Put self-care on your calendar so that it becomes a priority.
- Say no to extra work – To be the best nurse possible does not mean you hurt yourself in trying to help everyone, you must take the time off to be refreshed.
- Take time off to recharge – Use your PTO and do not feel bad about it. When you do, try not to check email or answer the phone. Take the time to truly relax and not do any work.
- Join a support group – A support group on social media or traditional group therapy sessions can help you work through the stress of working as a nurse.
Burnout is not only a side-effect of working too hard, but it also comes from increasing mental pressures and lack of positive outcomes. Make sure you pay attention to yourself and your needs as preventing nursing burnout is easier than treatment. Most importantly, remember why you went into this profession and see if you can pinpoint more of the professional highlights because they are there.