Nursing Burnout – How To Deal With It?

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If you are a working parent, then I’m sure you’ll know what it’s like to be stressed. A long work day, followed by having to take care of the kids at home doesn’t leave anybody’s patience untouched. Stress is the natural result of such a heavy burnen. But what if the stress evolves into something more nasty? If that happens, then you’re looking at a burnout.

Nurses are especially susceptible to something like this. Their jobs are, on average, more stressful than those of most other workers. Nurses have to spend many long days per week running from here to there in the hospital. Oftentime, there is an emergency and they’ll need to rush. Another emergency will come in at the same time of the emergency they’re currently working on. What to do, what to do?

For some nurses, this goes on for 12 hours per day and sometimes 6 days per week.

What Is Nursing Burnout?

A burnout is defined as emotional, mental and physical exhaustion to the point where the person suffering from it, is incapable of normal functioning. It will cause a person to become completely disengaged from what they are supposed to be doing. Your emotions will feel dulled. You will feel detached from the world. When this goes on for long enough, you will start to feel hopeless.

Burnout spreads like a disease. Not just from one nurse to another, but also from one nurse to many patients. It has been observed that hospitals with high rates of nursing burnout, also report having lower patient satisfaction, according to research done by the NIH. This, in turn, leads to higher infection rates in patients, as per a publication from the AJIC.

What Causes Nursing Burnout?

Let’s have a look at what causes burnout for nurses in the first place.

1. Being Confronted With Illness & Death

One problem that is inherent to the occupation of a nurse, is the fact that the nurse has to deal with sickness and death all the time. This brings the necessary emotional baggage for the patient, and sometimes also for the nurse. A patient’s grief can creep into a nurse’s life.

2. Stressful Environment

As a nurse, you usually have a lot on your plate. Should you ever have the good fortune of coming across a relatively quiet 60 minutes, then rest assured that the day will average out by piling up one emergency after another within the next 60 minutes. The workload can sometimes feel excessive. If this goes on long enough, it can have a negative impact on the nurse’s mental health.

3. Altruistic Lifestyle

As a nurse, you have chosen to live a very altruistic lifestyle. You always have to put other people first. This can sometimes lead to a nurse not taking care of herself. The problem with only caring for other people, is that it will cause you to burn out faster than those who sometimes carve out some time to take care of themselves.

4. Long Days

A lot of nurses say that the long hours they are standing up at work all day, are causing them to start feeling more and more fatigued. Sometimes, nurses will opt to work longer days, and also fewer days per week. Say, 3 x 12 hour days, for a total of a 36 hour work week. This leaves a lot of free time for the rest of the week. It may seem like a good idea at first glance, but in reality it can lead to fatigue more quickly.

How To Avoid Nursing Burnout?

Let’s say you want to avoid developing a nursing burnout. And wouldn’t we all? Then how would you go about that? Here are some sugestions.

1. Find A Creative Hobby

If you don’t already have a creative hobby, then it’s about time you got one. Maybe you want to try out painting? Or a new recipe? Whatever keeps your mind and your hands busy is going to help you prevent burnout. Some hospitals are already giving their nurses the opportunity to engage in the creative arts, in an effort to boost the morale of their staff, which in turn fights off nurse burnout.

2. Stress Management

Stress manage is real work. Sounds depressing, but hear me out. I’m just saying that you will have to be deliberate in your actions. Try meditation, healthy eating and exercise. Take walks and get fresh air. Go shopping. Buy yourself a new pair of shoes. These things can work wonders for you. Learn to control your thoughts. You don’t have to listen to every negative thought that enters your brain. Think positively instead.

3. Priotize Yourself

Believe it or not, but the world isn’t all about other people. Sometimes, you get to take some time off and unwind. You need something in your life that you greatly enjoy. Also be sure that you get enough shuteye every single night of your life. The average recommendation of 8 hours per night does well for most people.

4. Deal With Emotions

Don’t bottle all your emotions up. It will destroy you on the inside. Instead, talk to somebody about the stress you are enduring from time to time. Make sure to not bring all of your emotional baggage with you to your home when you leave the work place.

5. Set Limits

Make sure that you know, and set, limits for yourself. You darn well know how much you can and cannot take. Set those limits and stay within them. Should you cross these boundaries anyway, then know that you are overextending yourself. So just don’t.

How To Treat Nursing Burnout?

If you haven’t been able to prevent it, then your only option is to treat it. Here are some suggestions.

Take Some Time Off

If you have burnout, you’re useless on the work floor. You simply need to accept this, which should be no problem since it’s only a temporary condition anyway.

A serious burnout can’t be solved in a few days. If you’re taking time off to treat your burnout, then you’ll be away from work for at least a few weeks. Some people even need months.

Spend your time wisely. Do lots of things for yourself. Do stuff you greatly enjoy or take pride in, and in due time you might find that you are starting to come back to life again.

Make sure to eat healthy, exercise plenty and sleep long enough in this time off.

Address The Cause

You will need to be aware of what caused the burnout in the first place, otherwise it will happen again. If it was caused by you working 12 hour days, 6 days a week for 1 year, then odds are that you will become burnt out again if you attempt to pull off such a stunt again.

Learn from your mistakes. Make sure to set those limits in your head, long before you return to the work floor. Stick to your new limits as if they are sacred, and chances of you getting a nursing burnout again will be considerably smaller.

Let Others Know

It’s possible that your fellow colleagues have unknowingly contributed to the creation of your nursing burnout, because they were piling some of their own workloads onto you. It could be that you took it all on yourself to help them out, because you took pride in the fact that they came to you for help.

As flattering as this may be to your ego, it’s going to lead to problems in the long run. Be sure to let your colleagues know. They have to learn to stand on their own legs. If they help you become burnt out, then you’re gonna be away from the work place for a long time. It’s best to just prevent burnout completely, even if that means going a little slower.

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About the author


Hi, I’m Brian Bradshaw. I’m a super duper mega hiking enthusiast, with a love for everything that has to do with outdoors, hiking, gear, footwear and more.

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