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Nursing Burnout – Prevention Tips

Nursing Burnout; How does it occur?

As a nurse or even a nursing student, we all can experience this level of complete exhaustion and stress. By nature, our profession demands a lot from us. The physical and emotional toll of that intensity can manifest itself into something bigger—something we like to refer as nurse burnout. Burnout happens over prolonged periods of stress that are characterized by emotional exhaustion and a disengagement to our jobs. That detachment is not good for our personal psyche and detrimental to our patient care.

That disengagement and sense of hopelessness often leads to a lack of motivation and can directly affect the type of care that patients receive. According to the NIH, hospitals with high rates of burnout correlate with a lower rate of patient satisfaction. There is even evidence to say that nursing burnout has been linked to an increased likelihood of patient infection. People may tell you that if you can’t handle the stress, then nursing is not for you. Of course, healthcare is a field full of potential stressors. As nurses, we need to stick together to try and combat the factors that contribute to nursing burnout.

You may be asking yourself, how does burnout happen?

Nurses often become fatigued from long hours. Many nurses choose to work 12-hour shifts. However, nurses are asked to work overtime on their scheduled days of recovery. Understaffing and financial concerns are creating an environment where nurses are putting in more overtime than ever. Nurses are being called in to cover shifts due to a nursing staff shortage.

Nurses care for others and put their patients before themselves. That selflessness and attachment to improving the health and lives of those around us is a trait that characterizes a nurse. Although this is a great quality, many nurses forget the importance of caring for themselves. A nurse must look out for their own wellbeing. This especially rings true with the emotional aspect of nursing care duties. Constant exposure to sick patients, grief and death can ultimately affect a nurse’s personal life. That loss without any time to confront those issues and decompress from them can lead to burnout.

So, how do we avoid nursing burnout?

Well, it is not always an easy solution. As nurses, we must become comfortable with setting boundaries for ourselves on personal and professional levels. Knowing when to say “no” is important. If that overtime shift will cut into your needed sleep or enjoyable activity you had planned, then say “no”. Your health and your life outside of work are just as important. Fatigue is never good for you or for your patients.

Prioritizing your needs outside of work will allow your to process your emotions. Having someone to discuss those difficult nursing days can help you not carry that stress from the job back home. You may even want to explore a more professional individual to discuss some of the harder aspects of the job. Set aside time to do things that you love or help you decompress to find balance and enjoyment outside of work. Try exercise, meditation, cooking, painting or most importantly…sleeping more!

Incorporating a new or old hobby can redirect your mind into thinking positively and combat some of those stressors that cause burnout. Nursing burnout is real and can happen at any time. It is important to recognize the causes, the symptoms and ways that you can take care of yourself. Your patients and your professional career will flourish when you are healthy and happy.


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