Avoiding Burnout as a Nurse

In our experiences, it’s caregivers that often fail to listen to their own advice. Nurses are no exception, and they are struggling widely with burnout across the American healthcare system. A study last year showed that not only are nurses trying to cope with the physical and mental fatigue that comes from a long shift, they also feel the telltale signs of burnout as a standard part of the job. According to the study, three out of five nurses say they are suffering from job burnout, even though they still love the work.

Nursing.org describes burnout as “a physical, mental, and emotional state caused by chronic overwork and a sustained lack of job fulfillment and support.” How can nurses avoid this problem?

Ten Steps to Avoid Nursing Burnout

Burnout is a feeling of emotional exhaustion. Healing burnout requires the nurse to recognize the symptoms of burnout and take steps to repair the mind and body. Here are 10 steps a nurse can take to remedy burnout.

  1. Recognize the problem.
    Understanding where you are, emotionally and physically, is an important first step toward conquering burnout.
  2. Ask for help.
    This is the most difficult thing for nurses to do. But change can start with this important step. Be candid with your supervisor about your need to take some time off and recharge.
  3. Get more sleep.
    While a nurse may spend their day teaching patients how to take better care of themselves, they rarely practice what they preach. In today’s wired world, it’s particularly important to unplug and get a full eight hours of rest. But it’s a self-care imperative that many nurses fail to practice.
  4. Eat good food.
    Getting back to the basics of self-care also requires looking at your body’s caloric intake and the types of foods you’re eating. Plenty of lean proteins and vegetables can help refresh the body. When coupled with a good night’s sleep and some exercise, you may just find the frustrating symptoms of burnout diminish.
  5. Exercise
    Nursing places physical and mental demands on an employee. While nurses may feel they get enough exercise walking through a hospital, attending a yoga class, for example, is a restful way to improve health.
  6. Go outside.
    Studies show that the simple act of being outside in nature can ease burnout symptoms. Blood pressure and cortisol drop after a walk in the woods.
  7. Take some time off.
    Ironically, nurses struggling with burnout call off sick more often to try to get some rest. But 50 percent of Americans don’t take advantage of their vacation time, and nurses are a big part of that number.
  8. Use HR resources, like employee assistance programs (EAP).
    EAP can help by offering employee resources like counseling or group therapy or discounts to exercise class.
  9. Consider counseling.
    Seeing a therapist or joining a support network could be one way to help release some of the negative feelings and pent-up frustrations from a job that has become out of balance.
  10. Take up a hobby.
    Finding work/life balance again could mean that you need to think of other things outside of work. Could taking up a new creative project help you think about something other than work?

Nursing burnout is a real and serious phenomenon in the industry. Finding balance again will take some effort but the journey back to work/life balance is worth it.

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