Burnout in nursing is no joke.
You became a nurse because you wanted to take care of people, make them better, and help them return to normal life. You are on your feet for 8-12 hours a day and there is never enough time (our resources for that matter) to take care of your patients the way you would like to take care of them. Over time you forget why you became a nurse. You forget how important you are as an individual and that the patients base their entire hospital experience on their interactions with YOU. And most importantly you forget about the power you have to help and heal patients. As burnout sets in, most of the time you don’t realize it. You are just tired and can only seem to think of the negatives of your job.
First, let’s talk about what burnout actually is. As defined by HelpGuide, nurse burnout definition is the ‘physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.’ Something really key here to point out is that burnout and stress are not the same thing, but are casual of one another. Below are just a few nurse burnout symptoms:
Nurse Burnout Sign #1: Loss of Compassion
You stop feeling compassion for your patients and start to feel cynical – you start grouping all patients to be the same. Thoughts like ‘regardless of what I do for these patients, I already know what’s going to happen’. You look at them as tasks rather than people, which can turn a compassionate nurse into an extremely stressed nurse.
Our solution- know your limits. This is probably one of the more challenging ways to combat burnout in nursing. Everyone has a limit and you should find out what yours is and most importantly accept it. Realize what is and what isn’t in your control. Focus on what you can control and let the other stuff roll off your back. You can become overwhelmed if you feel like you are trying to solve problems that aren’t in your control.
Nurse Burnout Sign #2: Your Social Life Suffers
This is one of the more prominent signs of burnout in nursing. You begin to have a feeling of uneasiness outside of work as well. You are short tempered with your family, significant other, kids, and anyone else you might interact with.
Our solution – work with your schedule maker to find times that work better for you and your mental health. Down time and spending time with friends and family is extremely important for individual happiness. From your boss’ point of view, they should want you to be happy to and should be open to working with you. We understand that this isn’t the silver bullet solution either. There will always be up and downs. You can also look at our app, connectRN, as we help nurses who want more free time pick and choose the schedules and shifts they want.
Nurse Burnout Sign #3: Feeling Underappreciated
You are the lifeblood of the hospital. Almost all clinical interaction between a patient and the hospital is taken care of by a nurse. You see the brand new building the hospital just built and think “I wonder what a fraction of that investment would mean to me and my team if they invested in employee engagement, staff training, and more nurses to ease the burden of tasks we complete each and every day?” Although this unfortunately rarely happens it seems like one of the most logical ways for hospitals to help with burnout in nursing.
Our solution – schedule time with your supervisor to talk about how you are feeling. Once it is out in the open it tends to feel better and might not manifest inside. It also can give you a resource that has dealt with similar challenges you might be experiencing. Supervisors have the best in mind for their staff and want to hear when something is wrong.
Nurse Burnout Sign #4: Dreading Going to Work
It starts the night before, you start thinking about your shift and going through all the bad things that could happen. “I am going to get the worst patients.” “We are going to be understaffed.” “I will be pressured to stay late.” “The nurse before me will leave me with a mountain of undone tasks.” You set your alarm only to realize when it goes off you are in for a miserable 8 hours.
Our solution – take a mental health day. This is the easiest way in preventing burnout in nursing. Beginning or ending your day with a meditation is a great way to focus on what you are grateful for. Eat a healthy breakfast, take a walk, connect with something really meaningful in your life. This might also help you feel more accepting into going into work the next day.
Nurse Burnout Sign #5: Routines Becomes Monotonous
Your duties seem to blur together and become one big task, making a shift feel more like a week than a day. You get caught up in floor gossip and begin to worry about issues not essential to your job and your patients. All of this just becomes unnecessary stress and anxiety you put on yourself for no good reason.
Our solution – remember the excitement when you got out of nursing school. You couldn’t wait to meet patients, try new skills, and meet other nurses on your team. This excitement has passed and you begin focusing on the small things.
These are very real issues and it’s important that you recognize them before things get out of hand. Everyone has good days and bad days but you need to be cognizant of patterns and your overall mental state. There are a couple things you can do to overcome these feelings and get back to a healthy relationship with your profession.