For hospice, oncology, and critical care nurses, ignoring the symptoms of burnout can be career-ending, impact your personal relationships, and throw you into a downward spiral of sadness and depression that can be difficult to overcome. Feelings of hopelessness can spill over into many areas of your life and rob you of happiness. Even the most guarded and practiced of hospice nurses feels the effect of the stress of caring for a terminally ill patient.
However inevitable burnout may seem, you can temper the toll it takes on you and your career. You’re a nurse first and foremost. When you recognize these feelings of burnout and frustration you can take steps to head them off at the pass, so to speak, and keep the emotional cost to a minimum. Turn burnout around, for hospice nurses and the like, before you throw in your stethoscope.
Signs of Nursing Burnout
No matter what level of care you provide to desperately I’ll patients everyone involved in caregiving is at risk for burnout. Here are 6 signs and symptoms you should never ignore. If you recognize yourself experiencing any of these symptoms of burnout, take action.
Extreme Exhaustion/ Frequent Illness: The emotional and physical demands of caring for hospice or critically ill patients can cause exhaustion. However, if you feel you can’t revive during your off days, like you just can seem to bounce back, it’s likely more than the demands of the job. The toll this type of emotional exhaustion takes on your immune system can inhibit your ability to ward off infection, leading to more sick days. Be mindful of burnout if you begin feeling extremely exhausted or picking up colds with frequency. Not only are both signs of nursing burnout, but they can be detrimental to your patients as well.
Inability to Disconnect: Your passion and commitment are part of what make you an outstanding nurse. However, both these traits can cause you to worry over your patients, their families, and their situations long after you clock out. An inability to disconnect is a red flag.
Dread Going to Work: Critical care and hospice nurses who don’t want to go to work on a regular basis, arrive late, take longer breaks and shirk their normal duties should take stock of their emotions in relationship to work.
Lack Motivation: Do you feel as though you’re simply going through the motions and not giving your all to your patients as you used to? Have you had a negative performance evaluation? This could indicate you’re headed for burnout.
Feel Undervalued: Do you feel as though your managers and supervisors are hypercritical of you? Or that you can’t meet expectations? Burnout can cause feelings of inadequacy and under appreciation.
Compassion Fatigue: Every nurse is familiar with the dreaded compassion fatigue, but would you recognize it in yourself? Compassion fatigue is exemplified by an inability to empathize with your patients, being irritable and impatient with coworkers, and feelings of negativity and cynicism toward your profession.
Work-Life Balance is Crucial
In order to be emotionally healthy it’s necessary to maintain a work-life balance. That can be said of any job-accountants, dog groomers, teachers, for example. However, when it comes to nursing, and especially hospice nursing, it’s crucial to balance the heaviness of your career with some heavy-duty self care. Self-care is not optional; It’s vital to your emotional health.
Tips for Maintaining Balance and Preventing Burnout
Physical: Listen to your body. Nourish yourself through healthy foods, get plenty of sleep, exercise, schedule regular massage, see your physician if you feel ill.
Emotional: Learn to say “no” to additional stressors. Allow yourself to cry (even if you have to ‘jumpstart’ the tears with a movie or music). Practice aromatherapy, meditation, prayer. Cuddle a pet. Soak in a nice hot bubble bath.
Spiritual: Make time for something you enjoy-read, sketch, shop, hike, stroll a museum and lose yourself for a few hours. Read sacred texts, attend regular worship services, pray, meditate, journal, connect with nature, listen to music. Most of all make time to be with healthy people; Enjoy activities with your family and friends.
Avoid The Rabbit Hole
Unfortunately in today’s social-media driven world it can be difficult to completely disconnect. While certain social media does offer a momentary smile, maybe a glimpse of your cousin’s new baby or news of a friend’s engagement, the negative can outweigh the positive. And spending time on many of these sites can rob you of joy and precious time.
If you find yourself in danger of burnout, unplug. This is a simple way to get back more of your time to do those activities that bring you joy. As a hospice nurse you need to value your off time a little more than the average person. Make it count.
Hospice Nurses Guide the Journey For All
It takes a mighty dedicated, caring, and strong individual to work in hospice care, or with the terminally ill. Recognize that you are that person. Take steps to ensure you can keep on being that person for your patients and their loved ones. Step back if you need to but never ignore your own emotional needs. You’re way too important to everyone.