Every job has its stressful moments. But nursing has some of the highest burnout rates of any industry – and the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated that. We’ve all seen the news segments and read the articles about the struggles of medical facilities during peak pandemic times. It’s safe to say that the nursing professionals at the center of all that chaos weren’t left unaffected. And while medical facilities have been able to recover somewhat, the pandemic still isn’t over.
Burnout in nurses isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s worse than ever. And it’s a very real problem. Burnout isn’t just in the mind; it can cause real physical health issues as well. And when individual nurses suffer, the patients under their care do, too. On the business side of things, the medical facilities that employ nurses must deal with higher turnover rates and lower patient satisfaction.
So, what can be done?
Let’s take a closer look at what nurse burnout is and what causes it. Then, we’ll discuss some common signs of burnout in nurses so you can self-evaluate. Finally, we’ll offer some tips on how to deal with – and hopefully prevent – burnout as a nurse.
What Is Nurse Burnout?
What is nurse burnout, exactly? The National Institutes of Health defines it as “a widespread phenomenon characterized by a reduction in nurses’ energy that manifests in emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation, and feelings of frustration.” The World Health Organization (WHO) includes burnout in the 11th revision of the International Clarification of Diseases as an “occupational phenomenon” that “results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
In plain English, nurse burnout is what happens when a nurse is exposed to constant workplace stress and isn’t able to manage it properly. Burnout affects a nurse’s physical, emotional, and psychological health. And it doesn’t discriminate – from RN burnout to CNAs, LPNs, surgical techs, and any other kind of nursing professional, this problem is widespread.
What Are The Causes of Burnout In Nurses?
We’ve learned what burnout in nurses is. But why does it happen? And why does it seem to be so prevalent in this field in particular?
Here are some of the leading causes of burnout in the nursing field:
Long hours/abrupt shift changes
The long, sometimes grueling hours of the nursing profession is one reason why burnout is so common in the field. Nurses usually work in shifts, often in 10 or 12-hour increments. That’s a lot of time for a nurse to be on their feet, laser-focused, responding to multiple requests from patients as well as patients’ family members. Add to that the possibility of abrupt shift changes to second shift or even overnight, and it can really start to wear on a nursing professional.
We’re in the midst of The Great Resignation, a mass exodus from the workforce caused by various factors like a quickly retiring Baby Boomer generation, record-breaking low workforce participation, and the pandemic itself. That leaves many medical facilities and departments short-staffed, which only adds to the stress that nurses deal with during every shift. Whether it’s taking on more responsibilities or working double shifts, someone has to make up the difference when it comes to staffing shortages – and that too often falls to the nurses who may already be experiencing burnout.
Lack of sleep
Exhaustion is one of the key indicators of burnout in nurses. Simple lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of this phenomenon in the nursing profession. Some nurses have trouble sleeping because of chronic stress; some because of sustained overnight shifts. The trouble is, not getting enough sleep is a vicious cycle: you need sleep to combat burnout, but burnout itself can make you have trouble sleeping.
Lack of support
A lack of support from supervisors, upper management, and facility administration is another reason for burnout among nurses. Whether it’s feeling like they’re misunderstood or not being able to have the basic equipment and technology to do their jobs effectively – a problem only exacerbated by current supply-chain issues – some nurses experience burnout because of the frustration they feel over the lack of support.
Working in a high-stress specialty
General nursing is stressful enough. Specialties like emergency room or critical care, surgical care, and others maybe even more taxing. Nurses literally hold life and death in their hands, and working constantly in that high-stress, specialized environment will certainly take its toll.
Access More Burnout Prevention Tips Here!
What Are The Signs That I Am Experiencing Burnout As a Nurse?
Sometimes, nurses are experiencing burnout without even realizing it. Ask any nurse who has experienced burnout and they’ll probably tell you that the problem snuck up on them without them noticing at first.
How can you tell that you’re experiencing burnout as a nurse? Here are some of the most common signs of burnout:
- Changes in mood
- Frequent sickness
- Wanting to call off frequently
- Lack of motivation for the job
If you’re experiencing some or all of the signs described here, it’s time to make some changes and reverse the burnout you’re feeling. And if you aren’t seeing these signs in yourself, that’s a good thing – but you’ll want to take steps to keep it that way.
How Can I Prevent or Manage Burnout As a Nurse?
Here’s the good news: If you are experiencing burnout, there are things you can do to reverse the trend. And if you’re not experiencing burnout, you want to do everything you can to avoid it. Here are some tips on stress management for nurses to help avoid or manage burnout:
Set Boundaries Between Work and Home Life
It’s crucially important to set up solid boundaries for yourself. Don’t let your nursing career become your whole life – that’s leaving an opening for burnout to creep in. Setting boundaries might look different for different people, but setting them at all is what’s important. Promise yourself you won’t check your phone or work portal during your off-hours. Stop agreeing to every extra shift you’re offered. Making a clear delineation between work and time off is essential.
As simple as it sounds, getting enough rest is one of the best ways to combat burnout – or avoid it in the first place. Sleep is so essential to our overall health, both physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Do your best to get eight full hours of sleep a night. Even when you’re not sleeping, take time to simply relax, whether you’re lounging on the couch or taking a hot bath. Allowing your body and mind to recover, especially after a long nursing shift, is vital.
Exercise doesn’t just keep your body in good physical shape, which is important for spending long hours on your feet during your nursing shifts. It’s also good for you mentally, and it pumps endorphins into your brain that make you feel good. Whether it’s going for a run, hitting the gym, or enjoying a yoga session, staying fit outside of work is good for you in every way. Make time to exercise during your off-hours and see how much better you feel.
Engage in Self-Care
Treating yourself isn’t vain or self-indulgent. It’s caring and advocating for yourself. Schedule a spa day, go shopping with friends, take yourself to lunch, or engage in a favorite hobby. Make time for things you enjoy outside of work on a regular basis. And don’t forget that spending time around loved ones, whether it’s friends or family, is an excellent method of self-care as well.
Find a New Job
As a nurse, you’re used to putting others’ needs ahead of your own. But sometimes it’s okay to put yourself first. If you’re struggling with burnout in the nursing profession or you’re dealing with a toxic work environment, it might be time to make a change. In some cases, finding a new job is the best route to take. For some nurses, simply moving to a new department or a new facility is the best solution. For others, exploring another field of nursing entirely is a good fix. It’s entirely up to you and your needs.
Work With A Nurse Recruiter to Find a New Job
You became a nurse to improve patient outcomes and help others live happier, healthier lives. And you should be able to do that without experiencing stress or burnout. If you’re ready to find your next opportunity as a nurse and get back to a better work-life balance, reach out to BOS Medical Staffing for help.
BOS Medical’s nurse recruiters can help you find great nursing jobs throughout the state of Georgia that suit your job requirements and long-term career goals. If you’re ready to take your career to the next level, get in touch with a member of our recruitment team and browse our available openings.
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