Nurse Burn Out: Pt 2

In my bachelors program I did a lot of research papers and my final capstone on nurse burn out and retention. It is something that has interested me since I first became an LPN in 2012. Through my research in my BSN program (and career as a nurse), I quickly realized that nurse burn out and retention were even bigger issues that I could have imagined. The problem is a systemic one and there are many factors that need to be looked at and discussed to truly make nursing a sustainable career. In my little corner of the internet for the time being I want to focus on fostering community and self care to help nurses cope with burn out (myself included), although I will discuss other factors from time to time.

What is Nurse Burn Out?

Nurse burnout is a mental, emotional, and physical state cause by chronic overwork, lack of job fulfillments & support, and continued stress. A 2001 study showed that 43% of nurses working in hospitals reported symptoms of emotional exhaustion and burn out.

Signs & Symptoms of Burn Out

Constant Fatigue

Fatigue and exhaustion is expected when working long hours caring for patients. But when a nurse begins to live in a permanent state of emotional and physical exhaustion and it begins to effect their life outside of work, this can be a sign of professional burn out.

Feeling Overworked or Unappreciated

Feeling like your work is not appreciated or goes unnoticed can lead to feelings of burn out. We can help each other feel more appreciated in what we do by showing appreciation for our coworkers- both nurses and other staff.

Lack of Enthusiasm about Work

We all have days where we don’t feel like working, but a constant state of dread and anxiety surrounding work is not normal or healthy.

Irritability/Lack of Patience

Becoming easily annoyed, lacking patience, both inside and outside of work is a common effect of burn out.

Mentally “Checked Out”

Feeling “numb” or disengaged both in and out of work is a common sign of burn out.

Battling Burn Out

Say no to overtime

I have said yes to overtime plenty of times, both to help out my fellow nurses and to help out my bank account (just being honest.) However, I have seen and felt the toll constant overtime can take on people and the burn out that can follow. As nurses, we love to help and we know the struggle of working short. However, it is not your job to burn yourself out to staff the unit. No one will care about your mental health or well being as much as you. We HAVE to take care of ourselves to take care of others. This means saying no to overtime, switching shifts, or staying over when we need too.

Talk to Someone

Find a friend, fellow nurse, family member, or leader that you can talk to about your feelings. I have a nurse friend who has been a nurse longer than me, and talking to her has been so incredibly helpful. She has encouraged me to deal with my stress and take time for myself- through using PTO and saying no to overtime. You also can consider professional councilors, they can help you work through your emotions surrounding your burn out and help you decide what the best plan of action is for you to recover.

Self Care

We all have different ways we like to rest and recharge. Bubble baths, massages, time outdoors, time with loved ones, Netflix on the couch, are all ways you can practice self care. Find whatever works for you and make sure you take time every week to do it. Also, remember the basics of caring for yourself. Eating well, moving your body, and sleep are all important to being a happier, healthier, less stressed nurse.

Stress Reduction

Meditation, yoga, exercise, and journaling are all ways that we can work to reduce stress and deal with emotions that come with our job and life in general. It’s important that you find what works for you and again, do it regularly.

Burn out is something that is extremely prevalent among nurses (and nursing students) and is something we should be talking about- in nursing school, the workplace, and our nurse social circles. We should discuss recognizing signs of burn out so we can intervene and get help before we hit rock bottom. I recently wrote about my own Burn Out & Journey to Recovery . Just because you are burnt out, doesn’t mean you are a bad nurse or that you don’t care about your patients. We need to let people know they have a safe place to talk about their thoughts and feelings and offer the encouragement and support they need.

Are you currently dealing with burn out or have you in the past? What did you do to help yourself recover?


References: Avoiding Burnout as a Nurse-

How to Detect and Avoid Nurse Burnout- USF Health Online