If you work in the healthcare industry in any capacity, you’ve probably experienced burnout before. Burnout may seem like a Millennial buzzword, but it’s a very real and extremely depleting phenomenon that happens when you push too hard for too long. You can experience chronic fatigue, low moods, low motivation, and mental health issues like depression or anxiety. The reality is that burnout can cause even the most self-disciplined and ambitious go-getter to struggle to cope with the basics like folding laundry or going for a grocery run. As nurses have such physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding jobs, it’s no surprise that burnout can plague healthcare workers at high levels.
If you’re a nurse experiencing burnout, you’re far from alone. In this post, we’re going to talk about why burnout is so prevalent in the nursing industry and offer some techniques that can help you cope.
Why Burnout Is So Prevalent Among Nurses
No job is stress-free, and anyone can experience burnout. Nurses, however, have a particularly difficult role day-to-day. They often work long hours doing physically and emotionally taxing work. They fight to help patients live through emergencies, surgeries, and devastating diagnoses. They’re also right there while patients are in their final days or moments, attempting to provide life-saving or comfort measures while navigating grief from the patient’s family. And in between it all, they’ve got patients who have itchy trigger fingers for the call button, patients who are furious about their doctor-ordered diets, and patients who are refusing to cooperate at all. It only makes sense that nurses experience high rates of burnout.
This very serious issue has only increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, throughout which staff shortages, the risk for care providers, and the number of difficult patients have all skyrocketed. In many facilities, nurses are being pushed to work more overtime even when they’re already tired, which prevents them from getting much-needed rest to recoup.
5 Ways to Manage Burnout as a Nurse
If you’re experiencing or approaching burnout, it’s important to take steps to manage it as soon as possible. The faster you’re able to cope with burnout, the quicker you can recover.
Let’s take a look at five solid ways to manage nursing burnout.
1. Take Some Time Off
Everybody needs time off, and that goes for nurses, too. Use a few of those hard-earned vacation days or some paid time off (PTO) to get a break.
If you’re beyond burnt out, don’t worry about planning an exciting, action-packed vacation that will leave you more tired.
- Take a few days off and lounge around at home with plenty of Netflix binges and naps.
- Make plans to see friends that allow you to vent and that can boost your mood.
- Take a relaxing trip to a beach or a mountain cabin with beautiful views.
Just remember that this isn’t the time for stressful house projects or frustrating family obligations. Think about what will rejuvenate you and go with that. It’s amazing what a week off can do.
2. Focus on Self-Care
Self-care looks different to everyone. It doesn’t matter what your version of self-care is as long as you’re able to focus on taking care of yourself how you need to on a regular basis.
Examples of good self care might include the following:
- Prioritizing at least 8 hours of good sleep every night
- Making or ordering your favorite meal once a week
- Booking a spa day for a massage
- Signing up for a regular fitness class that makes you feel good, whether that’s boxing, Pilates, or spinning
- Taking a bubble bath after a long shift
- Having a standing date to go out with friends
- Regular date nights with your partner
- Taking thirty minutes a day to read a great book
- Going for a long walk each day
- Finding a therapist to learn new stress management techniques or to process trauma you’ve experienced as a nurse
Self-care doesn’t mean spending lots of money on things you don’t need, but it’s about finding things that help you to feel good. Good self care practices can make all the difference in managing and preventing burnout.
3. Tune Out Everything on Your Days Off
Your time off is your time. You are absolutely allowed to completely disengage from work on your days off. It’s easily one of the best ways to recover from burnout. If work calls, you don’t have to answer it, especially if you know they’re going to try to guilt you into coming in for overtime. This might also mean disengaging from nursing content or groups that you have online. Mute the coworker’s group text chain, hide the nursing Facebook Group from your feed, and make a conscious effort to not think about work while you’re away.
4. Use PRN Work to Explore Other Options
Pro re nata or PRN work allows nurses to pick up individual shifts at different healthcare organizations as they see fit. Working more in your time off may not have been the first thing you’d think of when it comes to dealing with burnout, but hear us out!
As you’re able to work for different facilities and in different roles, it can actually introduce you to new organizations, specialties, or teams. You may find that you thrive in other positions and that your mental health improves. If this is the case, you can start to make efforts to transition to a new role.
5. Hire Services to Reduce Your Workload
One of the most challenging parts of burnout is that it doesn’t just impact your job; in many cases, it’s easy to lose motivation, period. To combat some of the burnout, find ways to buy back time. Outsource daily tasks at home to make your life easier, giving yourself more time to recover on your days off.
Examples include the following:
- Ordering grocery delivery instead of needing to run to the store
- Hiring a laundry service
- Having a house cleaning service clean your home every other week
- Working with a landscaping service to mow and edge your lawn
- Placing an order for a meal delivery service
Are you experiencing burnout, or do you think you’re nearing that level of near-constant exhaustion? You aren’t alone, and these five strategies can be good steps in the right direction.
And remember this: The sooner you take steps to manage your burnout, the faster your recovery will be.
What do you think? Have you experienced burnout as a nurse? Get involved with our community for more tips from real nurses or to share your story.