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7 Ways to Overcome Nurse Burnout

Nursing is a demanding career. Nurses can become overworked due to understaffing and an inundation with tasks on a daily basis. They also may experience added strain from personal obligations outside of work. Though RNs are already prepared to carry out their nursing responsibilities, they will likely need to come up with strategies for self-care. Otherwise they may suffer from burnout.

What Is Burnout?

Burnout is a breakdown in someone's physical, mental and emotional state that can lead to poor job performance, exhaustion and depression, among other things.

What Causes Burnout in Nursing?

Burnout occurs when nurses are overwhelmed by workload due to understaffing, excessive paperwork, and difficult patients and administrators. They may experience a loss of job fulfillment because of a lack of recognition and support from co-workers and management.

Though nurses choose this career because they want to help the sick, they may find that the occupation involves more than delivering patient care. It also entails comforting, educating and advocating for patients and their families. Additionally, nurses work 12-hour shifts that are physically demanding. They also may be scheduled to work at night or on weekends and holidays.

Stressful nursing duties that may contribute to burnout include handling the death of patients, assisting grieving family members, collaborating with difficult coworkers and working with limited autonomy. And, patients are sometimes hard to communicate with because they are in pain, disoriented, confused or have a hostile personality.

What Are Symptoms of Burnout?

People deal with stress in different ways. They may exhibit a variety of symptoms that may not be easy to recognize. While everyone is susceptible to burnout, some individuals may have a harder time escaping it. Common symptoms of burnout include:

  • Chronic absenteeism.
  • Constant irritation.
  • Cynicism about nursing and patients.
  • Disengagement from job-related activities and coworkers.
  • Low sense of personal accomplishment.
  • Physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.
  • Poor job performance.
  • A lack of cooperation.

How Does Burnout Affect Patients?

Nurses suffering from burnout can negatively impact patient outcomes. They may not follow through with procedures or care plans. Or, they can become distracted, which can prevent them from providing quality care. Nurses with burnout can adversely affect patient outcomes in the following ways:

  • Increased rates of infection in patients.
  • Unsafe or improper care for patients.
  • Medical mistakes or pharmaceutical dosage errors.
  • Slow reactions to urgent cases.

What Are 7 Tips for Avoiding Burnout?

The ideal way to deal with burnout is to prevent it. Nurses who begin to show signs of burnout should seek help as soon as possible so their condition does not worsen. Here are ways nurses can avert burnout.

  1. Incorporate mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) into your routine to assess your level of anxiety throughout your shift.
  2. Pay attention to the status of your physical, mental and emotional health to protect yourself against becoming ill, depressed or apathetic.
  3. Take five to 10 deep breaths before you start your day or enter a patient's room. This can settle and fortify you for the challenges ahead.
  4. Do not skip your breaks. You need respite during your day to hydrate, eat, relieve yourself and get away from work concerns.
  5. Practice self-care by finding hobbies or activities that redirect your attention away from thoughts about work.
  6. Plan a vacation that involves either traveling or staying home to relax.
  7. Engage in exercise such as yoga, walking, running, hiking or swimming to release endorphins in your body that can energize you and boost your mood.

Nursing burnout is a serious problem that should not be ignored. Many healthcare organizations offer programs for nurses to receive counseling and learn about stress management. The nurse's role in healthcare continues to expand and grow more complicated. Without proper self-care, nurses are at risk of succumbing to fatigue and becoming unresponsive to the needs of their patients. Nurses must be proactive in safeguarding their welfare.

Learn more about Eastern Illinois University's online RN to BSN program.

Sources: Nurse Burnout

WebMD: Exercise and Depression

Nursing Link: 5 Signs of Burnout

MedEd: The Biggest Causes of Nurse Burnout and What You Can Do

American Mobile: 8 Ways to Avoid Nurse Burnout

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation: Nursing Burnout: What Is It and What to Do About It

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