In the mix: Avoid burnout by caring for yourself

Stressed Out Nurses Weekly, February 23, 2009

Burnout is a term nobody wants to hear, see, or experience, but it's real. Burnout happens for a variety of reasons, but ultimately it evolves into a situation where caring for others has become a chore. When nurses experience burnout, the art of nursing becomes a burden. The job becomes nothing but eight or 12 hours of tasks that, when completed, will allow the nurse to go home.

Lots of things cause burnout, but ultimately it happens when nurses stop caring for themselves. Many factors contribute to this:

  • Sicker patients
  • Higher patient-to-nurse ratios
  • Confusing emerging technology
  • Administrative demands for cost-cutting
  • Administrative demands for high customer service scores

If you ask nurses what keeps them in nursing, most will say it is going home knowing that they did a good job and made a difference for their patients. It's not about salary. Mostly it is about having control over what they do as nurses and how they do it. Lack of control is really what drives nursing satisfaction down and burnout up.

Here is a list of some things you can do to decrease stress and gain some control over your work life:

  1. Stop denying that you may be burned out or are becoming burned out. Listen to your body's messages and take heed.
  2. Avoid isolation. You can't do everything alone. Seek help and delegate. When you're off duty, go out and engage in a social event. Have fun.

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