Fighting Nurse Burnout


Think back on all those reasons you first applied to nursing school, the challenges you were willing to face in the name of nursing. What were your desires, your hopes and dreams related to this noble profession? What are they now?

There are as many different reasons to be a nurse as there are nurses. We enter this profession as unique individuals with unique hopes and dreams. We have things that are part of us that we feel we need to share. We give, we nurture, we care, and if we're not careful, we burn out. When the well of our spirit, our personality, is empty, we have nothing left to give those around us. We run the risk of drying up and blowing away in the stressful winds care giving.

For many of us, there comes a time when our work brings us more stress and frustration than rewards and peace. It doesn't have to be that way. If it is, how do we go about fixing it?

The first step, of course, is prevention. It's about giving ourselves the same courtesy we try to provide for the patients we nurture. Every nurse needs their own personal care plan. We need to remember to assess ourselves as carefully as we assess our patients and provide ourselves with the same high standard of care. Make sure you're meeting the most basic needs of your most important patient. Yes, this means you.

Food, shelter, rest, pain, safety: if these areas of your life are in turmoil, your care giving will be, too. Some of these are literal; some have figurative aspects as well. Let's take them one at time.

Food- Are you eating properly? Have you gone whole days where you have looked back and been unsure what or even when you ate? If you're unsure, so is your body. If your body is unsure it can't help you function at your best capacity. Make sure you take time to eat and make sure what you eat will give you the results you're after- a healthy, energetic body. Obvious indicators of difficulties are the various eating disorders, but even halitosis can be caused by poor nutrition.

Take it to another level. What are you feeding your spirit? Do the people you surround yourself with inside and outside of work build you up or tear you down? Do you keep some sort of record of the positive experiences you have as a caregiver; or, does your mind betray you by only remembering and replaying the negative? What about your entertainment choices? First, do you have things you enjoy? Second, do you feel re-energized by them or does it feed your feelings of sadness, depression, rage, etc? Anger, anxiety, depression, feelings of worthlessness, crying, fears and frustrations all need to be dealt with before they cost you hope and happiness.

Shelter- Yes, a roof over your head is essential. Working just to keep that roof is exhausting. Assess your living environment, whatever it may be. Is it warm and welcoming, does it literally shelter you from all the elements of the world?

Have you overextended yourself with debt or want to compensate for your drooping spirits? Is this forcing you to have to work even harder to pay for where you live, the car you drive, or the plastic in your wallet? If you could eliminate this financial burden that threatens the structure of your shelter, how would your attitudes about work and money change?

Rest- Are you running faster than humanly possible and not allowing yourself to recover? The average person still needs 7-8 hours of sleep each day and you are still an average person. Do you feel guilty sitting down at work? Are there more demands on your time than there are hours in the day? Do you have a ritual for the end of the day that tells your body and mind that it's ok to leave work behind?

Pain- Do you have someone to talk to? Everyone needs a confidant. Everyone needs a way to deal with the trials and tears that automatically come with providing health care. Have you dealt with the loss of that last patient or buried inside because there just wasn't time to deal with it, or any other excuse?

How do you feel physically? Do any of these describe you: clammy hands, diarrhea, dry mouth, back pain, anxiety, heart palpitations, neck or shoulder pain and stiffness? Your body is trying to tell you something. If it were your patient talking would you listen? Learn to listen to yourself as well.

Safety and security- Do you feel safe and supported in your work environment? Are you a valued member of a well functioning team? Are there other professionals you work with whom you know you can count on when the shift and the patient are going from bad to worse?

Preventing and healing from burnout are just as personal and individual for the caregiver as they are for each of our patients. Begin today with a personal nursing assessment and follow through with a personal care plan to fight burnout. Your spirit, your family and friends, your employer, and your patients will thank you for it.

Copyright 2007- American Society of Registered Nurses (ASRN.ORG)-All Rights Reserved


Articles in this issue:


  • Masthead

    Editor-in Chief:
    Kirsten Nicole

    Editorial Staff:
    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Robyn Bowman
    Kimberly McNabb
    Lisa Gordon
    Stephanie Robinson

    Kirsten Nicole
    Stan Kenyon
    Liz Di Bernardo
    Cris Lobato
    Elisa Howard
    Susan Cramer

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