How to Avoid Nurse Burnout – by Sarah Wengert

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As a nurse, you probably know the feeling: You’re working as hard and long as you can, even skipping breaks and meals, but you still aren’t able to address all of the needs of your patients, their families, and everyone else who depends on you.

Nurse burnout is a term encompassing the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion nurses face as a result of the demands of the job — particularly in understaffed hospitals and facilities. It is very difficult for the nurses who experience it, and, research has shown it can lead to lower quality — or even harmful — patient care and clinical errors on the job.

Especially in the face of a national nursing shortage, more and more nurses are facing nurse burnout. In addition to the hefty personal toll on individual patients and nurses, nurse burnout also leads to higher turnover, which further worsens conditions in understaffed units and inflates hospital costs.

Here are a few tips for how to avoid nurse burnout:

Take Care of YOU, Too

First, as busy as you may be, remember to take time to check in with yourself, both on and off the clock. How are feeling, physically, mentally, and emotionally? Being aware of how you feel and the triggers for your status — good or bad — can help you adjust when needed.

Be sure to take time for exercise, eating right, and connecting with friends and family — over time you’ll notice that doing so will help you keep your energy up in the long run. Trying things like yoga, deep-breathing techniques, and meditation are also helpful to some nurses.

Remember, self-care is hugely important both to you and your ability to provide great patient care. What’s that old saying about putting your own oxygen mask on first? Not taking care of yourself does your patients no favors either!

Be Honest with Leadership

As you know, even if understaffing is the culprit of a clinical mistake you make on the floor it is still your license which may be in jeopardy. If you believe that you and/or your colleagues are being stretched too thin to the point that it may cause potentially dangerous errors in care, it’s your duty to say something to your leadership. Many nurses worry they will be seen as “the squeaky wheel” if they speak up, but at the end of the day, you will be seen as protecting your patients! Management may not always be aware if you don’t say something and it’s better to voice these important concerns. If you sense your facility’s administration does not care, then you may want to look elsewhere for work. Just remember, when voicing any feedback you have, that it’s important to maintain a positive, professional attitude while doing so.

Try Something New

Maybe it’s time to shake things up. You could try transitioning from hospital to clinic work. Or, you could try Travel Nursing, which allows you to take short-term assignments (usually 4-13 weeks) in locations throughout the country. In addition to the amazing experiences and adventures you’ll have in locations of your choice (Hawaii, anyone?), Travelers also report learning a lot about themselves both personally and professionally. And, it’s great for your resume! Not sure if Travel Nursing is for you? Check out these tips from actual Travelers to get a feel for how to succeed.

I hope these tips on how to avoid nurse burnout are helpful to you in your demanding career as a nurse. Please feel free to share any pointers you’ve learned in the comments, and thanks for everything you do!

About the Author: Sarah Wengert is a blogger for Travel Nursing, a resource and entertainment site for past, present, and future Travel Nurses. She’s also the Creative Content Writer at Medical Solutions, a pet-friendly, top Travel Nurse company. Sarah enjoys traveling, cooking, and singing along to the car radio like no one is watching. 


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