6 Ways to Avoid Nurse Burnout

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Nursing is a complex role, and aside from the physical strain, the emotional difficulty of the job can also lead to feelings of stress and burnout. Several studies have shown that burnout lowers nurses’ quality of life, their ability to perform, and it diminishes their commitment to their organizations, which ultimately increases their intention to leave the job. Burnout also increases turnover rates and negatively affects the quality of nursing care.

If you’re a nurse, or you’re planning to pursue a career in nursing, it’s important to be proactive about your mental health. The first step is knowing how to identify warning signs like these:

  • Being so exhausted that it affects your daily life
  • Compassion fatigue
  • Resentment toward and lack of enjoyment in the work you do
  • Feeling emotionally detached and anxious
  • Getting sick more frequently

To avoid burnout while working as a nursing professional, here are six things you can try.

1. Balance time for work and leisure

Serious problems can arise when you aren’t focused. However, trying to remain motivated can be a challenge. Feeling isolated and overwhelmed is often the first stage in nursing burnout, and many find it difficult to focus. When you start to feel stressed, it’s important to identify some ways to better balance time between work and leisure. Taking short breaks between required tasks and duties can help keep your mind fresh when working with patients.

Seeking a social outlet can help stave off depression and allow you to connect with others. As a busy nurse, you should set and keep to a regular schedule of spending time with friends and family members. If you’re working nights and sleeping during the day, trying to catch up with loved ones by email or social media can help keep relationships strong.

It’s also important to use time off. Companies offer time-off benefits to their employees to help them enjoy a better work-life balance, so take advantage of this benefit and plan a vacation or relax at home for a couple of days to de-stress. In the meantime, finding a hobby can be a great way to manage stress during the week.

2. Find ways to manage conflict at work

A nurse deals with burnout

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, especially in a stressful environment where you’re often working under pressure and emotions can run high. While it’s human nature to try to avoid conflict, letting issues fester can lead to increased feelings of unhappiness and contribute to burnout in nurses. That’s why it’s important to address conflicts before they escalate to the point where they can affect your well-being and job satisfaction.

A key to resolving conflicts is communication. This means not only talking, but genuinely listening, and trying to find common ground. In a Glassdoor article titled “Strategies for Resolving Conflict in the Workplace” career advice experts offer additional tips that include fostering clear communication, understanding the issues causing the conflict, listening carefully, and encouraging compromise.

3. Encourage aspiring nurses to enter the field

There are many areas of the United States where hospitals and healthcare facilities can’t employ enough nurses to fill open positions. When a healthcare facility isn’t fully staffed, this shortage can put extra pressure on nursing professionals like you, since you may be called on to work additional shifts or take on a heavier workload.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of registered nurses to grow 9% between 2020 and 2030, with 194,500 new positions opening. Registered nurses and nurse practitioners are some of the most in-demand professionals in the U.S. workforce.

If a facility is experiencing nursing shortages or burnout among nursing staff, leaders should think about individual contributions and ways they can best use the human resources available to provide quality care for patients and staff members alike.

Similarly, as a nurse, you should look for opportunities to encourage people who may be considering careers in nursing to enter the field. Nursing is a profession that requires a wide variety of skills and knowledge, but a supportive, professional network is just as crucial to ensuring nurses provide every patient with the best possible care.

4. Explore travel nursing

Travel nursing became popular in response to nursing shortages, but in 2020 it grew 35% compared to the previous year, and it’s expected to grow by an additional 40% in the coming years. The reason? Being a travel nurse allows you to:

  • Live in different places
  • Focus on care delivery instead of facility politics and changing policies
  • Experience a change of pace by working anywhere from four to 13+ assignments per week, on average
  • Potentially make more money
  • Take time off to recharge between assignments

If adventure and autonomy sound like an appealing mix to you, then travel nursing could be your next career move.

5. Take care of yourself

The need for qualified nurses is on the rise, but hospitals and other facilities are also placing more importance on the well-being of nurses. An article published by Nurse Education Today in 2020 revealed that patients have better care experiences and clinical teams are more effective in departments where staff members take care of their own well-being.

Nurses who aren’t taking care of themselves may struggle to provide proper care for patients because they feel more stressed, anxious, or agitated than usual. When experiencing a lack of sleep, for example, many find it difficult to solve problems, think on their feet, and help others on their team. Improving your sleep and reducing reliance on caffeine to stay awake are good places to start. A restful night of sleep can help reduce stress and anxiety and help avoid feelings of burnout as a nursing professional.

Also, it’s good practice to schedule an appointment with a primary care healthcare provider at least once a year to look for any physical or mental health problems that could go undetected. Staying on top of personal health is crucial when providing treatment to others.

6. Don’t wait to respond if you’re feeling helpless or overwhelmed

Reporting for work when emotionally or physically exhausted could cause an angry response toward a colleague or a patient. If you’re working on an as-needed basis, you should decline shifts that don’t allow for time to recuperate. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it could be time to take advantage of your employee benefits to take a break from work.

When dealing with a heavy workload and an emotionally draining career, those feelings can weigh on your mind and have a negative effect on job performance. That’s why you should speak with your nurse manager about any concerns and how to resolve them. Your manager may have been in a similar situation before, and they may be able to provide some tips or feedback to help manage the stress.

Teamwork is also critical in a healthcare setting. Discussing issues with fellow nurses, physicians, and other support staff members is critical to avoid nurse burnout. It can be difficult for many nurses to reach out to their peers about personal conflicts but tapping that support system can be beneficial to struggling nurses in the long run.

With the right support network, good self-care habits, and stress-management techniques, you can avoid burnout — and help ensure a positive workplace experience for yourself and others.

Consider a flexible education option

As you continue to face and find solutions to burnout throughout your day-to-day responsibilities as a nurse, it may be difficult to find the time to explore educational options that can help further your career.

If you’re looking for top-level nursing education but you have other obligations, Maryville University’s online nursing programs, such as the BSN to DNP, MSN, or post-master’s certificate, are flexible degree options that work in conjunction with your current responsibilities while providing you with new knowledge and skills that can prepare you for enriching professional opportunities. At Maryville, our 24/7 online learning model enables nurses to balance their studies with their work, life, and family obligations. To learn more, check out our online nursing programs to see how they can benefit you.

Sources

Alabama Media Group, “7 Signs of Burnout in Nurses”

Alabama Media Group, “Knowledge for nurses to better care for themselves so they can better care for others during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond”

Cleveland Clinic, “Nine Strategies for Alleviating Nurse Burnout”

Glassdoor, “Strategies for Resolving Conflict in the Workplace”

HealthAffairs.org, “COVID-19’s Impact On Nursing Shortages, The Rise Of Travel Nurses, And Price Gouging”

National Library of Medicine, “Nurses’ Burnout: The Influence of Leader Empowering Behaviors, Work Conditions, and Demographic Traits”

NCBI, “Nurses’ Burnout: The Influence of Leader Empowering Behaviors, Work Conditions, and Demographic Traits”

Nurse.org, “8 Tips To Help Bring The Magic Back to Nursing in 2019”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Registered Nurses: Job Outlook”

U.S. News & World Report, “Tips for Beating Burnout as a Working Grad Student”