Nurse burnout is a very real problem often complicated by factors outside a nurse’s control. For example, many nurses deal with stressful work situations, which could include unsafe work environments or poor staffing ratios. Other causes of burnout may be based on personal feelings, such as a sense of isolation or difficulty in dealing with emotional upheaval on the job.

The definition of nurse burnout is a sense of physical, mental and emotional unrest and stress most often caused by working too much or failing to receive necessary support on the job. Without help, nurse burnout can quickly lead to extreme job dissatisfaction or even a major career change.

If you are concerned about experiencing burnout yourself or fear that you may already be burned out, these tips and solutions can help you give your mind and body the care they need and can empower you to create lasting changes where you work.

Create a Healthy Work/Life Balance

If you love your work, you may find it initially easy to pick up extra hours, chat about your work when you go out for dinner and spend all of your time off socializing with your coworkers. Over time, this can actually be quite stressful because everything will seem to revolve around work. Try to separate your work life from your everyday life, and never be afraid to use your vacation time to get away from it all.

Practice Regular Self-Care

Self-care is not a sign of laziness or selfishness but instead is an important way that you can fuel yourself so that you then have something to pour into others. Your self-care routine should include a healthy diet, adequate exercise and sleep and time each week doing something you love. Also, be sure you do not forget about your spiritual health.

Consider a Role Change

If you are feeling very burned out in your current role, consider a major switch that still allows you to work as a nurse. You could consider moving from the emergency room to a medical floor or from the hospital to an outpatient clinic.

Lobby for Organizational Change

The best way to improve working conditions for everyone is to work for organizational changes. Consider asking for a hospital-wide mentoring program, or speak up regarding how additional stress reduction training or improved involvement from management could help.

Seek Counseling

Of course, if you are already deep in the throes of burnout, be sure to seek professional counseling. Your health care organization may even be willing to cover the cost of this for you.

Although all nurses are at risk for burnout, nurses working in emergency departments, critical care units and oncology units are often the most at risk. Signs that you may be experiencing burnout include general irritability when on the job, overall physical and mental exhaustion and a lack of emotions when caring for your patients. Listen to your body and follow your gut when it comes to dealing with these signs. Even though they may seem small at first, they can quickly escalate. However, by using these decompression strategies and tips for lasting change in your health care organization, you not only can help battle nurse burnout yourself but also may be able to help your coworkers avoid it as well.

Nurses handle a great deal of stress on a regular basis, which is why we offer a continuing education course on stress management and time management. Earn 4 NAC CE Credits and practice self care. Contact Project Heartbeat to find out when the next class is.