How to Identify and Prevent Nurse Burnout

It’s important to prevent nurse burnout before it happens in the first place. Are you feeling exhausted and stressed day in and day out? You entered this profession because you were passionate about caring for others, but now you’re dreading walking into another shift.

Research shows 31.5% of nurses leave their careers because of burnout, and the numbers are only rising. 

You’re likely thinking, How did I get to this point? I want to love my career, but I’m overworked and spent!

Even though many jobs are stressful, nurses work in an environment that is inherently stressful due to the nature of the job. 

Nurses are some of the most compassionate people and even though this field can be such a rewarding career, nurses face one of the greatest risks of burnout. 

It’s crucial that you recognize what nurse burnout is and the signs to look for so that you can handle it accordingly. Using these tips below, you can effectively prevent nurse burnout so that your energy and spark for nursing returns!

What is Nurse Burnout?

Nurse burnout is defined as a reduction in energy that presents itself in emotional exhaustion, lack of motivation, and feelings of frustration, which usually leads to a reduced work efficacy. 

Nurse burnout is a common occupational phenomenon involving mental, physical, and emotional aspects. 

Causes of Nurse Burnout

A variety of factors influence and contribute to nurse burnout including both personal obstacles and general work-related stressors. 

  • Being overworked by long shifts and hours
  • Constantly switching between shift schedules
  • Consistently being pressured to make quick decisions that impact a person’s life
  • Understaffed healthcare facilities and high demands of caring for patients
  • Having a patient load greater than a 1:4 nurse-to-patient ratio
  • Stressful specialties such as the emergency department or intensive care
  • Unrealistic expectations set by yourself, your healthcare facility, or your patients and their families
  • Chronic sleep deprivation
  • High-stress environments such as combative patients, traumatic situations, ethical dilemmas, and a high mortality rate
  • Lack of support, teamwork, and collaboration in the workplace 
  • Poor communication, conflict, role ambiguity, and peer bullying among healthcare staff
  • Dealing with sickness and death
  • Constantly having to put others’ needs before your own
  • Emotional strain from patient care

These common causes for nurse burnout typically lead to nurses hitting their breaking point. 

Nurse Burnout Symptoms

The symptoms of nurse burnout can manifest differently depending on the individual’s unique circumstances. If you’re experiencing any of these signs, you’re likely suffering.

  • Feeling disengaged, apathetic, and detached from your profession
  • Depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and even cynicism
  • Feelings of low personal performance and failure
  • Mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion
  • Compassion fatigue, loss of passion, and feelings of frustration and resentment
  • Overwhelmed and unsatisfied with your career, which negatively affects your personal life
  • Feeling underappreciated, overworked, and taken advantage of
  • Easily contracting illness or noticing a weakened immune system
  • Becoming short-tempered or insensitive

The effects of nurse burnout and neglecting your own health can result in negative consequences such as higher turnover rates, a lack of focus leading to mistakes, medical errors, and a decrease in the quality of patient care. 

Groups of nurses and doctors walking in the hospital hallway

Tips to Prevent Nurse Burnout

Now that you’ve recognized what nurse burnout is, it becomes a lot easier to immediately treat it or prevent it from occurring. 

Find a Schedule that Works for You

It’s important to work somewhere that has humane schedules for their employees. If you can, aim to make your shift lengths 9 hours maximum. Did you know that nurse burnout is 2.5 times more likely to occur in nurses who work shifts of 10-13 hours?

Seek to work at places that care about the wellbeing of their staff. Set boundaries, resist working overtime hours if it’s unnecessary, and push for a schedule that keeps your life balanced. 

Prioritize Breaks

Breaks are often overlooked when you’re busy and rushing. Intentionally allow yourself to take your much-needed breaks.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling social media or finishing other tasks that you’re behind on, try to rest, eat a nourishing meal or snack, get outside for fresh air, and find some quietness for a moment.

Take vacation days and plan for them so that you can recharge and relax. Check-in with yourself at least quarterly and schedule intentional time off. Don’t wait until you’re too exhausted that you’re forced to take a break. 

Make sure to separate yourself from work to regroup and rest, that way you’re much more likely to have an easier time rejuvenating and a greater job satisfaction.

Reach Out for Support

Seeking support gives you an outlet to discuss and vent the challenges you’re facing. You can utilize support groups, a coworker you trust, mentor, therapist, or counselor. 

Talk to someone who can empathize with you. This helps make sure that you’re not bottling up your emotions and it reduces the likelihood of conflict at home due to a spouse or family member not being able to handle the load you’re dealing with. 

Evaluate what’s going on and discover WHY you’re experiencing nurse burnout. Do you notice any patterns? Pay attention so that you can identify your triggers and understand where changes need to take place and how to respond in a healthy way. 

Two males talking face to face to prevent nurse burnout

Take Care of Yourself

You can only give your patients the best quality care if YOU are doing your best mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Here are a few basic examples of where you can start taking care of yourself:

  • Hydrating and drinking enough water
  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Physical movement
    • If you’re on your feet all day, intense exercise might exacerbate the problem. If so, try light stretching instead.
  • Make time for grocery shopping so that you can pack nutritious lunches and snacks for work
  • Keep your home a stress free zone so that you have somewhere to unwind, even if it’s simply finding a spot on the front porch that feels like it’s yours 

Find a Stress-Relieving Outlet 

Get curious and look into activities that you might enjoy. 

On your days off it’s easy to get sucked into tackling your to-do list like house chores, but what can you do to enhance your mood? Is it being creative such as painting or doing a DIY project? Is it going on a sunset hike or playing tennis with your best friend? 

Immersing yourself in something that brings you joy can completely relieve your stress, calm your mind and body, and positively fill you up so that you have the energy and mental capacity to take on other things in life!

Consider New Specialties

You don’t need to stay stuck in your current nursing unit or specialty forever. Have you wanted to try something new? Do you have an interest in working as a local per diem contract nurse or switching it up and working in assisted living or memory care? 

You’re also not limited to working in a hospital. You can try a different work setting like behavioral health, hospice, or rehabilitation.

Remind yourself what you enjoy about nursing and give yourself permission to try new things. It’s ok to reevaluate and make changes!

Prevent Nurse Burnout with nurseIO 

Are you tired of not being able to control your shift schedule? When you have control over your career, you’re less likely to experience burnout. With nurseIO you can prevent nurse burnout and finally achieve the work-life balance you desire. Get started with us today!

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