How to Prevent Nurse Burnout

While nursing is one of the most critical occupations in the country, it can sometimes be challenging. A recurring question in healthcare in the past few years has surrounded the focus on both the physical and emotional risk factors of stress and the impact on mental health: namely, when does it evolve into something chronic and unresolved? Although being part of a profession designated as challenging can be stressful, it is also one of the most rewarding careers. To nurture self-care, nurses can manage daily stresses, utilize available resources, and avoid the possibility of burnout.



What is Burnout

Traditionally defined as an outcome of occupational stress stemming from mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion, burnout has become an oft-studied by product of many different professions. Extensive research demonstrates that stress contributing to burnout stems primarily from within the workplace, but external stressors in nurses’ personal lives can also factor into the overall equation. Burnout can be reversed by developing resiliency skills and practicing mindfulness; consciously changing the framing of one’s mindset is imperative to both recovery from burnout and prevention from the onset of stress. Healthcare employers also have a responsibility to ensure the environments they create and maintain for staff have the right leadership and resources to allow nurses to perform their role.

Shot Of A Young Doctor Sitting On The Floor And Looking Distraught

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The Symptoms of Nurse Burnout

How can one self-identify signs of burnout? Common symptoms include a lack of enthusiasm, a low sense of achievement, and pervasive feelings of fatigue and lack of energy. Additional, frequently identified symptoms include irritability, general malaise, and feelings of defeat and hopelessness. This combination lends itself to depersonalization in the workplace, which poses a potential threat to not only the nurse but also the patient and healthcare facility.


Most nurses are initially drawn to the field of medicine because of the impetus to care for others in need. Healthcare practitioners frequently adopt a zero-tolerance mindset for mistakes in the workplace; consequently, many nurses are consumed by feelings of perfectionism.




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Risk Factors for Burnout

Risk factors for nurse burnout vary and are contingent upon each nurse’s triggers–and their respective stress tolerances. One of the more commonly associated factors with burnout is a high nurse-to-patient ratio. Many healthcare facilities turn to agency, bank or travel nursing to alleviate the skewed nurse to patient ratio within departments with heavy patient loads.


Moreover, nurses can be exposed to various levels of trauma and death. Regular encounters with morbidity can ultimately cause stress and strain: directly related to losing patients under their care. Because many nurses build relationships and attachments to patients and patients’ family members, their deaths subsequently feel like both personal and professional failures.


While many risk factors associated with burnout are categorised into psychological classifications, there are also stressors related to physical exhaustion. Most commonly noted are the long shifts many nurses take on or given.



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Reversing Burnout

Many proactive measures can be taken to combat the risks of nurse burnout. Most healthcare facilities acknowledge that nurses are a critical part of their success and strive to appreciate and support their nurse staff.


Studies have revealed the effectiveness of mental training techniques, including the practice of appreciation and gratitude. Tackling burnout also requires the ability to recognise unhealthy thought patterns, both conscious and subconscious, and strengthening the ability to rewire them.


In addition to exercising inner psychological workings, it is beneficial to utilize available resources offered in your facility’s human resources department. If you feel overwhelmed by your scope of work, and find these specific coping strategies are ineffective, asking for help is a critical next step.


1. Do a “job audit”

Ask yourself what drew you to your job in the first place. Evaluate the best parts of your job, what you like and dislike about your role or employer, and what you see yourself doing in the future. Then, create a plan to get there.



2. Exercise

Try working out for a short stint first thing in the morning. Working out has been shown to improve your career, as well as your health.



3. Take a stress-management class

Stress can quickly kill morale and motivation on the job. Learning how to manage stress in a healthy way can help prevent you from impulsively quitting your job.



4. Recharge your batteries

It might be time to take a few days off to decompress. Turn off your phone, forward your email, and give yourself some room to breathe.



5. Establish professional goals

To help motivate you in your career, set some personal goals. Try to learn a new skill or reach a new personal record. Make your goals things you’ll feel proud of achieving and worthy of celebration.



6. Break your responsibilities into manageable chunks

It might be time to break down your projects and assignments into bite-size portions. Give yourself smaller tasks that are easier to accomplish rather than large tasks that can be overwhelming.



7. Talk it out

Don’t be afraid to approach your boss and let him or her know that you’re feeling burned out. Some companies have employee-assistance programs that are designed to help with this exact problem.


8. Evaluate your diet

Studies have shown that burnout can be affected by your diet. If you’re feeling burned out, try mixing up your diet and eating a bit healthier.

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