There has always been talk to one level or another about nursing burnout.  However, these days I seem to be hearing it vocalized much more than in the past.  And appears to be an increasing problem in today’s institutions.

So, it seems prudent to have a discussion on nursing burnout, what it is, what its effects are, and how to avoid it.

What is Nursing Burnout?

Nursing BurnoutBasically it is a condition that some registered nurses experience that shows itself as being fatigued all of the time, readily irritable, insomnia and poor performance.  Physical manifestations can be chronic headaches, back pain, weight gain and/or GI problems.

Nursing burnout can happen to nurses with years of experience, newly graduated RNs and even students in nursing school experience burnout. You must take care to avoid it in your nursing career.

We all know nursing is a stressful occupation in which most full time nurses work 12 hour plus shifts- sometimes without even getting time for a toilet break!  There are nurses that work even longer shift, however that is not the norm.  This can be a major factor in nursing burnout.  But I am getting ahead of myself here.

What Are The Signs of Nursing Burnout?

There are several signs.  I mention some above, but others may include:  Depression, negative attitude, difficulty focusing on your tasks, high blood pressure, and worst of all for your patients and your family life- emotionally detached.

This is a really silly video, but it has good info in it:

What Causes Nursing Burnout?

Under-staffing is a big culprit in promoting nursing burnout.  Usually, I see a 3-4 days on the hospital floor and the rest of the week off as far as work schedules go.  And as I said, the shifts are often 12 hours or more. Now, with budgeting cut backs and an overall shortage of nurses already underway, the risk of burnout is heightened.

Nurses get exhausted, which in turn brings on higher levels of stress and aggravation.  Thus is the path to staff dissatisfaction, higher risk of errors, and a greater exodus of nurses from the profession… which only compounds the problem of nursing burnout.

In addition to staffing issues, there is an overwhelming complaint of the lack of support from managerial staff and the physician community.

With the emotional strain of caring for patients, long hours, dealing with frustrations of poor management and disrespect from doctors, it is no wonder we are seeing an increase in nursing burnout!

What Are The Effects Of This Issue?

Well, there seems to be a relationship between the ratio of the number patients per nurse as a factor.  When nurses get overloaded with patients they become more dissatisfied with their job and thus it promotes burnout.

And because burnout tends to leave a nurse emotionally detached and lacking in focus, there is a great chance of error.  Therefore the level of patient care and satisfaction also goes down.

How Do You Avoid Burnout?

This is a good question.  The answer will be a little different for everybody depending on their situation.  However, here are a few ideas to help you:

The first thing to do is to actually look at yourself as you would a patient.  Are you showing symptoms?  What are they?  What is causing them? Etc.  Then you need to take action to rectify the causes.

Be sure to get enough sleep, eat a good diet and get some exercise.

Just these three things can alleviate a great amount of stress.  And the mere factor that you are not doing these things can add stress.

Know your limits.  You can only do what you can do and sometimes you need to be able to delegate tasks- whether they are at work or in your home life.  And you must speak up when you get overwhelmed.  Talk to your manager about your workload, or how you might improve your efficiency.

Talk to other nurses that are feeling the same way.  Don’t just have a bitch session- though this can reduce stress at times- but speak constructively about the issues and how to rectify the situation.

Some nursing programs have tutorials on how to avoid this dilemma, and recently I have seen an increase in healthcare administrations providing information sessions and classes on the factors related to nursing burnout.

Keep an Eye Out!

Hopefully this post has alerted you to some of the factors involved with nursing burnout and you can keep a watchful eye on yourself and your co-workers to head off the burnout before it becomes a major issue in your life and nursing career.


Filed under: Nursing Information

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!