Burnout can affect your happiness, your health, and even your patient's health. These are 10 signs of nurse burnout, and how you can avoid it.
Burnout results from long-term unresolvable job stress. It is said to be a psychological stress reaction, but no matter what you call it, it does affect your happiness and your health. You feel physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. In a high-stress occupation like nursing, your burnout could affect your patients and those who depend on you for care.
If you don’t think you are at risk of burnout, read these ten top risks and see if any of them apply to you.
- Women, statistically, are at a higher risk of burnout than men. Women have high levels of anxiety and tend to have more responsibilities at home and work. They have a need to be perceived as capable, perfect, and willing.
- Working in the ICU, ER or trauma, you have a high risk of burn out since you work long hours and the intense physical and emotional burden you carry at work can be exhausting.
- If you hold an Associates versus a bachelor’s degree, you are at a higher risk of nurse burnout. A nurse with an associates generally get the mundane tasks that leaves a nurse feeling unfulfilled and bored.
- The closer you are to the patient, the closer you tend to have work burn out. You are too close emotionally to the situation and this can be risky.
- New grads are at a higher risk of burnout than any other position in healthcare. You are still unsure of your position, do not have a set routine, and the nurses with longer tenure tend to give you more difficult assignments.
- You may have a lack of energy to be consistently productive. You have a feeling of “I just don’t care” or “I’ll get there when I get there.”
- You may find that you have unexplained headaches, backaches or achy muscles and you don’t know why.
- Sleep habits and appetite have changed. You can’t seem to find the energy or the will to eat or sleep.
- Often nurses with burn out turn to drugs, food, or alcohol to feel better or not to feel at all. If you find yourself eating more or not sleeping or drinking more than usually, you may be at a risk for job burn out.
- Nurses who are feeling job burn out might be irritable or impatient with co-workers and patients more often than usual.
What are the Causes of Job Burnout?
Burnout in a nursing job can come from various factors. Some of these factors include a lack of control, unclear job expectations, and dysfunctional workplace dynamics. You might be mismatched with your colleagues, or the values in the clinic, your job doesn’t fit your interests and skills, and you may be in a job that is monotonous, difficult to manage or chaotic. If you are isolated at work, you will feel burnout in your career and work-life imbalance causes burnout.
Some specific causes of nurse burnout include:
- Depersonalization or you are so exhausted that you become numb to the suffering of others.
- Emotional exhaustion is one of the highest predictors of burnout. You don’t care anymore, and you step away from your patients.
- Lack of personal accomplishment is often found in ICU and ER nurses. These are the areas where death, trauma, and futile care is commonly practiced.
If you are feeling burnout out, you often don’t care about your patients as much and you tned to provide subpar patient care. You have a low life satisfaction, but you still claim you love your job.
Consequences of Job Burnout
If you ignore your burnout issues, there can be significant consequences. These may include:
- Fatigue. You are just too tired to give it your all.
- Excessive stress. You become irritable and anxious when you are asked to do something beyond your regular duties.
- Insomnia. You worry all night that you have to get up and go to work.
- Alcohol or substance abuse. A study by the Amerian Nurses Association claims that about 10% of nurses become dependent on drugs. There are almost 3 million nurses employed in the U.S., and that means nearly 300,000 nurses abuse drugs. Nursing specialties can be at significant risk of substance abuse because of emotional and physical tolls on nurses, accessibility of drugs, and job burnout.
- Depression. You know you should be happy that you have a job, but the work is so intense you can mentally handle it.
- Heart disease. When you experience job burnout and its related consequences, you are damaging your health and your heart may suffer.
- Obesity. It is a proven fact from studies eating for comfort is a stress reliever. If you are burnout or dissatisfied with your job, you may turn to foods that aren’t good for you.
- A negative attitude about your relationships. When you are dissatisfied and burned out with your job, your feelings about life in general and your relationships can spill over into relationships and home life.
If you are experiencing job burnout, don’t ignore the symptoms thinking they will get better. They will only get worse. Consult your doctor or a mental health professional to help you find coping mechanisms.
There is research ongoing about job burnout and how to prevent it, and some of the prevention suggestions include:
- Be resilient. Resilience helps you develop coping mechanisms to decrease the impact of emotional stress or work trauma. Nurses who are resilient are at a reduced risk for burnout. “No matter how [bad] the patient’s outcome, despite whatever efforts put forth, I know I did my part to do something (even if it was small) in that person’s life. It’s not up to me to understand the “whys” to [poor] circumstances, but to know I did something instead of nothing.” Incredible advice from a nurse who is resilient and understands her part in the care of patients. Resilience includes hope and spirituality. Knowing that there is a higher purpose, and believing that spiritual power is in charge, seems to give one more resilience
- Self-care. Take time out for yourself Try and get regular exercise, avoid caffeine and sugar, and use your PTO days for yourself. You can try yoga and include meditation. A stay-vacation at home for just one day works wonders to refresh your mind and emotions.
- Know when you are becoming burned out. Act to get rid of burnout feelings. Request a different assignment if you need to get over an emotional day or week. Beg to work on another unit one day a week. Some nurses switch to travel nursing or a different department in the hospital. Let your administration know you are feeling anxious or burned out.
- Form friendships and co-worker relationships. Preventing nurse burnout is having strong co-worker relationships. Trust your co-workers and enjoy going to work to talk to those at your job. Have outside interests if possible, and get together with the entire staff – doctors, nurses, techs and others in your department. This gives you a support group to talk to when you are feeling burned out.
- Adjust your attitude. If you have become cynical at work, consider how to rediscover the enjoyable parts of your work. Recognize your co-workers for the help and take short breaks throughout the day.
- Get some sleep. Sleep restores your well-being and gives you a new outlook on your job. Rest is meant to be restorative and healing. Let sleep do its work.
- Thinking about what you are most passionate about will help you assess your interests and determine if you should seek an alternative job that better matches who you are.
Be a team player. Make changes both professionally and personally to manage your job. Nursing is highly intensive, but it's also very rewarding.