Nursing Career: Are You Burned Out or Just Bored?
Every once in a while we have the urge to try a new challenge. We have all seen the signs; no longer can we "phone in" our shifts. Most nurses take ownership for personal and professional growth. Occasionally, though, it is time to try out something different. Healthcare requires individuals who are flexible to change and grow along with the changing climate. No longer can we remain stagnant in our careers!
How do you know if you are someone who needs to find a new challenge versus someone who is in danger of burnout? Below are some discussion points that may help you in this self-evaluation.
Reasons to find a new challenge in a current or new position:
- You find yourself getting bored; your learning curve has been met. It's time to find a new challenge that isn't related to how to play FarmVille on Facebook without getting caught. Ask for a new project or opportunity at work.
- Your practice area is no longer keeping you and/or the patient population safe. Many specialty areas, such as pain management (which has gotten a lot of press recently in my state), are getting new regulations. Most are safe, legitimate practices. However, a handful of employers ask staff to turn a "blind eye" to questionable tactics that would put the nurse at risk.
- You were never sure about this job in the first place. This is actually a great profession. It is diverse. There are so many specialties that you usually are able to find your niche. I advise students to go into the float pool the first year or two and figure out what they do and don't like. If you are becoming restless, ask about working out of the float pool. Everyone is grateful for the assist and you are only responsible for the one shift.
- You like the job okay but you're kind of interested in (insert topic here). That is wonderful. Nurses should be lifelong learners of a variety of topics. Just because the board in your state only requires a certain number of CEUs, look carefully, that is the minimum requirement. So after your mandatory requirements, take something outside of your normal duties. Maybe you never really understood all those squidgy lines on a 12 lead. Maybe you wanted to know more about X-rays. Audit a class at community college.
Too many times in nursing, we refuse to "roll with it.” We do not have the luxury of being able to keep our scope of practice narrowed and special. We fight change tooth and nail, and then wonder why we are miserable. We blame others for our misery and live only in the glory days of old. Fewer people are required to take on more responsibilities. Many times, though, it is our own inflexibility that makes us miserable!
Here are some indications that it may be time to consider a change in your career path due to burnout.
- You start playing the martyr. You interrupt, exaggerate, and the glass is always half empty. My unofficial name for it is, “The Eeyore Act”. You compare yourself to those around you and think “Why bother? Nothing ever changes." You may be living on the "good old days.” If this is how you have been then you need to reframe your thinking. It will probably not be accomplished without self-investigation and assistance, but it is not hopeless! Write affirmations on the mirror. Believe only the best. Remove negative people from your sphere of influence, which, while difficult, is necessary.
- You frequently find reasons not to be at work. You check yourself head to toe daily to see if you are ill enough to be at home, some problem too important to be left alone for 8-12 hours. You feel "forced to work here.” The alternative: Recall that there once was a day when you shined up a resume, impressed in an interview, and were appreciative for the opportunity. You wore your best daily and went the extra mile regularly.
- You are too tired to take care of your personal life. Life is about balance. We teach patients to use balance of diet, exercise, perhaps medication, yet how many times do we fall short due to "business"? Make sure you are sleeping, eating right, and taking care of yourself.
- You have more bad days than good. You find yourself sitting in the parking lot having to talk yourself into going to work. You are short tempered with your patients and/or coworkers. You find yourself less than tender with family and complacent in procedure. On a scale of 1-10, your best day is probably not a 10. Be fair with yourself and those around you. However, when the bad days are outnumbering good ones, maybe it is time to consider a change in position or companies.
What to do if you find yourself resembling signs of burnout more than need for motivation at work:
- The good news is that we are in such a versatile and creative profession, and there is never only one option. Many of us have been blessed to have the opportunity to work in hospitals, agencies, nursing facilities and recently education. A variety of specialties are available. Change can be a positive path, however, attitude is key. If you tell yourself, "I will always be here, I can't learn anything new”, then you are facing a self-fulfilling prophesy and you are heading down a dark road.
- Respect yourself, family, coworkers and patients. Start taking an honest look at some of the suggestions here and talk to someone who is competent to assist you. Many larger companies have Employee Assistance Programs, or speak to your personal physician and do what you can to remove yourself from the circumstance.
What not to do:
- Complain incessantly. Complaining and gossip will not help bring about a culture of change. Rather, it will breed negativity. Some companies have policies that will work against you should you be caught speaking negatively about them. Use care! Like we were told as children, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
- Burn your bridges. It really is a small world. If you need to leave a job, leave well. Give 2 weeks notice and do work hard for the remaining weeks. If you are offered a job with an immediate start, tell them you have to give notice. If they do not respect that, they will probably end up treating you poorly in the future.
- Stay stagnant while you are figuring this out. I call this the "when I/I will". When I get better hours, I will work out. When I get tuition reimbursement, I will return to school. Do not keep putting it off, find some little happiness now.
Still trying to figure it out? Make a pro/con list. Talk to a friend and ask what they have thought of you lately. Take some time away. Schedule a long weekend and do something you enjoy. See if you feel the same when you return. Most importantly, do something!
Good luck on your journey.
About the Author: Luanna Banghart is an LPN, CCT, CRAT, RMA, and BLS (CPR instructor-AHA). As a Medical Assisting, Cardiovascular Specialty Instructor at Central Florida Institute, she teaches everything from basic cardiac anatomy and rhythm recognition to ACLS prep and pacemakers.
Click here for more information on Luanna P Banghart, LPN, CCT, CRAT, RMA.
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