Every nurse is at a substantial risk of experiencing nurse burnout. There are several reasons why this is so:
- Shift work
Not an issue exclusively faced by nurses but a significant one nevertheless. This is especially prevalent if shift work is of a rotating nature and based on an irregular timetable.
Again, not an issue exclusive to nursing. All professions are being asked to do more with less. Increased productivity is a common KPI that management is required to meet. Nurses have the additional stress of trying to achieve improved productivity without compromising on patient care, education, and their own set of morals and ethics.
- Complicated care
Patient care is becoming more complex as new technologies are developed. Nurses are constantly required to upgrade skills in order to keep up with these changes. Add to this the pressure to clear beds and keep patient stay to a minimum. A nurse’s day is certainly becoming more and more stressful.
- A patient's death
An occupational hazard? Nothing new here, except perhaps that patients are expected to live longer than before due to better health care. The demands of family members are also increasing.
Although slowly disappearing, there still remains an underlying class divide between the old hospital-trained nurse versus a university-educated one with a nursing degree. Reluctance to acknowledge the validity of each other can lead to an “us” versus “them” mentality. And worse, nurse bullying and harassment can permeate the workplace if left unchecked.
How then can you avoid nurse burnout? For me, there are three key points.
- Take regular breaks
Nurses are often their own worst enemy, working tirelessly throughout the day. They frequently go without a break so that others can rest. In the end, this does no one any good. Refueling the body both with nutrition and time away from work is essential.
- Accept your limitations and others’
Control the controllable. For anything which you cannot either accept, just adapt to it or reject it. But never rail against anything to the detriment of self. Be prepared to walk away and look to fight another day.
This does not necessarily mean that an emotional outpouring is required to maintain sanity. Rather, each nurse needs to develop a technique for working through issues. It might be confiding in a spouse, best friend, or even the dog. It doesn’t matter who, just as long as there is a way to relieve the pressure and let go of the steam when needed to avoid nurse burnout.