3 Tips for Preventing Nurse Burn Out

The report has been given. You’ve had your morning coffee. All of your patients have been rounded on. Everyone is safe. Medications administered. You’re off to a great start. As you’re getting ready to leave for your lunch break, you receive a call that one of your patients will be going down for a procedure. Fine. You’ll prep your patient and then you’ll go down for your lunch. Once your patient has been transported to their procedure, you get yet another call that a family member is concerned and needs to speak to the nurse. Before you know it, it’s been 8 hours since you’ve had a sip of water or emptied your bladder. Food? You need to catch up on your charting so it looks like you’ll have to forfeit your break so you can get caught up.

A typical day and life of a nurse on the floor. But what happens when you continue to work in a high-stress environment while neglecting some of your most basic needs? Constantly giving of yourself. I mean, that is why you decided to go into nursing. Carefully addressing the physical, mental, and emotional needs of your patient to the point where you won’t even stop to use the restroom.

Nurses are recognized as one of the most “trusted professions” but continue to experience burnout at the bedside at very high rates. The conversation at hand is- exactly how do you address burnout when at the end of the day, you have expectations that you have to meet? Both from the hospital personnel as well as your patients and their families. Is it possible to really achieve a sense of balance? The real answer is– it can be extremely challenging to find a solution to this very well-known issue.

Although the answer isn’t a simple one, there are steps that you can take to ensure that you don’t literally burn yourself out from the bedside. You’ve already made a tremendous sacrifice to get to your dream job. Let’s talk about ways to ensure that you have longevity within your career.

Go On Vacation

“But you only work 3 days a week! It must be nice to have all of that extra time on your hands. You don’t have to work 5 days a week as the rest of us.” 

I’ve heard that one before. Not all bedside positions require you to work 12-hour days but many of them do.  Regardless of whether you’re working 8 or 12 hours- you’ve worked hard. If you do work 12-hour shifts, that only means you’re working what some people work in 5 days within a 3-day period. It can be draining. 

Where else will you find that your day may consist of a code blue and the discharge of a patient that finally recovered from their diagnosis all within one hour? Literally two events on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Finding time to rest- is crucial. So allotting blocks of time where you can take a healthy break away from work gives you the opportunity to re-center and refresh. To focus on your outside passions and people that have nothing to do with work. Your time can range from sitting on your couch with your tube socks while you binge read your favorite book. Or you can jet set to the other side of the world.  Quality time with the people closest to you helps you remain grounded. I’m more present for my patients at work when I am able to allocate some time to my own personal family and friends.

Take A Break

Listen- I know this one is hard. Like I really do BUT I have to tell you. This is a biggie.  The work will never stop. Nursing really is a 24/7 profession.  Take 5 minutes to go on a quick restroom break. Hydrate with water in between tasks. Stick some snacks somewhere near so you can grab it on the run if you need to.  Whatever you do, don’t skip your break. Don’t do it to yourself. Treat your body as you would as if it was your phone at 1%.  Recharge.

If you honestly feel like you don’t have enough time to eat- bring a smoothie or cold-pressed juices as an alternative.  Fuel your body with nutrient-dense foods that will keep you energized for the duration of your workday. 

Find an Outlet

I will say, as a society overall, we are getting better about normalizing the topic of mental health. But we are still at a point where this area often goes unchecked.  As a nurse, you’re not only a caregiver, you occupy the role of a counselor, friend, and anything else in between. You go from administering their daily dose of stool softeners to all of a sudden engaging in a conversation about how they experienced a loss earlier in the year.  Within a few seconds, you are afforded the trust of your patients- some of them exposing the most vulnerable parts of them. 

With that being said, after giving all of your energy to helping someone else- don’t your mental health require some attention?  The truth is, though our actions can be described as heroic- we in fact are still human. And we all need an outlet- a way for us to release.  Having a sense of community- a couple of people that you can talk to. Keep out-of-work conversations light. Discussing topics that have nothing to do with your occupation.

Take advantage of seeing a therapist either through a private practice or if your job offers it, through EAP. An Employee Assistant Program is a free, confidential work program that allows you to have therapeutic conversations with a licensed professional. I have taken advantage of this program- best decision ever. Taking that first step to talk to someone allowed me to decompress in a safe place.

The conversation of burnout can continue because there’s so much to say about it! The bottom line? Take care of yourself. You’re most effective when you’re operating at your optimal level. And to achieve that, the essentials have to be covered.  You change lives in an extraordinary way daily. Your patients are important but remember, so are you.

Author: Mynoucka J. LaFalaise, is of Haitian descent and was born and raised in Southwest Florida. She is currently a travel nurse, with experience managing adults in Cardiac Progressive Care, Med-Surg, and Med-Surg Telemetry. Her background prior to nursing includes Nutritional Sciences (Dietetics). She occupies a piece of the internet known as The Vintage Traveling Nurse Blog– it is a space created with everyone in mind!  The content discussed in the blog includes nursing, budgeting, healthy living, traveling, and regular blog features.  She enjoys writing and talking about self-care and mental health awareness.  Follow along on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook!

Published: January 27, 2020

Mynoucka J. LaFalaise
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