According to recent data, nearly 85% of nurses say that they’re burned out. While burnout is a risk with just about any career, the field of nursing comes with exceptionally high rates of burnout. Why does this happen? Several factors are at play, some of which are preventable and others not.
The current high burnout rates aren’t new; it’s been a problem for years, which is why the ANA (American Nurses Association) has already developed a program to combat burnout among nurses. In collaboration with SE Healthcare, they’re heading up the Burnout Prevention Enrichment Center. This free platform is designed for medical professionals (including nurses) seeking resources to help them address their burnout. Users can read informational articles or learn tips to improve their overall well-being. Then there are other helpful resources for nurses, such as sites that make it easier to complete CEU requirements. For example, nurses can get free nursing CEU credits from NursingCECentral.com that are specific to their state’s requirements. This not only lets them access the necessary courses more easily but also removes the burden of researching state-specific requirements for every license renewal cycle.
To effectively address the issue of burnout among nurses, first, you have to understand how it works. What causes it, and how much of that is preventable? Let’s explore the details below.
Why so many nurses suffer from burnout
For many nurses, the root cause of their burnout is actually a combination of individual factors. These are the most common ones:
- A stressful work environment – Many nurses are regularly confronted with traumatic injuries, ethically doubtful situations, and high rates of patient mortality. Experiencing this on a weekly basis will eventually cause emotional strain, which is one of the risk factors for burnout.
- Inadequate sleep – Another risk factor for burnout is physical exhaustion, but unfortunately, the average nurse’s schedule is both hectic and unpredictable. This can lead to long, irregular shifts, which obviously aren’t conducive to a healthy sleep schedule.
- Insufficient support – A nurse’s job is usually stressful enough even with generally positive work culture, but if you replace that with a culture of toxicity, the issue is compounded.
- Emotional strain – Compassion is a common attribute for nurses, meaning they feel it all the more when patients experience negative outcomes. This is an especially big risk for nurses in emergency rooms or ICUs.
- Long hours – Nursing shortages are happening all over the country, which means that many nurses end up working long hours far too often. They have to skip vacations or the occasional long weekend, and they may also have to give up significant portions of their regular days off to make up for the shortages.
How nurses can address or prevent burnout
Regardless of what stage of burnout nurses find themselves in, the following tips can be applied. Even if a nurse isn’t yet experiencing burnout, they can still use these tips to keep themselves more motivated and resilient.
- Develop interpersonal connections – It could be trusted co-workers, close friends, or family members, but whoever it happens to be, these people can be a nurse’s lifeline. If and when nurses come up against emotionally draining situations, it can be of tremendous help to talk about it to a sympathetic listener. Even if a nurse isn’t in crisis mode, knowing that someone will always be there for them can improve emotional stability.
- Separate work and play – One common obstacle for nurses is that their work lives completely overshadow their personal lives. Add to that the fact that their work lives are often overwhelming at any level, and it’s basically just a matter of time before burnout sets in. If nurses can put more of an emphasis on their personal lives, though, this can act as an opportunity for them to recharge their emotional batteries and return to work ready for whatever happens.
This may not always be possible, or it could require a nurse to say “no” to some optional responsibilities. The thing to keep in mind is that they aren’t just slacking off because they feel like it; they’re doing what’s necessary to manage or prevent burnout, which in the long run is much more valuable to any healthcare organization than a few extra hours of work here and there.
- Prioritizing sleep – At a certain point, you just can’t ignore how tired you are anymore. Given how hard many nurses work, they end up reaching that point sooner rather than later. Even if they aren’t mentally burned out, their physical burnout can be just as damaging. That’s why it’s so important to get at least eight hours of sleep on a regular schedule, which contributes to better stamina, motivation, and alertness.
- Working on both physical and mental health – Taking care of yourself shouldn’t be reserved for days off, and you don’t even have to spend that much time on it. In fact, most nurses could focus more on their own physical and mental wellness without any significant changes to their daily schedules. For example, instead of using their breaks to scroll through social media while snacking on chocolate-covered peanuts, a nurse could spend some time outside, listen to motivating music, or have a quick meditation session.
- Joining therapy/counseling programs – Many healthcare facilities offer counseling services or therapy for employees, which can help them work through what’s causing their burnout. The human resources department is a great place to inquire about these programs. Nurses may also choose to find a therapist outside of work, which may cost more, but may also offer more personalized services.
When addressing burnout, it’s important to remember that it isn’t a permanent condition. It may be difficult to combat, especially if a drastic change in work schedule or environment isn’t possible, but there are also plenty of practical tips that anyone can follow. With a combination of targeted resources and greater awareness, nurses will be better able to address burnout.
You may also like: How to Identify and Prevent Burnout