As fulfilling as nursing can be, nurses routinely confront issues that other professionals may never encounter. Nurses are in high-demand, but a shortage of openings in nursing schools in recent years has led to a widening gap between the demand for skilled nurses and the supply, according to the nursing support resource Nursing.org. As a result, many nurses are taking on more work than they can handle. Couple this with the inherently demanding nature of nursing and it’s not surprising that nurses may experience fatigue, mental exhaustion and doubts about the value of their work.
Holli Blazey, MSN, ANP-BC, the Nursing Program Coordinator for Employee Wellness at the Cleveland Clinic, says burnout is a big problem nationally for all kinds of caregivers, whether you work in an ICU or an ambulatory setting. Long hours, rotating shifts and the stress of caring for ill patients are other factors that can contribute to nurse burnout. Many times nurses muddle through and do not even realize burnout is occurring. However, if anxiety, exhaustion or the desire to skip work is cropping up more frequently, nurses should not hesitate to take action. The following are some ways nurses can cope with burnout.
• Identify your stressors. Write down the things that are stressing you out. Pinpointing circumstances that are causing you to feel overwhelmed is the first step in addressing them. Try tracking responsibilities for a few days and write down feelings after each activity. Then try to identify which are the biggest sources of your stress. Communicate your findings with a supervisor or colleague who may offer advice or work with you to confront your stress in a positive way.
• Don’t make new commitments. It’s tempting to want to get involved in new projects, especially if job dissatisfaction has you looking for fulfillment elsewhere. But overextending yourself even further may only add to your existing stress.
• Practice relaxation exercises. Engage in slow and meaningful breathing, set aside even a few moments to sit in quiet and take a break, and think about how you can approach the situation in a healthy way instead of giving in to your anxiety.
• Delegate when possible. Find out which tasks can be taken off of your to-do list. Is there something a patient care nursing assistant can do at work? Can you rely on a friend or family member to help out at home? Lighten your load to give yourself time to recuperate.
• Join a support network. Many employers offer employee assistance programs, such as access to a professional therapist. Connecting with other colleagues also can be a great way to build up your support network.
These tips can help nurses find the relief they need when burnout starts to set in. More resources can be found at www.nursing.org.