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How to Avoid Nursing Burnout

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Nurses may experience burnout because of fatigue from rotating shifts, excessive workloads, emotional stress and the complexity of health care. You may be suffering burnout when you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, you’re eating too much and you feel generally overwhelmed. Prevention centers on a few important strategies. Take regular breaks, find emotional support, utilize employee- assistance programs and practice good health habits.

Prioritize Self Care

Nurses often enter the field to serve and take care of others. That mindset, however, can encourage you to take care of others at the expense of your own needs. For example, you may skip a meal break if you're busy, or work overtime on a regular basis if the unit is short-staffed. Missing an occasional break may not be a problem, but when it becomes a habit, it can increase your stress levels. If you’re concerned about your patients when you leave the floor, ask another nurse to keep an eye on them while you’re gone -- and return the favor for him. A nurse must be able to say “no” to overtime when necessary for her own health. If that’s difficult for you, don’t answer the phone, or ask the nursing supervisor to put you on the “do not call” list.

Recharge and Re-Energize

Compassion, nurturing and empathy are necessary qualities in the nursing profession. Always giving, however, is similar to pumping a well without ever allowing the water to refill -- eventually, the well runs dry. Find a support group or talk to a good friend. A May 2013 article on the NurseZone.com website recommends activities such as hobbies or spiritual practices to help renew yourself. A professional or spiritual retreat, preferably away from both work and home responsibilities, can recharge your compassion batteries. Learning something new can also help nurses feel re-energized and able to give again.

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Deal with Stress

Many healthcare organizations recognize that their employees deal with stress on a daily basis. Your employer may have an employee-assistance program or offer other strategies, such as free workshops. Take advantage of these programs, many of which provide professional counseling at low or no cost to the employee. If you’re concerned about confidentiality with an employer-sponsored program, find your own source of mental health support. Professional organizations may also provide you with supportive colleagues and a place to vent about your feelings, according to an article on the Minority Nurse website.

Practice Good Health Habits

It should go without saying that good health habits help you handle stress, relieve tension and keep fit. But the work itself can present challenges. Rotating shifts, for example, disrupt sleep patterns. Twelve-hour shifts, which are common in health care, can cause fatigue, especially if you work more than three in a row. If you work in a hospital and your unit doesn’t have a break room close by, you may forgo a break because the cafeteria is so far away. Make it a point to practice good sleep hygiene habits, exercise regularly – outdoors in a pleasant setting, if possible -- and eat a healthy diet. Break up your 12-hour shifts so you have at least one day in between to rest and recharge.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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