All jobs are stressful. But there’s something about the medical profession that seems to amplify the stress. Maybe it’s the long hours or the constant exposure to illness and death. It could also be the heart-rending responsibility of making crucial life-or-death decisions for vulnerable patients.
All of this and more puts nurses at risk of developing burnout. It can result in decreased job satisfaction, cynicism towards patients and their families, emotional exhaustion, and a reduced sense of personal accomplishment.
Fortunately, burnout isn’t chronic or permanent. By making some lifestyle changes and seeking support, nurses can prevent burnout before it starts.
If you’re a nurse who wants to stay at the top of your nursing capabilities, go through our tips for maintaining your physical, emotional, and mental health.
1. Improve Your Schedules
What’s your daily schedule like? If you’re working 12-hour shifts back-to-back or constantly being on call, it might be time to talk to your supervisor about making some changes. Nurses need time to recover between shifts. When you don’t have adequate time to rest, your body and mind will eventually pay the price.
If you can, try to get more regular hours. A set schedule will help your body adjust and make it easier to get a good night’s sleep. You should also aim to take at least one day off per week. It will give you time to recharge and enjoy some much-needed leisure time.
If you’re a part-time student, look for more flexible online programs so you can better manage your time. You also have online options at your disposal. For instance, a nurse interested in pursuing a master’s program could enroll in an online masters of science in nursing program and maintain a healthy work/life balance.
2. Get Some Exercise
How often do you work out, besides running around the hospital all day? With everything else on your plate, you may not get enough time to hit the gym. However, the nature of your work can exert a strain on your body and mind, which is why it is important to maintain a regular workout schedule.
Exercise is a perfect remedy to keep your mental and physical health in check. It releases endorphins, which improve mood, lower stress levels, and reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like diabetes.
Incorporate exercise into your routine by getting up earlier than usual and running a few miles before your shift starts. If you’re not a morning person, do some quick squats or push-ups in your break room. Or, try to go for a walk during your lunch break. Even a short ten-minute walk can improve your mood and help you de-stress.
3. Find a Support Group
No one understands the challenges of being a nurse better than other nurses. That’s why finding a support group of fellow nurses can be beneficial.
These groups provide a safe space to vent about the stresses of the job. They can also offer advice and support in difficult situations like a bossy doctor or a grieving family.
If your burnout is getting in the way of your job, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. A therapist can help you manage your stress and give you tools to deal with difficult situations.
4. Take Some Time for Yourself
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your job that you forget to take care of yourself. But you’ll eventually resent your job if you don’t make time for your hobbies and interests.
That’s why finding a healthy balance between work and play is crucial. Make sure to schedule some “me time” into your week. Whether that means sleeping till noon on your day off or splurging on your favorite unhealthy breakfast, do whatever cheers you up.
And don’t forget to take a vacation! Everyone needs a break from work now and then. You could utilize your paid time off to go on a relaxing trip to the beach or visit family and friends.
5. Try Switching Your Specialty
Have you analyzed the reason behind your current state of burnout? If you’re starting to dread going to work because you’re sick of your existing specialty, look for alternate positions.
For instance, if you’re an ER nurse constantly dealing with trauma cases, maybe a position in a pediatric unit would be a better fit. If you’re a critical care nurse who’s burned out from the long hours, perhaps a role in a less intense unit would be a better environment.
Of course, this isn’t always possible. But if you have the option to switch units or even hospitals, it could make a world of difference.
6. Maintain Good Professional Relationships
A positive relationship with your co-workers can make a big difference in your overall satisfaction with the job. Do your best to build strong relationships with the people you work with. If it’s your head nurse or charge nurse you’re having trouble with, try to have an honest conversation about your concerns.
Having a good relationship with your patients and their families is also important. Remember, they are entrusting you with their lives. Building a rapport with them can make a difficult job more bearable.
If you’re wondering how to improve your relationship with your patients, here are some ideas.
- Make sure to introduce yourself and use their name often
- Explain procedures as you’re performing them
- Encourage questions and answer them thoroughly
- Show empathy and compassion
- Give updates to family members regularly
7. Be Willing to Accept Help
Nurses are notoriously independent people. You probably like to think you can handle everything on your own. But that’s not always possible – or healthy.
If you’re overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to ask for help. People are usually more than willing to lend a hand to your co-workers, your supervisor, or even your patients’ families.
And if you’re struggling, there are plenty of organizations out there that can help nurses in need. The American Nurses Association has a list of resources that can help you get the assistance you need.
8. Focus on your Sleep
This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. Getting enough sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health. But it can be difficult to get a good night’s rest when working long hours.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, you can try a few things. First, establish a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed. And create a relaxing environment in your bedroom – dark, quiet, and cool.
If you’re still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. They may be able to prescribe medication or recommend other treatment options.
Burnout is a real problem for nurses. But it doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in your life. Whether it’s job stress, failing relationships, or something else entirely, there are ways to prevent – and overcome – burnout.
Pay attention to your body and your mind. If you’re starting to feel burnt out, take some time for yourself and find a healthy balance between work and play. Remember, work is just a part of your life – it’s not your entire life.