You knew going into your nursing career that working as a nurse was going to be stressful.
Still, the profession can be so stressful that burnout is very common among nurses, so common that USAToday.com reported in 2009 that about 20 percent of “newly minted nurses” quit in just one year. NursingTimes.net reported in 2013 that 3.4 percent of all registered nurses allowed their registration to lapse in the 12 months between March 2012 and March 2013, the highest number since 2010.
Before you decide to quit the profession, consider following one or more of the seven strategies we’ve come up with to help you cope with burnout.
- Make sure you make your life about more than your profession. Nurses who focus solely on being a nurse (and all that entails: caring for people, showing compassion, saving lives), tend to burn out more quickly. Instead, make sure that you get involved with something that energizes and gives you meaning outside of work. That could be your family, a hobby/passion, whatever gives you happiness and meaning.
- Don’t go it alone professionally. That is, find peers and mentors on whom you can lean. Make sure these people are positive and look at challenges in a constructive way – as stressful situations that can be overcome and dealt with rather than as insurmountable trials.
- As much as you may love your colleagues, don’t hang out with them all the time; cultivate friends who are not in the medical field. This can help you take your mind off your work and also give you a different perspective on life and your career.
- Join professional organizations. The camaraderie and the ability to vent with people who understand the challenges you face can be priceless in helping you cope with the distress and difficulties inherent in the nursing profession.
- Professional organizations also can go to bat for you on your behalf when you have a grievance or issue at work that remains unresolved, causing you undue stress and anxiety.
- Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise regularly. Take scheduled vacations. Even just taking 20 minutes at your lunch break to take a walk around the hospital or in the neighborhood can be a great stress reliever. Nurses in general tend to be the type of people who will take care of others before taking care of themselves. You won’t be able to take care of anyone if you collapse from stress, quit from burnout or become ill. Take care of yourself first.
- If you’ve been working as nurse for a few years, consider making a big change and become a traveling nurse. The ability to move from facility to facility regularly, meeting new people and exploring new areas of the country can be a great way to make a major change in your career, but without leaving the profession all together.