How to Prevent Nurse Burnout
While nursing is one of the most critical occupations in the country, it can sometimes be challenging. A recurring question in healthcare in the past decade has surrounded the focus on both the physical and emotional risk factors of stress: namely, when does it evolve into something chronic and unresolved? Although being part of a profession designated as challenging can be stressful, it is also one of the most rewarding careers. To nurture self-care, nurses can manage daily stresses, utilize available resources, and avoid the possibility of burnout.
What is Burnout
Traditionally defined as an outcome of occupational stress stemming from mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion, burnout has become an oft-studied byproduct of many different professions. Extensive research demonstrates that stress contributing to burnout stems primarily from within the workplace, but external stressors in nurses’ personal lives can also factor into the overall equation. Burnout can be reversed by developing resiliency skills and practicing mindfulness; consciously changing the framing of one’s mindset is imperative to both recovery from burnout and prevention from the onset of stress.
The Symptoms of Nurse Burnout
How can one self-identify signs of burnout? Common symptoms include a lack of enthusiasm, a low sense of achievement, and pervasive feelings of fatigue and lack of energy. Additional, frequently identified symptoms include irritability, general malaise, and feelings of defeat and hopelessness. This combination lends itself to depersonalization in the workplace, which poses a potential threat to not only the nurse but also the patient and healthcare facility.
Most nurses are initially drawn to the field of medicine because of the impetus to care for others in need. Healthcare practitioners frequently adopt a zero-tolerance mindset for mistakes in the workplace; consequently, many nurses are consumed by feelings of perfectionism.
Risk Factors for Burnout
Risk factors for nurse burnout vary and are contingent upon each nurse’s triggers–and their respective stress tolerances. One of the more commonly associated factors with burnout is a high nurse-to-patient ratio. Many healthcare facilities turn to travel nurses to alleviate the skewed nurse to patient ratio within departments with heavy patient loads.
Moreover, nurses can be exposed to various levels of trauma and death. Regular encounters with morbidity can ultimately cause stress and strain: directly related to losing patients under their care. Because many nurses build relationships and attachments to patients and patients’ family members, their deaths subsequently feel like both personal and professional failures.
While many risk factors associated with burnout are categorized into psychological classifications, there are also stressors related to physical exhaustion. Most commonly noted are the long shifts many nurses take on.
Many proactive measures can be taken to combat the risks of nurse burnout. Most healthcare facilities acknowledge that nurses are a critical part of their success and strive to appreciate and support their nurse staff.
Studies have revealed the effectiveness of mental training techniques, including the practice of appreciation and gratitude. Tackling burnout also requires the ability to recognize unhealthy thought patterns, both conscious and subconscious, and strengthening the ability to rewire them.
In addition to exercising inner psychological workings, it is beneficial to utilize available resources offered in your facility’s human resources department. If you feel overwhelmed by your scope of work, and find these specific coping strategies are ineffective, asking for help is a critical next step.
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