As rewarding as it can be to save lives and give people a chance for a better quality of life, the healthcare field can be mentally and physically exhausting. It can also wear on your emotions, leaving you feeling depleted and out of it. In light of the heavy demand COVID-19 placed on those in the medical field, it no surprise that nurse burnout is expected to rise beyond the problem it has already come. Research shows that burnout contributed to lower levels of patient care, costly turnover in medical facilities, and poor mental health for nurses that are about to give up on their career. These tips can help those heading into the nursing field or those hanging in there avoid burnout.
Maintain Balance Between Intrinsic or Extrinsic Motivation
Extrinsic rewards are external factors that make something seem desirable, such as great benefits, job security, advancement, or salary. Intrinsic rewards are the personal joys or feelings of accomplishment that come from changing someone’s life, the good feeling of seeing a child smile, or the self-assurance that comes from treating a serious condition. Choosing to focus on one or the other will often lead to burnout, as it is easy to become disenfranchised by the working environment, the costs of healthcare, or the inability to save someone’s life despite doing everything humanly possible. There needs to be a balance in why you are doing what you are doing, or you will lose sight of things that are important.
Stay in Tune With Your Feelings
Everyone has a bad day at work, but nurses have to contend with the reality that their bad day may involve losing a patient or watching a small child suffer. It is natural for your emotions to be on a roller coaster, but you need to stay in tune with what you are feeling. Chronic stress can develop when you allow all of the negatives to stay bottled up inside and control your thoughts. Practicing mindfulness can help reduce stress, as you focus on what you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and how your reaction is making the situation better or worse. You are allowed to have bad days, and you are allowed to feel negative emotions. It is human.
Remind Yourself Why You Are a Nurse
You will encounter a lot of things in your profession that make you question what you are doing or wondering why things have to be a certain way. This is normal, and it occurs in every profession. Rather than focusing on those areas of confusion or frustration, remind yourself of your original interest in the field. Think back on the days when you were learning new skills. Be open to learn new things and creatively approach problems that have you frustrated. When you are curious, you open the door to newness and operating in the present.
Learn Coping Strategies
When things get stressful, you need to be able to pull out some coping strategies to calm yourself down or allow moments of anxiety, emotions, or frustrations to dissolve. Deep breathing techniques are a way to refocus and keep yourself grounded. Before you get up from your desk or walking into a patient’s room, pause and take a few deep breaths. Breathe slowly and think about what you need to do or accomplish to make the check or task a successful for the patient.
Remind Yourself to Take a Break
Nurses have a lot to accomplish during their shifts. Patients, charts, and phone calls are just a few of the never-ending things to do that may keep you from grabbing a snack or taking a quick walk outside for some fresh air. You may be trying to stay productive, but not giving yourself a slight break is actually more damaging to your mental and physical health. Make it a point to grab a cup of coffee or stroll the halls on a floor you don’t work. Let your mind wander. Don’t spend the break time thinking about patients or your workload.
High patient to nurse ratios, organizational red tape, and the intense desire to help others while being faced with seemingly unavoidable challenges contributes to a growing number of nurses that leave the field or continue shuffling along with low morale and less enthusiasm. Use these tips to keep from falling victim to burnout.