Being a nurse can be a wonderful job. There are so many benefits and positives to working as a RN–everything from being able to make a difference in someone’s life as a caregiver, having a flexible schedule, being able to work in so many different areas, etc. I mean, there were definitely plenty of reasons that I chose to go back to school for nursing!
So often though, on social media especially, I see people talk about just how much they love their job in the medical field. And I’m not saying that they don’t love it, but I think we’re avoiding talking about the hard stuff. In fact, I’ve had a few people ask me why I don’t share about nursing as much, and the truth? It’s because honestly a lot of days are emotionally and physically exhausting (and I’ve told people that who have asked). So exhausting, that when I get home, I don’t want to talk about. I don’t want to rehash my day. Yes, I know the work I’m doing it important but bottom line: it can be exhausting.
I’ve only been a nurse for 3 years, but I feel it. I started to understand why nurses feel burned out. My friends who have been nurses for only 5 years feel it. I don’t think it’s a feeling that only comes when you’ve been working as a nurse for 20+ years. Especially working in a MICU (Medical Intensive Care Unit), we have nurses leave all the time because after several years it’s just too much. I mean, I was reading this article that Johnson & Johnson put out recently about nurse burnout (and how to help with it), and up to 70% of nurses report symptoms of burnout. I mean, that is crazy!
I will admit, now that I am working part-time as a RN, the day to day shifts are much more manageable. But prior to that, I would be physically, emotionally, and mentally spent when I would come home a lot of days. It got to a point where I had to start making some adjustments in my life so I wouldn’t feel so run down both inside and outside of work.
A few things that I’ve found to help with feeling overwhelmed and burned out:
-Leave work at work. Sometimes talking about things you see at work can be helpful, but if you’re rehashing every tough day at work, it starts to bleed into your personal life. And let’s be honest, unfortunately most friends and spouses who don’t work in the medical field just don’t get it. Talk with your nursing/medical friends about it but try to keep work and home separate.
-Invest in self care. For me, I had to force myself to just RELAX. So many times after a shift, I’d go to the gym because I felt like I had to workout. I then realized that this was just making me even more exhausted, and on days that I was at the hospital I just needed to go home and relax. Also, you can do things like treat yourself to something like a massage once a month! As nurses we are on our feet ALL the time. Do something nice for yourself!
-Accept that you don’t need to be on your current nursing unit/floor for the rest of your life. Seems obvious, right? But so often I think a lot of us are feeling so overwhelmed and burned out in our specific nursing career and just think “Well I can’t imagine working anywhere else”, “I’ve only been in this unit for a year and I need to stay longer”, “But it’s really convenient and close to my house” etc. etc. The list goes on and we can all come up with reasons why it’s too hard or why we shouldn’t move to a different area of nursing. But the fact of the matter is–working in an ICU is going to have a much higher level of burnout than giving injectables. I mean, I’ve never worked in injectables but helping people feel more confident about themselves and who have disposable income to spend on it, seems a little less depressing that working with morbidly sick patients. Just saying. Point being, just because you’re a nurse doesn’t mean you need to stay that one kind of nurse forever.
Johnson & Johnson has proudly supported nurses for over 120 years through providing clinical skills and leadership training, supporting resiliency and advocating for nurse-led innovation in healthcare. Recently they put out a really insightful article on how to address the symptoms of burnout, and therefore the high turnover and absentee rate. Not only does it affect nurses personally, but it ends up affecting the quality of patient care. So what else can we do about it?
In 2017, J&J launched CareAdvantage. CareAdvantage helps health systems create a plan to address problems such as clinician burnout. They work with the health systems to figure out their needs and pair them with employees within CareAdvantage that range from health economists to scientists and clinicians. As a company who works constantly to find ways to support nurses, they can see that burnout is a huge problem and are doing what they can to address it. J&J has a really unique perspective since they work on both sides of the health system–with both patients and clinicians. Because of this, they have been able to bring in really valuable insight on how to keep the workout place healthier and help address burnout. A lot of their tactics include stress and energy management, which is something that they work on with those who are part of their Human Performance Institute (HPI) (which I touched on in this blog post on how to find a better balance between your work, health and relationships).
I think in general, it’s important to remember that in the long run you have to put yourself first. As nurses it’s in our nature to give, give, give. And in the end, we end up getting burned out and are then unable to take care of ourselves or others (ie. our patients). I always try to remind myself that you can’t pour from an empty cup. By taking care of yourself, you’re then able to take better care of others. Just something that we all probably need to be reminded of more!
Do you guys have any tips on things you’ve done when you’re starting to feel burned out? Would love for you to share! xxC
Thank you to Johnson & Johnson for sponsoring this post.