Nursing is a challenging profession. On one hand, it is rewarding. A nurse finds joy and fulfillment in his or her ability to impact a patient’s life. On the other- what if it is hard to find the time during the work day to connect on a level that creates that meaningful connection?
I hear it all of the time from nurses who work in hospitals and other facilities across the country: “I just don’t have time to really do the things I want to do with/for my patients. The busyness of being a nurse has gotten in the way of me actually being able to deliver the type of nursing care that I hope to provide.”
It creates an uncomfortable feeling. Wanting to provide great care, but not having the time to do so. Wanting to be a good nurse, but going home feeling as though we could have done more. Worrying that we didn’t quite get to make that impact or create that meaningful connection. Fearing that our sense of rushing from patient to patient throughout our day may be doing more harm than good.
When we go to work, and feel challenged by the very nature of our job- it creates stress. And not the good stress that can actually motivate us to reach goals, but the added stress that turns into pure exhaustion. The go, go, go nature of nursing that leaves us feeling overwhelmed.
Good news? Yes, there is hope. The very first thing we can celebrate is the pure fact that we are aware that this dichotomy exists. That most, if not every, nurse may experience this. That it is OK- even normal.
Now, I am not normalizing burnout to the extent that I am saying that it is OK to have it happen. No way! I am just letting you know that if you have felt this way- or are currently feeling this way- you are not alone.
So, what can be done about this stress? How can we pause, reconnect with the joy of nursing, and ultimately love our jobs again?
Here are three tips to help nurses avoid burnout:
- Create a boundary ritual. I have been contacted on several occasions by nurses who feel overwhelmed by work. They reach out to me, asking how to separate work from home life. I can actually respond to them, speaking from experience. I used to think about work on my off days and wake up in the middle of the night, worrying about my job. This has to stop. No nurse should be thinking about work when not at work. Nursing is a 24/7 operation. That is why we have the teams that we work with. So, if you find yourself thinking about your job outside of work hours- you need a boundary ritual. This is something that you do each day, when the work day is done, to signify that work is over and non-work time is beginning. For me, it is taking off my work badge. For others, it may mean removing their shoes, changing clothes, taking a shower, or going for a walk. Find something that you can do to separate work from home.
- Reconnect with your “why.” Nurses give all of the time. Even after work, we come home to give to family and friends. It can become taxing all of this giving. How can you give from an empty cup? So, because we naturally have this tendency to care most of the time… it is important for us to remember why. Why did we go into nursing in the first place? Why do we want to help other people? Why did we choose the specialty that we are in? The nursing profession has become very computer-heavy. It can be harder and harder to actually find the time to sit down and be with our patient. In order to find value from the work that we do, we need to remember the reasons we started in the first place.
- Make time for life outside of work. What calendar do you have in your pocket right now? Most people would respond, “My work calendar.” If work is the only thing that you have on the calendar, then work is likely one of the only things that will get done. You need to balance work with life (similar to the first bullet point above)- and take it a step further. Plan on your calendar to have a life. Write down things that don’t have to do with work. If you put it on the calendar it is much more likely to get done.
About the Author: Keynote speaker and online program host, Elizabeth Scala MSN/MBA, RN, partners with hospitals, nursing schools, and nurse associations to transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the bestselling author of ‘Nursing from Within’, Elizabeth guides nurses and nursing students to a change in perspective, helping them make the inner shift needed to better maneuver the sometimes-challenging realities of being a caregiver. Elizabeth received her dual master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. She is also a certified coach and Reiki Master Teacher. Elizabeth lives in Maryland with her supportive husband and playful pit bull.