Calling all nurses: Are you working hard and “feeling the burn?” No, not from too much activity, but from burnout. If so, then you should take it seriously—burnout is a serious condition that can impact your ability to perform the essential tasks of your job, as well as your physical and mental well-being—both in the short-term and throughout your career.
If you’re a nurse and you’re feeling burned out lately, the truth is you’re not alone. Available estimates Indicate that nearly 25% of active nurses are coping with some level of burnout while on the job. Despite being a rewarding and professionally challenging career path with plenty of options and opportunities, the nature of the work nurses do means that they’re particularly prone to experiencing professional burnout at some level, and many nurses are left wondering why this seems like an unavoidable side effect of the job.
It’s an especially important topic to address because as people continue to live longer and the median age of the population continues to increase, the need for talented and capable nurses will continue to grow. So, if you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of burnout or have been for a while and finally want to understand why, then keep reading!
Let’s start with the physical nature of being a nurse, which can take its toll on even the strongest and most resilient of individuals. It’s no secret that nurses often work extremely long and grueling hours. 12-hour shifts are not uncommon in the field, and the hours can be erratic—one day a nurse may be working a day shift and another overnight, depending on the need of the facility at which they work, which can really adversely affect sleep patterns and subsequent energy levels. This becomes especially problematic as nurses spend their workdays in physically demanding situations—on their feet, always on-the-go, often engaged in strenuous activity as they work to meet the diverse, and often critically important, needs of their patients. Now stretch out these intense physical demands over the course of an entire career, and it’s no wonder that being a nurse can lead to feelings of burnout.
The mental demands of being a nurse can be just as draining and problematic. Nurses constantly operate at a heightened level of stress and anxiety and must often make quick decisions regarding their patients that can have serious consequences. Many nurses spend their entire careers in high-pressure emergency situations, and deal with serious life and death situations day in and day out. Given all of these significant pressures, the reasons why nurses are prone to burnout should become abundantly clear.
What to look for
Some of the more common signs of burnout among nurses are constant fatigue that becomes increasingly hard to shake, a general listlessness and dwindling enthusiasm for the job, a mood that increasingly reflects feelings of being overworked and under-appreciated, and a compromised effectiveness and ability when performing the various tasks associated with the job.
If you or someone you know or work with is experiencing some or all of these symptoms, it’s in your best interest to take them seriously and not pretend they aren’t happening. There are resources available to help nurses deal with burnout—from services available through your employer to personal counseling and stress-reduction activities as well as support groups and more. Simply put, the work of nurses is too important to let burnout take hold and effect job performance. As a nurse, you are constantly in a position to take care of others. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too along the way!