29 / 11 / 19

How to deal with nurse burnout

Healthcare professionals deal with high-stress situations on a daily basis. Work-related stress can be caused by various events and is inevitable when it comes to working with patients’ care. Occupational stress is an actual disease that usually evolves in response to extremely stressful situations. It can manifest symptoms such as insomnia, depression, anxiety, diabetes, obesity, migraine, to name a few. 

These and other symptoms, if not monitored and recognised on time, can lead to a real work-related stress chronic condition. 

When work-related stress turns into burnout?

Burnout condition arises when someone experiences prolonged and chronic job stress and manifests itself through three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.

While burnout has been defined as the physical, mental or emotional condition often related to stress factors lived at work, earlier this year the World Health Organization stated that the term “burnout” has to be considered as a purely “occupational phenomenon”.

Signs and symptoms

While burnout isn’t a diagnosable psychological disorder, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be taken seriously. Providing great healthcare and being sensitive to a patient’s needs takes a lot of energy and when nurses get burnt out, they will have a hard time staying focused on the job – they are more likely to mess up a patient’s chart, give them the wrong medicine, or make a patient feel uncomfortable. On top of that, nurses and healthcare professionals experiencing burnout symptoms might be doing lasting damage to their bodies and their minds, depriving themselves of sleep and a healthy lifestyle. If you’re worried about yourself some of your clinical staff, learn how to spot nurse burnout before it’s too late. 

Here a list of the main burnout signs and symptoms:

  • Unusual tiredness: Nurse burnout usually takes the form of constant fatigue. It may be normal for nurses to get tired towards the end of a 10 or 12-hour shift. But if you notice to starting your shifts by feeling overly tired, that can be a sign that you’re not getting enough rest or you’re taking on too many additional hours or your shifts are too close together.
  • Resentful or aggressive behaviour: Nurses experiencing burnout will start to feel resentful towards their managers, supervisor, the nursing profession, or the hospital in general. They might start to have a bad attitude, feel like they’re underappreciated or complain when they are asked to complete a task.
  • The lost of enthusiasm or professionalism on the job can also be a sign of burnout. Nurses play lots of different key roles throughout the day – They are caregivers to their patients, employees when interacting with their supervisor, and teammates when engaging with colleagues. A nurse experiencing burnout doesn’t have the energy to cover with all these daily roles, they may feel overwhelmed and it may evolve into a lack of enthusiasm or professionalism.
  • Incapacity to cope with changes:  If there is a change in the hospital staff system and some staff is struggling to adapt, it’s likely a sign of burnout. When a burnout condition combines with management changes, new policies, scheduling modifications or workplace variations in general, some nurses might have trouble getting used to a new system and this can be a major stressor for individuals already stressed out.
  • Sudden personality changes: Healthcare professions are considered social jobs as nurses, for example, talk to lots of different people throughout the day such as patients or other staff members alike. So, if some of them suddenly become introverted, they might be going through a burnout. 

Some other physical signs of a burnout condition can be frequent headaches, change in appetite, lowered immunity defenses, frequent illnesses and feeling energy drained most of the time.

How nurses and healthcare professionals can cope with burnout

Finding a work-life balance can surely help to prevent occupational stress and burnout. Other recommendations are to integrate exercise in your off time, improve communication with your colleagues and managers, socialising, and adding activities to help achieve a better work-life balance.

We’ve gathered below a few tips that might help you to prevent stressor factors and cope with early burnout signs.

  • Identify stressors in the workplace: Every workplace is different as well as each professional will respond to his work environment in a different way. If a particular issue continues for you or your staff, you can try talking to your nursing manager to see if you can remedy the situation or encourage your staff to talk to you.
  • Taking a time out: Instead of staring at your phone or scrolling down the News on your lunch break, try to clear your mind by avoiding new information. Step outside and let your mind take a breath for a few minutes – A mental reprieve is all you need to refuel.
  • Talk to your manager or HR Rep: When something is not working at the basics with your job situation, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Whatever the problem may be, talk to your nurse manager or HR rep to find a solution. 
  • Taking care of yourself: The best way to cope with stress and tiredness is to take care of your body. Try to sleep regularly, avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages that can take away from your resting schedule and stay away from unhealthy snacks that can dry your energy or get you down later in the day.

If available in your organisation, try to make better use of shit scheduling tools such as the CliniShift App to organise your working life better. If you feel you need help to deal with this syndrome, in Ireland at the website you can find support groups to deal with anxiety and stress. In the UK at the NHS.UK and for the USA at the ADAA.ORG.