Nurse burnout. A tricky subject. Why? Sometimes the very nurse experiencing the burnout does not know that they are!
Historically, burnout has not been discussed in nursing schools or during nursing orientation. I imagine that we do not want to scare new nurses right off the bat. However, it is important to bring nurse burnout up often and early. This way nurses can know what to do and how to avoid burning out.
There are several things that you do not want to do with a burned out nurse. We are going to go through each of them below. Feel free to share this information with your nursing colleagues, nursing students, and nurse friends you may have.
- Push them harder. While this may come as no surprise, there is actually science behind this. During my Nurse Burnout Proof live training, I ask the audience: “Is stress good?” Some nurses nod “yes” while others shake their heads “no”. I respond: “It depends.” And here’s why… Take a look at the following curve. You will notice that as stress becomes more intense, performance goes up. To a certain extent. Then, as stress continues to rise for an extended length of time… performance levels plummet. You never want to push a burned out nurse harder. You may push them to their breaking point!
- Tell them that they simply need a break. Let’s talk Energizer Bunny here. The Energizer Bunny marches step by step, beating on his drum. Now- let me ask you. When the Energizer Bunny’s batteries run out, what happens? That is right… he stops! Think about your nursing career. When did you ever stop? Did you stop during nursing school? During orientation? During your days off? I hear from nurses across the country how they think about work- when they are not even at work! And a vacation, sabbatical, or break… that is only a temporary fix. It is like placing a bandage over a hemorrhaging artery. A temporary fix that won’t last very long. If a nurse is experiencing burnout, they need more than a break. They need strategies to fill up their depleted energy streams. Strategies at the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level. Strategies that involve more than a short break.
- Think that they know they are burned out. Remember at the start of this post where I described the fact that nurses may actually not realize that they are in burnout. This is because burnout is like a downward spiral. It is as though you are in quick sand and there is nothing that can pull you out! If we do not know the symptoms; if we are unaware of the fact that burnout is a dilemma; or if we think that we “just need a break” we are likely to experience nurse burnout. Burnout is real. It affects nurses -and nursing students- across the country. Around the world, even! Know yourself. Are you experiencing stress or is it something more? Know your team. What do they look like when they are stressed? Can you push them harder or is it a day that you need to back off? If you need help, resources, and/or strategies feel free to contact me. I can speak from experience- I did NOT know that I was in burnout when I was going through it. I only realized it after the fact… when it was too late!
Let’s hear from you! Have you ever experienced nurse burnout? What did you do to prevent, avoid, or end it? What can you share with our readers to help them put a stop to nursing burnout?
About the Author: Keynote speaker and virtual conference 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 host of the Nurse’s Week program, The Art of Nursing, Elizabeth supports nursing organizations in celebrating and recognizing their staff in a meaningful way. 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.