Why Don’t We Think (Or Talk) About Nurse Burnout?Nurse burnout is not discussed. There, I said it.

A bit of personal experience related to this- I asked my virtual assistant (VA) to perform a search.

As a nurse blogger, I want to be sure that my blog is getting found and read by nurses and nursing students. So, I had my VA go to Google and start typing in words and phrases related to nurse burnout. This way I could understand what nurses were searching for related to burnout… and ultimately be able to help them by providing relevant content that they wanted/needed on this blog.

Using a keyword tool provided by Google, I was astounded.

Search terms related to nurse burnout are either:

  • Not searched at all (there were literally dashes, showing me that there were no numbers related to these terms). Or-
  • They were searched very little. Search numbers ranged from 10-1000. One thousand!?!? That’s it!! Are you kidding me!?

Additionally, in January I wrote a blog post entitled “3 Things to Never Do with a Burned Out Nurse”. A nurse left a very telling comment. She said:

I think this described my inner realm dealing with burnout. I kept trying to push myself through that quicksand and telling myself I must be lazy or something for feeling like I did.”

One the reasons why nurses keep pushing themselves through burnout is because they do not even know that they are experiencing it!

Nurse burnout is not taught in nursing school. At least, not in every nursing school. (Please, by all means, if you teach this or have learned about it in your nursing education program- PLEASE leave me a comment below. I would love to hear about your experience! And share it with others.)

Many organizations do not have the time or resources to teach their nursing staff about burnout. The organization themselves does not know what to do about burnout and so it is not dealt with properly.

The nursing literature is limited.

Studies are lacking and when nurse burnout is studied it is done with small sample sizes, weak study designs, or as a secondary variable.

We need to talk about nurse burnout. Help nurses and nursing students realize that, “Hey, this is normal. I am not alone here.” Burnout is common- it is often everywhere. So, we need to stop brushing it under the carpet, making nurses feel as though they have done something wrong.

Why Don’t We Think (Or Talk) About Nurse Burnout?Ask experienced nurses to share their burnout stories.

That’s right. If you speak to a mentor, someone that you look up to, and ask them to tell you their burnout story… they are likely to have one. Or many! Instead of acting like burnout does not happen, let’s learn from it! Have these nurses with more time or experience share with the newer nurses that it is normal to feel this way.

Begin early. With nursing school.

If you are a nurse who works in nursing education, consider bringing nurse burnout to the next curriculum planning meeting. Or, if you don’t work in formal education but are involved in some way with your organization’s staff education department- bring the topic of nurse burnout there. Have no hand in formal education? Bring it up at staff meetings, journal clubs, or in any way that you can. Even you, as an individual nurse (or nursing student), can start these conversations. And start them early.

Invite experts in to help.

Maybe the discomfort with speaking about burnout comes from the fact that you don’t feel you know enough about it. No worries. There are many nurses out there who specialize in this field. Nurse coaches, holistic nurses, nurse speakers, and nurse authors have dedicated their work to helping nurses with burnout. Make the commitment to find professional support for you and your nursing colleagues.

What would you add? Do you have conversations in your nursing world about burnout? How did they start to happen? What made them a part of the agenda? Share below, and thanks for reading!

p1050390About 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.

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Elizabeth Scala, MSN/MBA, RN

“I’m a Nurse, but I’m Not Sure I LOVE Nursing Anymore! Can You Help Me?”


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