Nursing is one of the most difficult professions.
Inpatient emergency, oncology, and critical care nurses have been studied and are found to be at high risk for compassion fatigue and nurse burnout (Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 2016). Interestingly, the literature review also found that high rates of compassion fatigue and burnout are often coupled with high levels of compassion satisfaction.
How can this be? A nurse can be burned out AND enjoying their job at the same time?!?
Nurses go into nursing to take care of patients. Plain and simple. A nurse wants to help another human being feel better and suffer less. We teach, advocate for, and hope that -through our interactions with patients and families- we can empower the public to live healthier lives.
Now- as we know, working as a nurse is not always rainbows and roses.
A day in the life of a nurse can be far from pretty. We experience difficult personalities, pain and suffering, and even death. Sometimes there is nothing more that we can do for the patient. And the very nature of healthcare can get in the way of us feeling as though we did a good job (think constant charting, online medical records, and poor staffing).
Nasty Nurse Habits
Recently, I published an article on LinkedIn, describing six highly annoying habits of nurses. This post stimulated lots of discussion. The sixth habit referred to nurses who don’t like nursing any more.
While I described negative effects of working with a nurse who no longer likes nursing (and offered tips to avoid this yourself), I do realize that there are times when a nurse finds themselves at their wits end.
There is nothing that they can do to enjoy nursing again.
Or is there?
We Need Great Nurses!
In 2009, I experienced my own career stalling burnout. It led me to leave my role at the bedside, something that I really enjoyed. I do not want nurses to leave the nursing profession.
Think about it- if all of us left the bedside- we would have no one working with our patients! We wouldn’t have the teaching, advocating, and most importantly- caring for our patients.
While a nurse may need to leave nursing if they just cannot take it any more- there are things that can be done to help avoid nurse burnout.
- If I leave nursing, what would I do instead? Think about your nursing career. What are the things you enjoy? Do you love to teach a patient something new? Or is it that you like comforting people when they feel down? Think about the nursing skills you enjoy. Reflect upon your personal strengths and unique traits. Maybe the issue is that you are no longer working to your talent and ability. Maybe you don’t want to leave nursing- you just need a change of scenery to do something different.
- Why do I want to leave? When I left my job, I thought it was everyone’s fault. I thought that I was upset with my staff, unhappy with my unit, and irritated by the politics. Boy- was I wrong! After I left, I took some time to work on me. You know what I realized? It was not the workplace that had burned me out after all! It was me! My own lifestyle. My lack of coping skills. The fact that I wasn’t taking care of myself. So think about the reasons you want to leave and notice if anything comes up that you can change before deciding to quit.
- Would leaving my nursing job make me happy? Here is a practical exercise that you can do. Make a pro and con list. For both. What are the pros of leaving nursing? What are the cons? What are the pros of staying in nursing? The cons? Which list has more comments? Would leaving the profession of nursing really make you happy or, as in the bullet point above, are there other changes that can be made so that you can stay in this profession you were called to do?
- Is there any way to stay in nursing and enjoy my profession? How fun! Stay in nursing and enjoy it. Here you may have to make a job change, but not out of nursing altogether. Maybe there is another specialty that you want to try. Maybe it is time to go back to school and stimulate the lifelong learner in you. Maybe you need to get out of the hospital and into the community. Nursing offers such an awesome amount of variety. You never have to stay stuck in a role that is causing nurse burnout.
- How do I know what is the ‘right’ decision for me? Only you can decide if you are going to stay, make a change, or simply go. You may talk to colleagues, trusted friends, and professional mentors. And while you take into consideration what other nurses say, you need to listen to your inner self. You only know what is best for you. Do the exercises above. Take time to reflect. Journal. Meditate. Hire a coach. Do whatever you have to do to listen to yourself. You know what is best for you.
What else? Have you ever thought about leaving nursing? What did you do when you felt this way and can you share any additional tips with our readers? Share below and thanks for reading!
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 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.