Not only do we have to deal with the organizational demands of nursing (think staffing patterns, the schedule, and patient acuity) we have challenges like compassion fatigue and nurse burnout to cope with. These terms are thrown around interchangeably at times, so what is the difference between compassion fatigue and burnout?
Here’s a great (and quick) video to help us delineate between the two:
While Frank Ochberg explains the causes, symptoms and methods for coping with compassion fatigue, he speaks more broadly. To share resources that are specific to us as nurses, I also searched some of the literature on these two terms. I wanted to find examples of these obstacles specific to nursing- and better yet, see if there was anything that was being done to solve these challenges.
- This article, Countering Compassion Fatigue, highlights the distinguishing and risk factors for both burnout and compassion fatigue in nursing. The author does go on to describe interventions such as incorporating work life balance through self-care, educating oneself on these topics, and shares some workplace interventions such as art therapy, support groups, and counseling.
- Lombardo and Eyre’s article actually presents a case study of a nurse who did not seek help for recurring stress. Some of the interventions suggested in this publication include reviewing what’s already being offered in the workplace, seeking support of mentors, utilizing pastoral care, and setting up a relaxation space on the nursing unit.
We certainly do have experts who are passionate about and dedicated to supporting stress management for nurses. So why do we still have compassion fatigue and nurse burnout? Besides all of the suggested resources above, I’d like to share a creative solution.
What about figuring out what the least stressful nursing jobs are? Now, you may read the previous statement and think: ‘Ha! The least stressful job in nursing!! Does that even exist?‘ I’d like to offer that it does- we just have to think creatively on this one.
- Utilize Your Strengths. There are two great ways to go about figuring out your unique traits. The first is to look to your past. What did you enjoy doing as a child? Where did your parents have to drag you away from? Were you into jigsaw puzzles, playing outside, or banging on pots and pans? Looking to what you liked to do for fun as a kid can give you many clues into your professional strengths. The second way to figure this out is to look at what you’re currently doing. Sure, the job may not be 100% perfect- but what about your nursing role do you enjoy? When people come to you for help, what is that they’re asking for? What compliments do you receive? How do you describe yourself that sets you apart from the rest? Figure out what your strengths are and then bring these to the workplace. This will make your role a bit easier and less stressful each day.
- Practice Perspective. This is an interesting one; try not to reject this before reading it fully through. Think about what another type of nurse does. So for example, I was visiting a family member on a pediatric unit. As the nurse left the room, I thought to myself- ‘I could NEVER work with kids!‘ Then, a few months ago, I had a meeting on an oncology floor- the same thought crossed my mind. Even now, as I write this post, I think about it- ICU, ER, or a Surgical Floor. I could never do ANY of that! What types of nursing stress you out? Even just when you think about them… Could you find a professional role that does something different? Inspires you maybe… or even motivates and energizes you? And to really put this into perspective, think about the patient you are caring for. At least you are working and possibly in better health than them. Sometimes we add stress to our own lives with our thoughts. All I am suggesting here is that you realize what you think and feel about nursing and see where you may need to make a shift.
- Follow Your Joy. My favorite tip! The very best way to find the least stressful job in nursing is to do what you love. It’s a combination of the first two tips and something more. Can you make a list of the things that you appreciate? You know, your ‘values’, so to speak. What’s important to you? What do you find fun? Is there a way to incorporate this into a professional role? Sure, if you’re just starting out you may have to find a job to pay the bills. Then as you get into the workplace, start to notice what you gravitate towards and ensure you are taking action steps in that direction each and every day.
I’d love to hear what I missed. What would you add to the list above? How do you think you might go about securing the least stressful job in nursing for you? Share a comment below and thanks for reading!
About the Author: As a speaker, workshop facilitator, and Reiki Master, Elizabeth partners with hospitals, organizations, associations, and nursing groups to help transform the field of nursing from the inside out. As the host of the Your Next Shift Workshop, 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.