Even nurses who begin a nursing career with the best intentions experience nurse burnout. They get stressed. They feel tired. And, at some point in their nursing career, they question their decision.
I have interviewed a TON of nurses. I mean hundreds. From the Your Next Shift podcast to The Art of Nursing and everything in between, I like to hear what nurses have to say.
And when I do- I also hear about what people do not want them to say.
In Addition to Super Power… Nurses Are Human
I think that sometimes we forget that a nurse is a human being. We can apply this to any role that we assign ourselves. Teacher. Author. Lawyer. Doctor. Mom. Just because you have a title, does not mean that you are not also the human being inside.
First and foremost, a nurse is a person. Too often we think that a nurse is some kind of super hero that does not have to eat, sleep, or use the restroom. A nurse has needs. Desires. And must take care of oneself.
In fact- think about your car. Do you treat it better than you do yourself, as a nurse? A car needs gasoline (or batteries or electricity… or something) to run. It will not run if you just look at a car and say: “Start driving”. You have to fuel it.
Same thing goes with a nurse.
So Why Do Nurses Fail?
Nurses experience burnout when they do not take care of themselves. When they are asked to do too much with even less. When they are not supported by themselves, their colleagues, upper management, or even their organizations.
While the post title and question above uses the word ‘failure’, any business owner (and some others I have met along the way) will tell you that the word failure is actually a GOOD thing. In fact, one of the five traits of high reliability organizations is that they are preoccupied with failure! Why is that? Because they see failure as an opportunity to grow. To learn.
I know in my own nurse burnout experience… I did not let it get me down. In fact, it was the catapult that blasted me full speed ahead to where I am today.
Here Are 4 Reasons Nurses Burn Out… And What to do About Them:
- They don’t ask for help. Remember the whole superhero thing discussed above? Nurses can do it all, right? Wrong! Even though that is what they think. Ever go up to a nurse and ask if she/he needs anything… what do they say? “No. I’m fine.” YOU’RE NOT FINE!! A nurse will succeed when she/he is able to realize that at times help is needed. An even greater nurse will then ask for it. And the BEST, absolute best nurse… guess what they will do? Be able to receive that help!
- They are ‘yes’ men and women. It goes hand-in-hand with the above. A nurse gets called in for an extra shift, “Sure, I can be there in 20 minutes.” A nurse is asked to stay late, “I just have to call and cancel my hair appointment.” Nurses are always willing and ready to help out. However, many times it as at the expense of their own wants/needs. If you want to thrive in nursing you are going to have to balance your yes and no responses. At times, say yes to your staff, colleagues and work place. At other times- say yes to you!
- They devalue their worth. Ever seen an image of a nurse online that depicts a martyr? How about a servant? Or some kind of religious nun? And why do I still hear things like “I’m just a nurse.” People- you are so freaking amazing. You are a rock star, remember. You need to realize the value of your worth! I have struggled with this one in the past. Call it low self-esteem, a fear of rejection, or any combination of unworthiness… I have had to get help with this. In fact, that is something that you can do if you need a boost in confidence too. Check out hypnosis; try journaling; or hire a coach. Often others can see more than what you are able to!
- They are preoccupied with external data. Another one I have to watch out for. See, in addition to some of the holistic practices I enjoy, I am also extremely analytical. My role in a research program confirms that. While we can talk about data, here I am not exactly referring to scholarly work and evidence based practice. What I am describing is that a nurse sometimes looks outside of themselves- at everybody else- for what’s to blame. It could be the new policy that was just instituted that is making your job miserable. Or the bad boss who does not know how to lead a team. It is everyone else that is making you burn out, right? Not really. Sure, some of the external pressures can cause us stress… but it is actually how we perceive, handle, and cope with them that makes all of the difference. Look inside to see what you can change to make your workplace a more enjoyable experience.
Let’s hear from you! What would you add to this list? Why do you think nurses experience burnout and what can be done to help handle it? Leave a comment 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.