Keys to Avoiding Burnout
Burnout is a common disorder that affects many people who work in high-stress environments such as nurses, doctors, firefighters, police officers, stockbrokers, and air traffic controllers. It is most often associated with over-extending yourself on a consistent basis. A feeling of being unable to control a situation contributes heavily to burnout as well.
A nurse's job is extremely challenging both physically and emotionally. Dealing with life-and-death situations every day takes a toll. Being responsible for someone's life, and striving constantly to help improve his outcomes makes a tremendous load. Overextending in terms of time and energy is commonplace especially in light of staffing shortages.
Nurses are by nature overachievers. Taking the time out to replenish their energy and souls is not something they usually include in their schedules. And so it is not uncommon to find that nurses are at the point of burn-out long before they recognize the symptoms.
By the time they do recognize it, many nurses feel that being burned out means they hate nursing and need to find another field altogether.
This couldn't be further from the truth. Once a nurse, always a nurse. You need to deal with the stress and find another path to job satisfaction and a renewed joy in nursing. More important, you need to recognize the signs and avoid the burnout in the first place.
Burnout usually manifests itself in feelings of despair, depression, frustration, and a sense that you can no longer find anything positive about your job. You'd rather be having a tooth pulled without anesthetic than be at work. It's time to regroup, reprioritize, and re-examine your life and goals.
How did you get here? Are you working on a unit that is either extremely fast-paced or depressing such as an ER or an oncology unit? How many extra shifts or double shifts have you been working lately? Are you over-extended at home? Do you sleep well and do you get enough sleep? Are you eating in a healthy manner? Are you getting some exercise? Do you take time for yourself?
Think carefully and be honest with yourself. Perhaps your particular job requires skills and talents that you are still trying to master, and you're constantly being criticized or berating yourself for this. You need to set boundaries. You need to learn to say no and to make yourself an important priority in your life. You may need to seek some counseling if you can't shake the depression. Stay away from the negative people and find at least one positive thing each day. Some of the ways you can avoid burnout include:
Say NO. You don't always have to accept an extra shift or additional patients.
Set boundaries. Know your limitations and stay within that realm.
Examine your priorities and be realistic about time frames.
Slow down and eliminate something you don't absolutely have to do right now.
Make time for yourself. Unwind before you get home or seek out a place to be alone for a few minutes.
Leave work at work.
Be organized and clear the clutter and chaos from your home, your car, your mind.
Manage your stress and take care of yourself.
The most important question you can ask yourself each time someone asks you or offers you something additional to do is: Can I realistically do this without compromising myself? If you can't, then this is not the time to take on anything else.
If you have burned out, then you need to examine your life and make changes to improve the situation. You can't put off taking care of yourself. You need to start now to rebuild your life and your career. Start by making a list of all the things you do well and the things you like or would like about your job. Find a new niche. Perhaps you will return to this kind of job some-day, but right now you need something new and exciting and refreshing. You aren't doing yourself or your patients any good by staying in a job you hate.