There is no denying how stressful and demanding the medical field can be. This is especially true for nurses. With an ever-growing demand but a short supply, nurses often work long hours over multiple days and even weeks. This chronic overworking paired with a high-stress environment can have a negative effect on physical and, especially, mental health. If unchecked, this can lead to burnout.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is a combination of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Often, nurses experiencing burnout begin to feel a low sense of accomplishment and job satisfaction. In fact, a 2017 study conducted by RNnetwork found that over half of surveyed nurses said they were considering leaving the field. The top two reasons given for this sentiment were feeling overworked and no longer enjoying their job.
That’s why it’s vital for nurses and healthcare professionals to effectively identify burnout and learn how to cope with it.
Signs of Burnout
Burnout looks and feels differently for each person, so identifying whether you or a co-worker is suffering from burnout can seem difficult; however, some common symptoms include:
- Constant feelings of irritation or annoyance with your job, co-workers, or supervisors
- Losing a sense of job satisfaction or personal accomplishment
- Developing a cynical outlook of patients or your work
- Feeling a sense of dread about your job
- Difficulty sleeping or a disrupted sleep pattern
- Unexplained chronic headaches, stomach aches, or other physical soreness
- Chronic absenteeism, such as regularly calling in sick
- A sense of being “checked out” while at work
While these symptoms can be signs of issues stemming from a variety of sources, if you begin to notice these symptoms occurring specifically in relation to your work, it can be a clear indication of burnout.
How to Cope with Nursing Burnout
While the signs can vary, there are many techniques for reducing and treating burnout among medical professionals. Here are six tips for coping with nursing burnout.
1. Take Time to Focus on Yourself
When you’re working multiple shifts, responsible for several patients, and dealing with the constant demands of healthcare, it can be easy to forget about taking care of yourself. But taking time to address your own needs is vital for nurses to avoid the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion from burnout. Fortunately, there are many self-care tips for better emotional health.
Try creating time to exercise, practice yoga, or even mindfulness meditation and deep breathing. These are excellent ways to help manage the physical symptoms of work stress.
Also, be sure to take time for yourself to do things that you enjoy and pull your attention away from work. Don’t forget to plan vacations or trips. Taking time away from work is one of the best ways to avoid burnout.
2. Build Social Support
Studies have shown that strong social support has a significant impact in lowering work stressors. Regularly communicate with colleagues and supervisors about any work issues you’re facing. Also, organize social events with your co-workers to help build strong connections and camaraderie.
3. Balance Work and Life
Work-life imbalance is a leading stressor for anyone working in the medical field. For nurses who may be working nights or over weekends, it can feel easy to lose track of your social life. But it’s important to spend time with your friends and family.
4. Seek Professional Counseling
Working with a licensed therapist is a proven way to manage the stresses of work and life. If you work in a hospital, your employer might already provide free support, including phone or in-person counseling. Start by inquiring with your manager to see if this in an option. If this isn’t an option, consider finding a professional counselor who can work with you to develop coping skills.
5. Join a Support Group
Aside from one-on-one therapy, support groups are another way to develop coping skills and alleviate work stress. Groups can be especially helpful when they are focused on specific industries or careers. For example, many hospitals and mental health organizations are now offering specialized group counseling services for medical professionals.
6. Cultivate Workplace Empowerment
Creating a sense of workplace empowerment is particularly important for nursing managers. Research shows that nursing staff who feel they have more autonomy and are trusted by their managers, report higher levels of job satisfaction and experience fewer burnout symptoms. Additionally, stronger interpersonal communication between managers and their staff has been shown to reduce stress for nurses and nursing students.
Finding Burnout Support
If you are a nurse or other healthcare worker struggling with burnout, consider exploring professional counseling and support resources. Mazzitti & Sullivan offers individual counseling services at all three of our Pennsylvania offices.