October 27, 2022

4 Things You Think Will Cure Your Nurse Burnout (But They Won’t)

4 Things You Think Will Cure Your Nurse Burnout (But They Won’t)

Burnout prevention is multifaceted, and there are some things in our control and some that aren’t. We hear about “ways to deal with nurse burnout” from our institutions and administrators, but oftentimes their recommendations lack long-term success, insight, and don’t address the root of the problem. The “just self-care your way out of burnout” doesn’t work, and there is far more to it when optimizing your well-being while you work in healthcare. 

To be honest, some of the initiatives truly don’t make sense. How many times have you heard there are free chair massages or a resiliency class, but you were slammed with patient care and weren’t given the time even to pee, let alone take a “self-care break”? We need to do better.

While we work on creating systems change, we have to also focus on the things in our control and do our best to control the “controllables”. The problem with this is that when we feel burned out it can be hard to truly know what to do next. We may be depressed, lack motivation, and feel hopeless and lost. 

In an effort to give bite-sized actional tools for you to be able to feel better, I wanted to point out 4 examples of things we think are the cure for burnout…but they aren’t, and we will talk about what to do instead. 

  1. Quitting your job. 

Many nurses are leaving nursing. We know that.  There are also many nurses that have chosen to leave the bedside for more “non-traditional” nursing roles in an effort to find better work-life balance. Of course, there are many drivers for this including burnout, toxicity in the workplace, safety concerns, unrealistic work expectations, inadequate compensation, and feeling undervalued. Maybe quitting your job is the right move for you, but it may not be, and it is a decision you could make intentionally and not as a knee-jerk reaction after a miserable series of shifts. 

Before writing your nursing resignation letter, take time to understand what your triggers are, what is making you unhappy, what do you actually like, what’s in and out of your control and what  you think would be required for a more fulfilling experience. If we don’t have clarity on these things history may repeat itself. As nurses, we have SO many options for how we use our degree. Think outside the box!

If you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, are a nursing student, or are a current nurse who is ready to transition careers - this guide will help guide you to make the best professional decisions.

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  1. Rest.

Rest is 100% critical but it is just one piece to the puzzle, and rest alone isn’t the answer. We often feel guilty when it comes to taking a break. We may view it as unproductive, silly, or as something we have to earn. We attach what we do to our self-worth. But rest is productive and will help increase your bandwidth. By tending to your own needs, you are far better equipped to care for others. But rest is only one facet of burnout prevention. 

PTO is great and vacations are fabulous, but if we recharge and then go back into the same environment and expose ourselves to the same burnout triggers, same toxic environments, and same trauma, we will find that we slip right back into our burned-out state of being, living in fight or flight. Rest MUST be paired with a healthy work environment, appropriate work expectations, healthy lifestyle choices, boundaries and avoiding your known burnout triggers. 

  1. Charting hacks and productivity tips

I am a huge fan of my epic templates and dot phrases but all the hacks in the world can’t fix your burnout if there are still unrealistic expectations for your workload. If you find that you are often operating beyond your limits there is one tried and true solution. It’s something that often makes us feel uncomfortable but these are the key to burnout prevention….BOUNDARIES. 

Boundaries will set you free. Not sure where a boundary needs to be set? Look at areas of your life where you feel the most overwhelmed. How can you communicate your limits? Can you delegate, automate, simplify or eliminate anything? 

  1. Getting everything checked off your to-do list. 

I see you, box checker!  It feels so good, doesn’t it? Let’s be honest we have all added something to the end of our to do list just so we can check it off.  That dopamine hit feels great! But I have a question for you…what does “done” really look like and where are YOU on your to-do list? Streamlining things, getting things done and making sure things don’t pile up are fabulous ways to avoid overwhelm. But it is critical to make sure you are also tending to your own needs. You have to create space for you in your life. When the to-dos get out of control you will be the first thing that gets left behind. There is no such thing as “done” so rather than aim for perfection, recognize that it's ok to draw a line in the sand once your non-negotiables are done and set limits.  

There isn’t one cure for burnout prevention. There are system-wide issues as well as personal components that can drive nurse burnout and both the inner work and the outer work are essential in preventing and curing it. We have control over more than we think. There may be barriers to taking action like lacking motivation, mental health issues, low confidence, fear and guilt. But you get to decide what your role in healthcare looks like and you have the ability to implement some strategies for not only optimizing your environment, but also your mindset.  

If you struggle knowing where to start, I am always happy to help! Connect with me on Instagram @catalystforselfcare or check out my wellbeing and burnout prevention resources at www.selfcarecatalyst.com

You aren’t meant to do life or nursing alone. 

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