81% of Nurses Say They're Burned Out, Here's Advice To Put Your Happiness First

6 Min Read Published January 30, 2024
81% of Nurses Say They're Burned Out, Here's Advice To Put Your Happiness First

In addition to caring for patients, nurses often take care of everyone else while neglecting themselves. This can lead to burnout. Burnout in nursing is so common that 81% of nurses surveyed report feeling burned out! If you think you might be burned out, just know that you're not alone.

So, who takes care of the nurse while the nurse takes care of everyone else? In this article and the corresponding podcast episode, we discuss burnout openly, how to spot it, and the steps you can take starting today to overcome it. 

Podcast Episode

>>Listen to "How To Heal From Burnout and Love Nursing Again. A Discussion With Nurse Shenell"


81% of Nurses Report Feeling Burned Out 

The 2023 State of Nursing Report prepared by Nurse.org revealed the realities of nursing, and there are a few things worth highlighting.

  1. When asked why they became a nurse, the primary response from nurses was “to help others.” The second most common response was due to the specialties and career options of choice.

  2. Of those polled, 60% of nurses said they "love being a nurse," but 62% of nurses are concerned about the future of nursing.

  3. A whopping 81% of nurses said they have felt burnt out in the past year, slightly less than in 2021. 

It's heartwarming to know that nurses still have an innate love for their profession and the desire to help others. However, 81% is a significant number of nurses who responded that they felt “burnt out.” Despite nursing being an admirable profession, this burnout is projected to contribute to the ongoing nursing shortage.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the Registered Nurse (RN) workforce is projected to increase by 3.3 million nurses by 2030. However, 203,000 RN openings are expected annually leading up to 2030. 

These findings are based on retired nurses and those who are potentially going to leave the workforce. The nursing shortage is further exacerbated by an aging population, which will result in a higher demand for medical care. Additionally, there are restricted nursing school enrollments due to a shortage of nursing school faculty and understaffing in the healthcare setting in general (AACN, 2022). This seems to be creating a never-ending cycle of problems.  

Burnout: Self-Assessment and Awareness

With that being said, the following questions should be asked to all nurses whether you self-identify as being burned out or not: 

  • Do you feel emotionally drained?

  • Do you wake up feeling exhausted after an adequate amount of sleep?

  • Do you dread going to work?

  • Do you find yourself insensitive to the things you would usually be empathic toward?

  • Do you think about quitting your job often?

  • Do you find yourself more cynical or judgmental?

  • Do you no longer find joy in going to work?

If most of these questions are answered with a yes, one may be experiencing signs and symptoms of burnout.

Experiencing burnout throughout a nurse's career may be inevitable, and it's important to know what it is and how to prevent it when possible. 

Burnout is a state of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and feeling drained, as defined in the Future of Nursing, 2020-2030 report. This condition can cause nurses to lose interest in their jobs and become less empathetic toward their patients. 

Burnout can lead to high turnover rates, negative patient outcomes, personal illnesses, and even suicide. While there is no definitive solution to overcoming burnout, nurses can start by taking control of their priorities and caring for themselves. This requires being intentional and bringing the best version of themselves to the work environment. Another name for this is self-care.

Self-Care – Making the Necessary Changes

Iyanla Vanzant says it best, "My cup runneth over; what comes out of the cup is for y'all, but what is in the cup is mine, so I have to keep my cup full." 

In other words, you cannot pour from an empty cup, so metaphorically, do not attempt to pour from an empty cup in your own life. You have to take care of yourself and keep your cup full.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, self-care is taking the time to do things necessary for an individual's overall well-being. Well-being includes physical and mental health, whereas one or both can be unhealthy. It is essential to strive to be the best version of yourself while also wanting the best for your patients and peers.

Keith Carlson emphasizes that self-care is not rocket science and can differ from person to person in his Nurse.org article "5 Simple Self-Care Practices For Busy Nurses. We're Not Talking A Spa Day | Nurse.org," 

Keith explains how to use the nursing process to identify your self-care needs. He suggests using the nursing process to identify your self-care needs, which involves performing a self-assessment, diagnosing any self-care deficits, planning a course of action, implementing the plan, and evaluating your progress.

Here are some helpful tools and knowledge to promote physical and mental health, whether to address self-care deficits, improve upon them, or simply be more intentional about caring for oneself.

Let’s break self-care down even more.

Physical Health

  • Regular exercise 

    • 150 minutes per week of moderate-intense aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity is recommended by the American Heart Association. *Start small and remember consistency is key. 

    • Fitness Apps

    • YouTube videos

    • Active Gym Membership(s)

    • Live workouts on social media

    • Yoga or Pilates

  • Healthy Diet

    • Eating a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and protein 

    • Limit sugar and sodium intake

    • Limit pre-packaged foods

    • Reduce consumption of fried foods and fat intake

*Check out High protein & high energy snacks for nurses on Nurse.org for more ideas. 

  • Stay Hydrated

    • 13 cups of daily fluid intake is recommended for men, and 9 cups of daily fluid intake is recommended for women, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

    • Limit caffeine, sodas, and alcohol 

Mental Health

In addition to exercise and diet improving your physical health, here are some other ways to improve your mental health.

  • Rest

    • Make rest a priority by creating a sleep routine and taking a vacation or days off work as scheduled. 

  • Stay Positive

    • Focus on positivity by finding things you are grateful for and challenging your unhelpful thoughts. 

  • Support

    • Create a support system by finding ways to destress and have an outlet. 

    • Spiritually - return to what gives you meaning and get grounded in your faith, hope, and beliefs. 

    • Socially - be intentional in occasionally meeting with family, friends, or associates and socializing. 

    • Habits, interests, or hobbies - get creative and start doing things you used to love to do when you were younger: color, draw, write, build things, read books, or explore something new!

    • Professionally - seek professional help and counseling services if you find yourself feeling depressed, stressed, suicidal, anxious, or need guidance. 

  • Set Boundaries

    • It's okay to say “no”, and be okay when others say “no” 

    • Boundaries protect your overall well-being and others

    • These boundaries may include physical, sexual, mental, emotional, financial, and/or time boundaries 

    • Check out How To Set Boundaries at Work as a Nurse by Nurse Alice for more details on how to set boundaries and why it's important

Check out 7 Tips To Help Nurses Be Physically, Mentally, and Emotionally Healthy

Resilience - Keep moving forward

Resilience is the ability to overcome challenges while remaining optimistic for the future. Resilience may also help nurses cope with feelings of burnout.

Focusing on self-care can help nursing professionals become more self-aware and develop coping mechanisms to navigate the challenges of their profession. Most nurses choose this career path because they strongly desire to help others, demonstrating strength, compassion, empathy, and selflessness. However, nurses must also practice what they preach and prioritize their own self-care, just like they would for their patients, family, friends, and community. This is important to avoid burnout and ensure they remain healthy and effective in their caregiver roles.

>>Listen to this episode on the Nurse Converse podcast

Youtube video

Connect With Shenell on social media:

Instagram: allonenurse 

TikTok: all_one_nurse 

Shenell Thompkins
Shenell Thompkins
Host, Nurse Converse Podcast

Shenell Thompkins is a blogger and registered nurse who resides in Memphis, TN. With over 12 years of nursing experience and a lifelong habit of journaling, she has worked in various nursing fields such as Progress Care Units, Cardiovascular ICU, and Staff Development. Shenell holds an MSN in Nursing Education and has a passion for helping others. You can connect with Shenell on LinkedIn and follow her All One Nurse blog on IG, TikTok, and Facebook using the username @Allonenurse.

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