8 Tips To Overcome Burnout in Nursing This New Year
By Mariam Yazdi
As a nurse of 5 years working from coast to coast, I have witnessed this firsthand and very much felt it myself. Our job is crazy at times and if we aren’t careful, it can burn us out to a crisp. Although sometimes you need to make difficult decisions and leave a facility or even a career for the sake of bringing in higher cash flow, my heart feels for the nurses who are in that place right now. I hear you, I see you.
This piece is to share some good energy for the new year with all my fellow nurses. Life is crazy, our job is stressful and quite unglamorous at times, but it doesn’t always have to weigh heavy on your heart. That's why I've curated these tips to help you overcome nurse burnout this year. Read on to learn eight ways you can persevere and relax in this demanding profession.
1. Take a deep breath
Start right now. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, hold it, and then let it out. Remember this point when you’re in the “thick” of it. Yes, you may not have time to eat and you may not have time to pee (all habits we really need to let go of in 2019) but one thing you do have time to do is TAKE A DEEP BREATH. Link it to a task – every time you’re at the Pyxsis or the Omnicel, put your finger down on the reader, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Let this habit spread to all aspects of your day: when you’re opening that new bag of fluids, running to get the code cart, or sitting down to finally chart. And don’t do one of those sighs that lead to a defeated slouch. Sit up straight and make your Respiratory Therapist proud of that big deep breath.
2. Get a hobby
Everyone needs something to do that they enjoy. If your next thought is, “well I don’t know what I like,” then think about something small that you’ve been curious about, even just mildly. Maybe it’s buying that one pretty ceramic pot you saw to put a plant in it or learning how to work a camera. Perhaps it’s picking up a new recipe to try. Whatever has crossed your mental sphere and piqued your interest, do just that.
3. Invest in yourself
This means different things to different people. If you’re a spa and massage person, then by all means, book the appointment or if you’re a get outside and hike person, put those hiking boots on! The most important thing is to know what feeds you and what fuels you; whatever it is, also do that.
4. Have a saving system that works for you
Seeing that money build up in your bank account is not only empowering and exciting but smart. This is what works for my husband and me: both our paychecks go straight into a checking account with no debit card linked to it. On payday every Friday (travel nursing weekly pay) we log into our account and physically transfer our spending money for the week into the checking account with a debit card. Depending on our location and our goals, we calculate how much spending money for the week we will use that will allow us to save what we want to. Living in New York City on two incomes with a savings goal of a solid down payment for a house in the next few years, we allow ourselves $800 a week. From this $800, we will buy groceries, a subway fair, lots and lots of eating out, and whatever odds and ends happen throughout the week. Maybe it sounds like a lot, maybe it sounds like a little, but we have found for the two of us in the city, that this is the sweet spot. The rest of our pay goes into savings, minus what is needed for bills and rent, which is directly deducted from the first checking account with no card attached to it. This system makes it easy to log into our bank account and physically see exactly how much money we have left budgeted for the week.
5. Get out of town
Getting out of the drama and the usual work-home-work routine is a very healthy thing to do. You don’t have to go across the world to do this – although that is fun too. But taking a weekend to check out a local retreat, or even a short day trip somewhere close to window shop and eat a nice dinner can help you clear your head and get some distance from work.
6. Focus on the positive attributes that make you enjoy your job
You know they’re out there. You may really like joking with your patients, or you may enjoy the technical procedures. Whatever it is, enjoy it, dwell on that aspect of the job, and not the parts that drive you nuts. Let those parts roll off of you like butter on a hot biscuit. Remember, you are responsible for your own experience of life, and that includes work! Make it a good experience for yourself.
7. This is not forever
Your situation today will not be your situation forever! Back when I started my nursing career, I fell into a strange depression that came from a place of starting a career I didn’t know if I really liked, working nights, and feeling really alone and incompetent to boot. Now looking back (that was only a handful of years ago) I realize that those first few years were just a small spec on the timeline of my life. I did my due diligence of gaining my experience before I left travel nursing and although I still get quite frustrated with the nature of the job, I know better than to feel like there is no end in sight. Life is whatever you want it to be, and at the very least, you have a career that can support you steadily throughout any economic environment, is versatile, and can set you up for anything else you want to do.
8. Don’t get yourself down – stop that negative self-talk
I enjoy my job less when I feel that I’m not meeting my own expectations. When I miss something in the report or when another nurse gives me attitude about something I did or did not do, it tends to send me into a spiral of negative self-talk and I mentally beat myself up for it. Finally, I am learning to catch myself at the beginning of those spirals and stop myself in my tracks. I will repeat my mantra: “Good job, Mariam! You’re doing a great job.” It feels silly and even fake at first. But part of the magic of “fake it till you make it” lies in this very quality. What your mind says, you believe. So force yourself to say nice things and you’ll see it makes a difference.
Yes, many nurses are out there working multiple jobs to make ends meet or would rather leave the profession to gain income in different ways than at the bedside. The point of this message is to really understand yourself; if you are stressed, worried, ready to crack – sit down for a minute and really ask yourself why. Why are you struggling and what would make things better? What is realistic for you and what steps could you take, right now?
If your heart is set on leaving nursing, that’s okay. If you just need to step away for a week or month or year, that’s okay too. If you enjoy the work but know you need to up your income, speak to your boss. Negotiate a pay raise or at least a higher OT rate. Find some financial resources that can help you manage your debt and pay structure, and get you to the place where you want to be. If you’re professionally frustrated and know you need to do something else, whether it’s to go back to school or open that coffee shop you’ve always wanted, do a quick Google search. What are the requirements? What are the start-up costs?
Remember, if you’re down about nursing, it’s very possible that this feeling won’t last forever. Take those deep breaths and do what is best for you in the New Year.
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