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Profiles and Features February 12, 2019

By Victoria Bey

How to Prevent Nursing Burnout: 7 Self-Care Tips for RNs

Wondering how to prevent nursing burnout before it’s too late?

If you’re like many RNs, you love your job. Between long hours, stressful situations, and minimal on-shift downtime, it’s the love of helping others that keeps you coming back. 

Comparable only to emergency response personnel and law enforcement, the field of nursing has among the highest rates of burnout in the country. 

Protect yourself and improve outcomes for your patients when you learn how to prevent nursing burnout.

Impact Of Nurse Burnout On RNs And Patients

When you feel like you can’t take another day at work, have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand, or feel increasingly irritable or depressed on your shift, you may be experiencing symptoms of nurse burnout. 

According to a recent nursing literature review, there are three main components of burnout: personal accomplishment, depersonalization, and emotional.

Combined, these three factors contribute to increased patient errors, poor patient outcomes, job dissatisfaction, ongoing mental health issues, and high turnover rates.

Poor Patient Outcomes

When nurses aren’t properly caring for themselves and experiencing burnout, patient outcomes may suffer. 

One study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that the patient-to-nurse ratio was associated with increased infection rates, with nurse burnout significantly associated with UTIs.

Workload and Job Perception

The burnout rate among RNs has also been linked to the perceived workload and organizational factors, such as hospital and facility management. 

A cross-sectional study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that these factors, in addition to the nurse-physician relationship, lead to poor job satisfaction and high turnover.

Physical and Emotional Symptoms of Nurse Burnout

Before discussing how to prevent nurse burnout, it’s important to understand that you can be suffering from burnout and still be a great nurse. 

Unlike other people with symptoms of depression and anxiety, nurses experiencing burnout typically do not have thoughts of harming themselves or others and, in general, feel fatigue differently.

A Greek study examined burnout among health care workers and found that emotional exhaustion was the largest contributor to mental health. Individuals experiencing burnout may miss working more, have difficulty eating or sleeping, have constant feelings of fatigue, and experience higher stress levels. 

Learning how to prevent nursing burnout is actually important for the safety of your patients and your ongoing health.

7 Self-Care Ideas For RNs

As an RN, avoiding nursing burnout involves taking intentional steps to care for your physical, emotional, and social well-being. Improve your personal and professional outlook with these seven simple self-care ideas on how to prevent nursing burnout.

1. Assess your Deficits

You’re a nurse, so you’re no stranger to assessments; you do it all day long. But when was the last time you assessed yourself? What have you been missing lately? From social to physical to emotional, which area of your life is in critical need of attention? Start to address this area first before incorporating the others.

2. Make the Most of Your Downtime

Have 15 minutes left of your lunch? Instead of catching a portion of whatever show is on the break room’s television, get moving with a short walk or jog around campus, or continue that crossword puzzle you started while having your breakfast this morning. Like art? Grab a coloring book and find your zen until it’s time to get back to your patients.

3. Take Nutrition Seriously

Food is frequently viewed as a source of comfort or a well-deserved reward. Sure, splurging now and then isn’t a big deal, but when you’re trying to prevent nursing burnout, it’s essential to pay attention to your nutrition. 

As we know, life as a nurse is busy. Try a meal planning app, grocery delivery service, or ready-to-prepare fresh meal subscription program to avoid unhealthy foods.

4. Find a Way to Debrief

Nurses can see more tragedy and suffering in one day than the average person does in an entire lifetime. If you’re not careful, these experiences can lead to burnout. 

If you don’t have someone you can debrief with at work, consider seeing a counselor talk through what you’ve experienced. Not ready for that step? Keep a journal to release the thoughts from your mind.

5. Spend Time Doing What You Love

Are you an avid bird-watcher, yoga enthusiast, or antiquing connoisseur? Do you love to spend casual time with friends and family? Maybe you’re not sure what you love, but a new hobby or class has caught your attention. Whatever it is, start doing it more. 

As you spend more time focusing on what makes you happy, you will achieve an improved work-life balance.

6. Work Toward a Professional Goal

Becoming an RN is a great accomplishment, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your journey. Do you want to explore a subspecialty or branch out into research? 

Have you always wanted to enter health care administration? Maybe you’d like to have a freelance career as a medical writer or record reviewer. Whatever your goals, define and achieve them.

7. Enjoy a Change of Scenery

During burnout, you may feel stuck or dissatisfied with your current role. The best part about nursing is the unmet demand for qualified clinicians. 

If you need a professional change of scenery, consider travel nursing to explore the country and make new connections. Want to stay put but need a break? Ditch the staycation fad and actually travel. You won’t regret it.

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