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The eventual burn out of nurses

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Nursing is an awesome profession, it truly is. But the reality is we have to put up a really good fight to keep from getting down. We have to actively concentrate on not becoming cynical. To not let the few bad apples ruin the bunch.

No, I’m not talking about co-workers or physicians with God complexes–I’m talking about our patients. The very people who make our jobs worthwhile are the same ones that can drive us to quit.

Who am I talking about? The “repeat offenders.” Those suffering from “self-care deficit.” The passive-aggressive ones who just don’t care. Here are just a few examples:

  1. The morbidly obese patient who complains of chronic low back pain. Really?
  2. The patient who smells like a dirty ash tray and doesn’t understand why he or she is having a hard time breathing and can’t stop coughing. Really?
  3. The patient admitted for a drug overdose who cannot understand why he or she can’t have anything to eat. Really?
  4. The patient who smells of alcohol and doesn’t understand why his or her skin is yellow. Really?

Maybe I’m being cynical. Maybe I’m tired. Heck, maybe I’m just in a bad mood. What I do know is that every nurse experiences this “burnt out” feeling. It’s some sort of shift in psyche during the roller coaster of emotions we experience during our careers. I’ve talked about it before, but have never admitted to it personally until now.

Somewhere along the way we lose that “empathetic” gene, so to speak. We go from lending an empathetic ear and therapeutically communicating to simply “tolerating” everything.

It’s a sad and embarrassing reality, but there isn’t a nurse out there that doesn’t battle this problem. It’s how we handle it that makes the difference between a career we love and a career that kills us.

I still fight with the urge to scream at the top of my lungs when I get “that patient.” But I find great joy and comfort when I come across the next patient who truly needs my help and genuinely wants to get better. It’s those patients that I know I won’t see again that make my job worthwhile during these cynical challenges.

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2 Responses to The eventual burn out of nurses

  1. JoyceHarrell

    This is a very real but often overlooked or even not discussed. Because of my own issues with stress and eventually burnout, this led me to take 2 wellness coaching programs and get very interested in helping other nurses with this issue.

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      Good to hear! I hope others benefit from your interests.

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