We hear and read a lot about burnout in nursing. Most of us who have been around for a while have experienced it to some degree at some point. It even occurs when we have a job we like.
Generally, nurses who have reached “flashpoint” experience depression, exhaustion, mood swings and a general dread at the thought of going to work. There is usually no desire to take on the role of preceptor or to participate in other unit activities. As the burnout continues, some turn to drugs, alcohol and other unhealthy practices in an attempt to cope and keep going. Some seek professional help if they can recognize the symptoms.
There are as many reasons for burnout as there are nurses. Changes in management, staffing ratios, patient acuity levels and mandatory overtime all have been cited by various researchers who study the problem.
Personally, I have another theory for what could be a causative factor: BOREDOM. Even the coolest, sexiest specialty unit gets OLD after a while. After you have mastered the game and even the worst of the worst becomes routine, you may find yourself Â just “going through the motions.” The thrill is gone.
So what can a nurse do when this happens? The most effective thing I have done is to make a change, at least for a little while. (Probably why I have such a diverse resume!) I have seen the same tactic work for other diehard ICU nurses.
1. Go on vacation, even if just for a few days. Even a week at home doing simple things does wonders.
2. Change things up temporarily. A different unit or specialty area may be just be the thing to put the spring back in your step. Most managers understand the need for a change, especially if you plan to come back to them eventually.
3. Change things up for good. You just might decide you prefer the new unit. The docs and nurses who worked well with you will miss you and may even beg you to come back, but remember that you cannot be effective if your head is not there with you. Follow your own heart and be good to yourself. I know–this is hard for us to do, but we are no good to anyone if we are not happy to be where we are on a given day.
Be in touch with your inner self. Pay attention to your feelings. Do not feel that you must sacrifice yourself on the altar for any institution. The stress that goes with burnout is powerful. Remember, you cannot help anyone if you self-destruct and have to get out of the game.
Â A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ (John Steinbeck).