How do I deal with burnout?

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And human beings have very real limits on their capacity for compassion and understanding.

Too many shifts plus too many patients plus unreasonable demands plus lack of sleep equals burnout, sooner rather than later.

Ironically, the nurses most at risk for burnout are the ones who care the most. High standards coupled with an ever-changing work environment can lead to frustration, shame and guilt. To survive, a nurse in the throes of burnout begins to detach. She may also experience mood swings, insomnia, headaches or GI disturbances.

If that sounds like you, it’s time to take some action. Pushing on despite your stress is not a sign of strength. It’s much more productive to:

  • Set realistic goals. You’re not going to be able to provide perfect care every shift, so let go of that idea right now. Aim for “pretty good” instead.
  • Ask for help. Going it alone doesn’t make you a hero; it just exhausts you. Delegate everything you can and ask your peers for help when necessary. Return the favor when you’re feeling stronger.
  • Learn to say no. You don’t have to be on the infection control team, unit council, school board and library steering committee. Cut back without guilt.

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