I think lack of boundaries and burn-out go hand-in-hand in nursing. And if I don’t have good boundaries outside the hospital, what makes me think I will have good ones at work?
I’ve been working in my own life on boundaries, and my lack of, with friends and family members. Boundaries actually save, not end, relationships (work and otherwise). But they require honesty and respect from both parties.
In my life, I give and give and give, then get my feelings hurt by others when there is a lack of reciprocation. I act like a martyr and then gripe about it all. Then I turn around, go to work, give and give and give to my patients and coworkers, and find myself equally disappointed. How do I strike a balance when I have a job that requires so much giving withÂ what looks like very little return…and feeling like work has no benefit leads to Burn out.
The fact is, there is a return from work—it’s called a paycheck and job satisfaction. But nurses have to be able to be content with that return. We have to count the cost—and we need to be healthy outside the workplace in order to see this!
In other words, I can’t bring my lack of boundaries to work. I should never feel that my patients and co-workers walk all over me.
For example, I have been kicked, put in a head-lock and bitten by patients and thought it was all in the name of nursing. Not so—that kind of behavior is not okay and I should hold my patients accountable for how they treat me, their nurse. (And I’m so happy these behaviors now have legal consequences!)
As for coworkers, yes, I want to be liked and thought of as someone who pulls her weight—but I should be able to say “no.” Fellow nurses and doctors, as well as management, should know I have limits, too. This is really hard for me and a learned skill I am always working on—at work and at home.
Ultimately what I take away from all of my relationships, personal and professional, is based on how healthy my boundaries are. It’s a difficult balance to strike for us people-pleasers, and I hate learning things the hard way. I must be prepared to give in a healthy way that does not burn me out—and doing this takes a lot of thought and work. Just one more facet to being a nurse, and a very important one to being a successful nurse.