Addressing Nurse Burnout in the U.S.

Addressing Nurse Burnout in the U.S.

March 4, 2024

Tips for Combatting Nurse Burnout 

Nursing is among the most rewarding professions in the healthcare industry. However, it can also be taxing on one's mental health. The job requires patience, dedication, compassion and a strong tolerance for stressful situations. For many nurses, the time comes when they no longer feel joy in their work—they're completely burnt out on the job. If you've lost the joy in caregiving, don't assume all hope is lost! There are several things you can do to combat nurse burnout. Here are BrightStar Care's tips for understanding your circumstances and restoring your passion for helping others.

Identify the Signs of Burnout in Nursing 

Nursing burnout is all-to-common. In fact, a 2020 survey revealed that 62% of nurses experienced burnout to some degree. Even more nurses under age 25 (69%) felt burnt out.  If you feel yourself burning out, the first step to finding a solution is identifying the symptoms. Once you have a better understanding of your mental state, it's easier to choose a course of action. Stay vigilant for the following burnout symptoms:

  • Sudden or gradual decrease in productivity and motivation
  • Constant fatigue
  • Feeling overwhelmed by tasks you used to enjoy
  • Persistent frustration or anger on the job
  • A diminished sense of personal fulfillment

Stages of Burnout 

Burnout tends to happen in stages. They occur over time, so it can be challenging to know when you're starting to get burnt out. While burnout may look different for everyone, here’s what you need to know about its general stages

  • Honeymoon Phase: A nursing career is exciting and full of possibility. New nurses typically experience fulfillment and satisfaction with their jobs during the initial honeymoon phase. 
  • Stress Onset: After a while, the initial excitement might subside. The job becomes more stressful, and you may begin to lose focus or be less productive. 
  • Chronic Stress: Everyone experiences some stress, but during this phase, the stress becomes much more persistent. Chronically stressed nurses might feel apathetic toward their job, withdraw from work-related conversations and procrastinate tasks. 
  • Burnout: Next comes full-blown burnout. Nurses reach their limit and can no longer do their jobs as they used to. They might report feelings of numbness, self-doubt and even physical pain, such as headaches and stomach issues. 
  • Habitual Burnout: When burnout is not addressed, it becomes habitual. Habitual burnout is a major contributor to other mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. 

How to Overcome Nursing Burnout

The signs of burnout do not automatically mean you need to switch careers and give up what used to bring you joy. Rather, you have lots of options for overcoming burnout. Everyone is different and requires a unique approach to getting their passion back. Here are some ideas for conquering career burnout:

  • Change Your Priorities: When we start a new career, we often have rose-colored glasses and imagine ourselves achieving lofty goals. While it's great to have a goal in mind, remember that you may need to lower your standards. Think of it as prioritizing your standards—your home doesn't need to be spotless all the time, and you don't always need to take extra shifts. Don't expect yourself to be the perfect nurse, spouse, parent and friend all at the same time.
  • Talk to Colleagues: Speak with the people who understand your struggle. Nursing is a team sport, and checking in with colleagues can renew your sense of purpose. At the very least, they can remind you that you're not alone in navigating nursing burnout.
  • Find a Hobby Outside Work: If you've always wanted to learn a new skill, join a club or participate in a social activity, now is the time to get started. Taking time for yourself and engaging in activities that bring you joy is crucial to avoiding burnout.
  • Start Exercising: After a long day at work, hitting the gym is likely low on your to-do list. However, staying active is critical for preventing burnout. Getting exercise can be as simple as stretching during your break or taking a 15-minute walk outside.
  • Seek Spiritual Support: Some people greatly benefit from spiritual support. This can be as involved as getting counseling from a religious leader or as easy as praying. Meditation and praying are proven ways to reduce stress and improve sleep.
  • Find a Mental Escape: If you're thinking about work all the time, it's only a matter of time before burnout will set in. Create a mental escape for yourself. This could be anything that takes your mind somewhere else, such as sitting in nature, lighting scented candles, painting a portrait or getting lost in a good book.
  • Try Self-Care: Self-care isn't selfish! Taking time for yourself means a better ability to take care of others. Try these straightforward ways to be kind to your body:
  • Eat plenty of fruits and veggies but leave room for treats, too
  • Get seven or more hours of sleep each night 
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Spend time in nature or take up gardening
  • Socialize with friends and family
  • Get a massage
  • Take a day off and head to the spa

Moving Forward After Burnout

Moving past the signs of burnout can be easier said than done. However, it's possible if you truly want to regain your passion for nursing. Use these strategies for taking the next steps in your career:

  • Find Independence: Limited control over your day can greatly contribute to career burnout. Consider offering patient care in-home to regain the feeling of being in charge.
  • Serve Diverse Patients: Expand your horizons and take opportunities to work with diverse populations. You might find a passion for offering in-home care services, like companion care, skilled nursing and personal care. 
  • Build Relationships: Take time to build relationships with your patients and colleagues. While high-volume patient care makes this a challenge, investing a few minutes into connecting with patients and families can increase your sense of fulfillment.
  • See Your Impact: When you start to notice the signs of burnout, stop to consider the positive impact you've had on others. It can be difficult to see your achievements when you're in the middle of a stressful workday, but be sure to remind yourself that your presence impacts the community for the better.

Looking for a Career Change? Learn More About BrightStar Care 

Working with a home care agency like BrightStar Care is just one way nurses can overcome burnout. In this position, healthcare professionals provide services one-on-one to clients, allowing for them to focus on one patient at a time.  Our agencies across the country are excited to welcome nurses to our team. Contact us to learn more about our services or visit our careers page to explore open positions. 


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