What to Do When Your Nursing Career No Longer Brings You Joy

At the beginning of the pandemic, people throughout the world were cheering and clapping for healthcare workers. Nurses were revered and recognized. Today, those same nurses are quitting their jobs in droves.
 
Nurses who are serving in our nation’s hospitals are overwhelmed by the sheer number of people they’re caring for. It’s not just a physical weariness; it’s also mental and emotional.
 
Witnessing non-stop suffering and heartache is exhausting, which has led to nursing burnout rates of 70%. According to a study by the International Council of Nurses, burnout was at 40% before the pandemic – but even that number is too high and demonstrates that nurses need more support.
 
One of the many reasons people choose nursing is because they are passionate about helping people. But in today’s pandemic hospital environment, there is little time to connect with patients. Look at these other disheartening statistics:

  • A NurseGrid survey revealed that more than 20% of nurses plan to leave bedside nursing or nursing altogether.
  • The “2021 Future of Work in Nursing Survey” from McKinsey & Company  found that 22% of frontline nurses may leave their current positions.
  • According to Nursing Times, 45% of respondents reported symptoms of at least one of the following: probable PTSD, severe depression, severe anxiety and problem drinking.
  • In another study, featured in the NIH National Library of Medicine, 39.88% of nurses received a provisional PTSD diagnosis deserving of further analysis.
  • A survey that the American Nurses Foundation (part of the ANA Enterprise) conducted in December 2020 examined the impact of COVID-19 on nurses’ mental wellbeing. The 442 Emergency Department nurses surveyed reported that in the previous 14 days they felt:
    • exhausted (81%)
    • overwhelmed (67%)
    • anxious or unable to relax (64%)
    • depressed (44%)
    • angry (43%)

 

Beating Burnout

We want you to know that we appreciate you and see you. If you’re feeling burned out, we want to remind you that you deserve to gain back some of the joy that has dissipated during the pandemic:

  1. Lower your standards. Maybe a better way to describe it is to prioritize your standards. Your home doesn’t need to be spotless, and you can still have meaningful family dinners over a frozen pizza or carry-out. Even if your spouse or kids don’t vacuum or do the laundry the same way you do, let them help anyway.
  2. Find a way to laugh. Watch a favorite movie, read funny tweets or hang out with your besties.
  3. Get creative or find a mental escape. This is purely for your own relaxation, so don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself. Print out soothing coloring pages, try a new recipe, get lost in a good book or flip through a magazine.
  4. Surround yourself with beauty. Nature offers healing properties, but you can also bring peaceful things into your interior environment – scented candles, a cherished photo or paint the walls a new color.
  5. Bust a move. Exercise might be the last thing you want to do after walking the hospital’s halls, but it can be so good for you. Start with simple stretches to get the blood flowing, break out your favorite dancing tunes, go for a quiet walk or try yoga.
  6. Meditate or pray. The proven benefits of meditation range include reduced anxiety and improved sleep.
  7. Tell yourself that self-care isn’t selfish – it also benefits those around you. During these overwhelming times, it’s harder than ever for nurses to care for themselves. Try to find at least one small way you can care for your own mind and body as gently as you care for your patients.
  8. Get a massage. You deserve it. You really do.
  9. Consider a pivot. If you’re so burned out that you’re considering leaving nursing, you may want to look at other ways to use your nursing skills that aren’t as intense as working in a hospital during a pandemic.

Same Goal: New Path

It might feel as if you’ve changed over the last few years, but at your core, you’re still the same caring person who went into nursing with big dreams of helping others. Johnson & Johnson lists five benefits of home care nursing:

  1. Defining your own career path. Whether you’re ready for a slower pace, you’re a young parent who needs a more flexible schedule or you want to be able to spend more time with each patient, caring for people in their home can be a very desirable way to put your skills to work.
  2. Experiencing autonomy and independence. Limited control over your circumstances is a huge factor that contributes to job burnout. Delivering patient care in homes can help you regain that feeling of being in charge of your days.
  3. Serving a diverse patient population: Although a large number of home health care patients are elderly, you may have the opportunity to work with a wide range of people with a greater variety of care needs.
  4. Creating powerful relationships. High-volume patient care reduces your ability to really get to know your patients and connect, while home care does just the opposite. Not only do you have the opportunity to build relationships with your patients and their families, you’ll also view the big picture when visiting their living environment.
  5. Seeing your impact. As a nurse, you’re making a difference every day. But in a hospital setting, you may not see the long-term impact you have on someone’s life. With home care clients, you’re often able to be a part of their larger continuum of care.

As burnout continues to prevail among nurses, we encourage you to consider shifting your career to a new environment instead of leaving the profession entirely. Nurse and caregivers are the heart of BrightStar Care®. Whether you’re an RN, BSN, CNA or other nursing professional, we value your skills and compassion, and we are committed to supporting your ongoing career.