It’s an occupational hazard- nurses get burned out. Jaded. Tired in spirit. Weary at heart.
When you’re new and passionate, each new day is amazing, and it’s impossible to consider you could ever get burned out.
But…fast forward a few years and it happens.
Take a look around your workplace.
See Jennifer with the bored expression over there?
Charge Nurse Tiffany sitting at the desk avoiding patient contact?
Looking for Bryan? He’s in breakroom again.
Hard to believe, but Jennifer, Tiffany and Bryan were all once fresh and enthusiastic. Like you. Now they’re working hard just make it through their shifts.
I developed a sensitive and specific questionnaire to assess the risk of burn-out. Read thoroughly and respond carefully for your personal risk assessment.
Risk Assessment Questionnaire for Nurse Burnout
1. Are you a nurse? Yes or No
If you answered Yes, you are at high risk and should take preventive measures now.
If you answered “No“, thank you kindly for being a non-nurse and reading this blog. And chances are, you could be at risk, too, in your job, school program, or life.
Here are some measures you can take that don’t involve winning the lottery or changing professions.
1. Go to a conference
One of the most fun ways to re-energize!
You’ll get to meet nurses from all over, and you’ll bond over common experiences. You’re not alone.
Only nurses completely get each other. You’ll connect. You’ll refresh. You’ll make new friends, and have a blast with the ones you came with!
The positive energy at conferences is contagious.
Conferences are expensive, yes, but you are investing in yourself. And they’re expensive because they’re at fabulous destination spots, and give you valuable information for your nursing practice.
Ask your employer to help with costs. It never hurts to ask. Sometimes benefits are available on request but are not published. Tell your Nurse Manager that you will bring back information and offer to give an in-service.
Bottom line? You owe it to yourself to go.
2. Become a niche expert
This is much like being the best IV starter on your unit. Become a niche expert in something. Something that interests you. What about becoming the ABG whiz kid on your unit? Soon others will come to you for help interpreting their patient’s ABGs.
Or teach yourself 12 lead EKG interpretation. The internet is full of self-help resources to learn anything. You’ll be re-energized, a better nurse and help others and patients at the same time.
3. Get your specialty certification
Earning your specialty certification gains you respect and credibility for the skills you already have.
ANCC is a leading certifying body, and there are numerous others. Typically, you need to have around 2,000 practice hours (roughly one year) in your specialty area to qualify for the exam. Exam costs are usually around two hundred dollars, and certification is good for two to five years.
Here’s one list of national certifications from different organizations.
Bonus? Credibility. Resume enhancement. You get to put initials after your name 🙂
4. Get involved in your unit
Every nursing unit needs more front line nurses to help with special projects. Typically, only a few people (like four or five) per unit are involved at the “extra-credit” level. That’s an observation, not a criticism.
Family comes first, and if you have a toddler or small children at home, or care for an elderly parent, you won’t be spending your days off attending meetings at work!
But… if feasible, talk to your manager about some ideas!
Change the hand-off report sheet, make a poster board for the break room on sepsis awareness, become a Shift Leader or Preceptor. Think about a solution for a work problem that’s been bugging you. Make a You Tube! So much fun and it could go viral!
5. Change your specialty
Maybe what you really need is a change. You’ve been in the same setting for a while, and you no longer look forward to going to work. It’s all so…predictable, and the shift drags on endlessly. Two more hours to go. Four half-hours. Sixteen-quarter hours. I can do this. I have to do this.
There are so many options. From teaching to informatics, to any kind of patient care, to sales, to school nursing. Travel or stay put. Any and all kinds of hours, to meet the needs of you and your family. On-call, never on call. Nine to five or three twelves a week. Days or nights. Work with neonates, or work in end-of-life care, hospice.
Ever thought about being a clinical instructor if your college or university has a nursing program? What about working a few shifts in a different unit while you’re testing the waters?
I used to hate being floated out to Tele when I worked ICU, but then Tele offered an every weekend off position as a recruiting measure. It was too good to pass up. I transferred. (Read my nursing story here). I grew to love Tele, and I no longer had to float there. Yes, quite Zen.
Changing your specialty is energizing. You can’t be burnt-out when you’re at the beginning of a new learning curve!
6. Do something that has nothing to do with nursing
This might be anything from a hobby to a parallel career. Susie, an ED nurse educator I work with, competes in marathons and athletic events. It keeps her healthy and energetic. Vitality gives added resilience against burnout.
A colleague of mine makes incredible cakes and is so talented she’s turned it into a family business!
I hope you’re able to avoid burnout or at least turn it around when your turn comes.
Have you experienced burnout? What helped? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear what worked for you and share it with others!
Until next time friend,
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