If you're a nurse whose feeling burnt out but a career change isn't something you can — or want to — do, you have options and don't have to deal with this on your own. Below are four changes you can make to get healthier and happier without leaving nursing.
1. Figure out what's behind your nurse burnout
Before you can start taking steps toward positive change, you have to take an honest look at what the influencing factors are. For some, this could be working too much overtime or being transferred into another department that isn't the right fit for you. It could also be related to tension with coworkers or administrators or just a lack of self-care.
Donna Matthezing, RN at Compassionate Care in the Air, advises nurses to "look internally and ask yourself if you are fulfilled. Do you love going to work? Do you love doing what you do?" If the answer to these questions is no, it's time to figure out why.
2. Make self-care a priority
Compassion fatigue is real, and when you're approaching — or already in — nurse burnout, it can be difficult to take the time to focus on yourself. Jennifer Lane, RN and aromatherapist with Loving Essential Oils, says, "It is important to incorporate self-care into our daily routines, especially on days off." She suggests self-care practices such as giving yourself a soothing foot bath to pamper your feet after a long shift, using essential oils like lavender and jasmine to relieve stress and encourage a feeling of calm, and talking to others about your feelings.
3. Focus on setting better boundaries
Most nurses go into the profession because they genuinely want to help people and are care-givers. However, this desire to help can also "bring feelings of guilt about choosing their own wellness over another person's," says Carolyn Robistow, a Licensed Professional Counselor at Joy Effect Counseling who sees many nurses in her practice.
She says that "setting healthy and loving boundaries with others is the first step to avoiding burnout. If you're uncomfortable with flat out saying no when asked to work a double or triple or deal with a patient who stresses you out, try stating your boundaries with the phrase 'in my best interest' or 'in the patient's best interest'. For example, 'I don't think it will be in my patients' best interest if I work a triple today because I won't have enough energy to give them the care they deserve.'"
4. Change your scenery
Sometimes a change can make all the difference, and moving into a new setting is a great strategy to combat nurse burnout while still keeping you in your profession.
Matthezing advises moving from a public system to a private system (or vice versa), trying a private practice instead of a hospital or just switching shifts or units for a quick change. She says, "Look at how you can be of service to the nursing profession through different portals. Maybe being part of computerized data collection, which ultimately does affect the patient indirectly. There are many roles where one can make a difference that aren't on the front line."
Shantay Carter, RN, BSN and Founder of Women Of Integrity, concurs. She recommends nurses suffering from burnout try a different specialty, write a book about their experiences or go on to get a masters or doctorate to help renew their love of nursing.
You can also beat burnout by becoming a travel nurse. Learn more about the multiple benefits and career advantages of a travel nursing assignment.
And, no matter where you are in your career, nurse burnout affects more than just the individual. It's important to take care of yourself and address the issue instead of just accepting it as an unchangeable reality. When you're engaged with and feel fulfilled by your job, it means better care for your patients and a happier, healthier you.