Are you burnt out?

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screaming-ralaenin-sxcAs a nurse of over 15 years, I think we all go through phases where we feel burnt out. I stayed in the one job for a long time and I know at times I just felt “over it” and would have given anything to be doing a different job.

Lucky for me, these times passed. And also thankfully, my ward fluctuated greatly in its level of workload, so there were always good or easier days ahead.

True burn out, as it is known, is I am sure much more complicated than I ever experienced.

How do people get through it? Is it better to take a different path and perhaps change jobs or roles? Do you seek medical help to get through it? Is taking some annual leave or long service the answer?

To be honest, I actually don’t know the answer. I do know, however, that many nurses find it difficult to get their allocated 4-6 weeks annual leave per year because of the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) limits on each ward. I believe that if people were able to take a decent stint of leave each year, and not be made to feel guilty about it, that they would in fact feel less burnt out.

What about you? Do you have trouble getting your annual leave? Does it contribute to burn out? What do you think can be done about it?

As a nurse of over 15 years, I think we all go through phases where we feel burnt out. I stayed in the one job for a long time and I know at times I just felt “over it” and would have given anything to be doing a different job.

Lucky for me, these times passed. And also thankfully, my ward fluctuated greatly in its level of workload, so there were always good or easier days ahead.

True burn out, as it is known, is I am sure much more complicated than I ever experienced.

How do people get through it? Is it better to take a different path and perhaps change jobs or roles? Do you seek medical help to get through it? Is taking some annual leave or long service the answer?

To be honest, I actually don’t know the answer. I do know, however, that many nurses find it difficult to get their allocated 4-6 weeks annual leave per year because of the Full Time Equivalent (FTE) limits on each ward. I believe that if people were able to take a decent stint of leave each year, and not be made to feel guilty about it, that they would in fact feel less burnt out.

What about you? Do you have trouble getting your annual leave? Does it contribute to burn out? What do you think can be done about it?

Image: Courtesy of ralenin (via sxc.hu)

4 COMMENTS

  1. Burnt out A few years ago I was very burnt out, physically sick, in pain, unable to sleep. My story behind this time, retrospectively, was pretty classic: I hadn’t had a holiday for years, I was either working long hours or took time off only to care for dearly loved relatives. I was also studying hard, determined to get high distinctions all the time. I know, it’s silly! (If I got a credit, I felt ashamed – but this goes back to childhood.) My beautiful family always thought I would always be there, it wasn’t their fault, I just did everything and was there for everyone. Fortunately (and I mean it) I became very sick: I couldn’t work, I was in pain, I needed an operation. It was the best thing that happened to me: I had to stop and sit, and sit, and sit. No-one could ask a thing of me. It was great!

    Burn out is appalling. Because we are carers, we go on and on caring. This is despite the fact that we also have real lives. If we ask for help, and I did, we are not always treated as good caring people who are exhausted and need help. We are expected to care without end and help others all the time in our work, as well as be accurate, make good decisions etc. There is some very good research on this and this is so important. Nurses cannot care unless we are also supported by our work environment.

    For me the experience of burnout had good conclusions: I faced the fact that I am not superwoman, that the organisation for which I work would demand more and more until I was forced to stop, or I learnt to put in clear boundaries (saying no, refusing more work, delegating etc). I do say no, now. I learnt that the sky did not fall in if my marks were not always the highest (I try to tell uni students that, but they don’t listen!!!). My family has had to take care of me which as given my children the experience of caring and loving someone who is suddenly vulnerable: we have become even closer. I still work too hard, study too much: but I now enjoy it much more.

    Burn out should not happen, but only we can say no, and prevent it.

    Good luck!

  2. Burnout is a major problem in nursing. I think we should remember that nursing is one of the most stressfull and demandng jobs out there. It is also one of the most rewarding as it gives us a sense of purpose and value. The problem is when we cannot fulfill our purpose or when we feel undervalued.

    Part of the problem is ourselves. Admit it, you probably take on more than you should, its a common nursing problem. I agree with Maryel’s comments above, sometimes we have to say no and not feel bad about it. Nurses generally do have high expectations of themselves which can be damaging if they are routinely unable to achieve them. Workload pressures are unlikely to change as people still get sick, patients still need care and there is only a finite amount of money in healthcare to deal with it. We need to recognise our limitations and think long and hard before taking on additional roles or responsibilities that will add to our increasingly heavy workload. The message here is that one nurse can only do so much, be realistic and safe.

    Another issue is annual leave or rather the difficulty in accessing it. I consider myself lucky in being able to get three to four weeks off a year. Annual leave is important. It allows us to leave work pressures behind and recharge our batteries. It gives us time with our family and friends to remind us of what life is all about. Without this leave I doubt many nurses would be able to stay in the profession. I can appreciate that employers can have difficulty releasing nurses for leave due to staffing/workload issues. However, surely it must be more time and cost effective to release nurses for their entitled leave than having to deal with the consequences of sickness or staff leaving.

    Burnout is a problem that is unlikely to go away. We can take steps to prevent it as long as we recognise it in time. In some circumstances it may seem unavoidable and if it is starting to affect your health then you should consider moving to another post. Nursing is very diverse and sometimes a change of scene is all you need. Employers will have to take notice of areas that have a high turnover of staff and address problems that cause nurses to leave if they want to retain staff. My message here is that if you do feel you are starting to burnout, you do have options, use them.

  3. Never go to work unless you are going to have a great day! Stop caring if patients ‘might die’ or not. They have the right to die, so stop being upset. Just do your job to get them back, and the result is up to the gods. Give 150 percent everyday at your job, no matter what, as then you can sleep at night knowing you did your best. Your attitude reflects on your patient’s outcome, so be there to do what you are hired to do.

  4. Geez Bernhard, if I only went to work when I was going to have a great day I would have stayed home since 1992. It’s all very well to give your all but the bottom line is that nurses are human beings too. If I gave 150% at my job rather than the more usual 100% I would have nothing left for my friends family and community and those things are important to me.

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