The 5 most common signs of nursing and midwifery burnout


Nursing and midwifery are both very physically and emotionally demanding. Being a caregiver and connecting with the most sick and vulnerable on a daily basis can be taxing work, particularly when the demands upon us are excessive.

It’s why we need to be aware of the difficult issue of nursing and midwifery burnout. Burnout affects our mental health, and leads to many in our profession considering leaving their job. It’s a phenomenon that needs to be tackled, and that starts with us.

We can’t deal with burnout without knowing its symptoms. Here are the most common signs of burnout within the nursing and midwifery workforce.

  1. Physical fatigue

It’s normal to feel tired after a shift. Most of us work over 8 hours at a time, and that’s enough to make anyone feel drained. However, what’s not normal is for nurses and midwives to feel more tired waking up as they did leaving work or going to bed.

  1. Dreading going to work

Everyone has days where they just don’t feel like going to work. However, those experiencing burnout will often have a constant cloud of dread hanging over them on their way to a shift, or as they walk about at work. It’s a sign of both physical and mental exhaustion, and can affect your performance.

  1. Feeling indifferent

Nursing and midwifery are caring professions, and you can’t perform the roles free of emotion. There’s very good reason why our roles have yet to be taken over by robots! However, burnout can often suck the feelings of care and fulfilment from the job, leading to so-called “compassion fatigue”. This can lead to feelings of indifference, or to a mechanical approach to the role.

  1. Resistance to change

Nursing and midwifery are complicated professions, and the developments in evidence-based practice means that our roles are constantly changing. For nurses and midwives already burnt-out or stressed, even small changes can be overwhelming and affect your performance.

  1. Becoming physically sick

Nurses and midwives are human too, and experience physical illness from time to time. However, mental illness such as anxiety and depression can manifest in physical symptoms such as chronic pain, gastrointestinal problems and lowered immune functions.

These signs are incredibly broad, and they don’t form an exhaustive list of symptoms for nursing and midwifery burnout. That said, it’s important to reflect upon your practice and consider your own mental health.

Feeling like you might be burnt out? Contact Nurse and Midwife Support, or come along to the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association’s Professional Day for advice on self care.


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