Anyone who works suffers from stress at varying levels. Stress amongst working individuals is an increasing problem across the world. It not only affects the mental and physical well-being. It also decreases the efficiency and effectiveness of workers. Of all the professions, nurses are more susceptible to work-related stress as they work in an environment conducive to stress. They have to make important decisions in a fast-paced environment that will affect the welfare of their patients while working long shifts, being understaffed, suffering from lack of sleep, and facing a shortage of support from healthcare teams.
So it is no mystery that nurses are at constant risk of suffering from emotional and physical stress. This constant work-related stress over a prolonged period can lead to burnout. Nurses suffering from burnout feel detached, numb, and emotionally alienated from their daily duties, resulting in declining job satisfaction and productivity. If these signs are not immediately looked after, they can lead to hopelessness, skepticism, and eventually depression. Nursing burnout also affects healthcare institutions’ bottom line by causing a high turnover rate, a higher risk of mistakes, and increased lawsuits.
To prevent and eliminate nurse burnout, it is necessary to understand the reason behind it. Nurses in leadership positions are in a better place to understand the situation and prevent burnout as they have faced these circumstances. Nurse leaders can create an environment of support by encouraging nurses to openly share their concerns about their working schedules and look after the physical well-being of nurses. Nurses who want to play their part in reducing burnout and fostering a supportive environment can pursue a Master of Science in Nursing and assume leadership positions. Besides nurse leaders' initiatives, nurses can take some measures to prevent burnout. See below for some of the initiatives nurses can take to prevent burnout.
1. Prioritize your sleep
During the hectic daily schedule and long working hours, getting a good night's sleep seems to be at the bottom of the nurse’s priority list. To prevent burnout, getting sleep is necessary. Sleep will help you in resetting your mind and body. It helps in increasing productivity, concentration, positive outlook, alertness on the job, and stamina. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it is necessary to get seven or more hours of daily sleep for good health and well-being.
2. Recognize the source of stress
To deal with burnout, it is necessary to analyze your situation and identify the source of your stress. Identifying the source of stress is not easy; you can start by registering your feelings in a notebook after performing every job responsibility. Noting down your feelings will help you concentrate on the issue that is creating hindrances in your passion for nursing. On recognizing the source of burnout, prepare a strategy to deal with the problem.
3. Maintain Work-life Balance
Make sure to create boundaries between your job and personal life. At the end of the shift, leave the problems and concerns associated with the work at the workplace. For your peace of mind, spend time at home with your loved ones doing activities you love.
4. Create interpersonal relationships
Nurses need to maintain relationships in the workplace to get support from the administration and coworkers at the hospital. However, it is also important to have a support system outside of work. Sometimes all that is required to reduce stress and prepare for the next day is to share your emotional problems, concerns, and frustrations with friends and family.
5. Look after yourself
It is necessary to prioritize self-care to be able to care for your patients. Besides sleep, look after yourself physically and mentally by eating healthily, meditating, and exercising regularly for at least 30 minutes a day. If you don't have time to exercise during the day, take walks during breaks to clear your mind from stressful thoughts. Strictly set aside a time of day to practice self-care.
6. Seek Professional Support
Working in a highly stressful environment and the distress of day-to-day life negatively impacts your mental health and can lead to burnout. You should take advantage of your healthcare institute's counseling and therapy sessions. If the institute does not provide these services, search for therapists outside the organization. Exercises, tools, and techniques taught by therapists can help prevent or recuperate from burnout.
7. Have a creative outlet
According to research having a creative outlet can help in coping and providing a positive diversion from stressors in your job or life. Reserving a time slot for creative outlets can positively affect your health and performance at work.
8. Ponder over other options
Take an honest look at your situation and talk about it. If trying all the stress relief techniques has yielded no benefit. Then you can consider a change in specialty if the current field is causing you stress. Change in the field is not easy, but you can find a less demanding job that supports your values. There are many options available, from nurse educators to family nurse practitioners to school nurses. Maybe you can find a job with a different schedule. Search the options at your disposal and make the choice that suits you.
Although nursing is rewarding, nurses must fulfill many responsibilities in their daily routines -- they are patients’ caretakers, communicators for the physicians’ instructions, emotional support systems, and educators. Having these multiple responsibilities and working long shifts in a competitive environment takes a toll on the emotional and physical well-being of the nurses and causes burnout.
According to NCBI (National Centre for Biotechnology Information), burnout among nurses is continuously increasing. Healthcare administration needs to consider this issue seriously and take preemptive measures to solve these issues in collaboration with nurse leaders and provide nurses with an adequate number of responsibilities, a support system, and resources to look after their physical and mental health, such as gym memberships and therapy sessions.
Alongside the help from upper management, nurses on their own should make self-care their priority, look after themselves, and find practices that will help them cope with the stressors in their professional life. This way, they will be able to increase their satisfaction and productivity at work.
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