Nurses are Masters at the Fine Art of Caring

Avoiding Burnout
© 2008 Kathy Quan RN BSN
All Rights Reserved
Nursing is often a thankless job. Part of the reason for this is that nurses
spend only a short time with patients during a spell of illness. For example, either they are discharged from the hospital before they are "well", or discharged from home health care because they are independent in their own care, and again not yet completely "well." Unlike someone who designs a terrific product and sees how it helps others and reaps the financial rewards. Nurses have to find their own rewards.

We don't always have an opportunity to reap the rewards of seeing our efforts through to a successful outcome. As a result, nurses often loose faith, become frustrated due to the huge physical and emotional demands of the job and burn out.

Outcome Based Care Standards
As the trend towards outcome based care standards continues however, nurses will see that the little time they spend with a patient can and most often does have a positive outcome from their own perspective. Perhaps
this will help.

Nursing is a physically challenging job. As an example, hospital nurses are on their feet 8 to 12 hours and may not even get a break to go to the bathroom without feeling guilty. Many times nurses don’t often get meal breaks and have to gulp down a snack in 30 seconds. Patients often need a lot of physical assistance from nurses to move in bed, or to get up to a chair, to the bathroom or to walk in the hallway.

The emotional challenges to nurses are also huge. From dealing with issues of death and dying, to helping patients and family members cope with life changing diagnoses.

The shortage of nurses places a strain on all nurses. There is always a steady stream of slack to take up and if someone calls in sick or takes time off, the burden becomes even greater.

Burnout is one of the biggest forces in the nursing shortage crisis. Too many times nurses burn out and leave the profession. Finding ways to prevent this is vital to retaining the workforce as long as possible.

Remind Yourself Why You Became a Nurse
One of the most important things I learned in school, and have since been reminded of in the nursing literature, is to write down special moments. My instructor suggested keeping a small notebook in your pocket, one of those little spiral ones. Whenever we had a moment that really said it all as far as why we became a nurse, we should jot down notes. Then tear out that sheet and put it in a box. Then if we had a particularly bad day or were feeling burned out, we should open that box and read the notes to help inspire us to "return to battle."

Use a Journal
I have since read about another way to accomplish the same thing. Have a journal next to your bed, and before going to sleep, write in your journal about your best moments that day.

Celebrate Nursing
I have designed a special
Keepsake Box and Journal at Cafe Press just for this purpose. Or find one for yourself that represents something special just to you. Treat yourself or a special nurse in your life with a way to help him/her/you celebrate nursing and always remember why he/she/you became a nurse.

Confidentiality Issues
Always be mindful of HIPAA and other confidentiality issues and don't write something that identifies the patient to others should someone else read your notes or journal.

Reduce Stress
Take care of yourself. Eat right, drink plenty of healthy liquids (water, juices, etc.) exercise regularly and sleep (6-8 hours a day minimum) at regular intervals. Enjoy your family, engage in hobbies. Do things that are important to you. Practice stress relief measures.

Elizabeth Scala has written a great book about avoiding and dealing with
Nurse Burnout. I highly recommend it become a part of your nursing library.