How to prevent burnout as a nurse

02 December 2021 By Lorraine Gray

​Caring for patients can be both instantly rewarding yet challenging, as long shifts and the non-stop nature of nursing can make you feel like you’re always functioning at a million miles per hour! Burnout in nursing is at an all time high and it’s never been more important for those working in the profession to prioritise self-care and ensure they look after their own physical and mental wellbeing.

After all, how can you stay true to the 6 C’s of nursing – care, compassion, courage, communication, commitment and competence – if you aren’t feeling your best and ultimately, not taking care of yourself. There are some simple life-hacks to take into consideration to ensure you maintain a healthy work-life balance and avoid symptoms of burnout and continue to thrive throughout your nursing career.

Nurse burnout statistics UK

Nurse burnout is becoming more of a common phenomena and it is leading to a nursing shortage here in the UK. With levels of stress inherent in many nursing jobs, it’s so important that burnout is recognised, prevented and taken care of. According to BBC News:

  • More than 10% of the nursing workforce have left NHS employment in the past three years

  • The number of leavers would be enough to staff more than 20 average-sized hospital trusts

  • More than half of those who walked away in the last year were under the age of 40

  • Leavers outnumbered joiners by 3,000 last year, the biggest gap over the five-year period examined by the BBC

  • Brexit may have had an impact. Since the referendum the NHS has gone from EU joiners outnumbering leavers to the reverse - more leavers than joiners

  • Nurses are being pulled off research work, special projects and admin roles to plug the gaps

Nursing burnout symptoms

To stay on top of your health and avoid feeling burnt out, there are some tell-tale signs to look out for that indicate when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Symptoms of burnout can manifest themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally and tend to involve:

  • Feeling more tired than normal

  • No longer looking forward to your shifts

  • Elevated stress levels

  • Feeling anxious

  • Becoming physically ill more often

  • Making mistakes

How to maintain a healthy nursing work life balance

You can’t continue to provide exceptional patient care if you don’t address your own needs first! A healthy work-life balance should be something that every healthcare professional strives for in their career, as a happy, healthy lifestyle leads to a more positive and productive individual that takes joy in everything they do.

There are many methods you can easily implement into your life that will help you create the right balance between your personal and professional commitments, such as:

  • Prioritise self-care

    Make sure you take time for yourself and enjoy hobbies, socialising with friends and family, or anything that makes you happy. Not just on your days off either! Try and find time, even if its just 10-20 minutes here and there, to read a book or meditate so that you can de-stress when feeling overwhelmed from work.

  • Learn to say no

    This applies to both your nursing career and personal life! Don’t feel pressured to take on extra shifts if you don’t feel up to it and likewise, don’t feel like you have to go to every single social event if you’re actually feeling like you need to recoup. Learning to say no will help you avoid burning the candle at both ends!

  • Remember to have fun!

    Make sure you have plans in place to look forward to that involve letting your hair down and having fun! This will help to motivate you throughout your shifts and ensure you have occasions lined up that will give you great happiness and joy!

  • Try to switch off

    At the end of a busy shift, try and leave work at the door and make time to relax and unwind. Whether that’s watching your favourite movie, going to the gym, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, try and make sure you are distracted and immerse yourself in activities that help to define the line between work and home.

  • Get plenty of rest

    This probably sounds like a no brainer, but make sure you get plenty of sleep! As soon as you start to feel tired make sure you go to bed that bit earlier so that you can continue to feel 100%, alert, and less prone to catching any bugs as sleep deprivation can lower your immune system.

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