Quenching the Burn
Last week, I talked to you about the dangers of becoming burned out in your nursing field. Ever heard the phrase, “the best offense is a good defense”? The best way to avoid the dangers of burnout is to defend against burnout in the first place! In that spirit, I offer a few techniques, strategies, suggestions—whatever you wish to call them—to help prevent or lessen burnout.
Many hospitals offer summer programs or extended leaves for nurses during times of low census. If you can afford this option, it can be used as a time to renew and refresh yourself without sacrificing your position or seniority. Almost all of us KNOW deep down that we need to take time off to just relax, but DOING that is the hard part! This simple step is the MOST IMPORTANT way to lessen the effects of burnout.
As nurses, we often feel like we give to others until we are completely drained. This type of mental exhaustion can take a toll on your health, both mentally and physically. It is essential that you find ways to pamper yourself and rejuvenate your mind. Everyone is different, but here are a few ideas that have helped some of my coworkers:
- Taking mini-vacations (sneaking off for the weekend, sometimes without the kids)
- Developing a new hobby (such as recipe clubs, horseback riding, couponing, painting, joining a fitness club, scrapbooking retreats)
- Having a day set aside on a REGULAR basis to get a massage, pedicure, manicure, facial
- Yoga or exercising, preferably outside. Get some fresh air!
- Learning to JUST SAY NO
If you work in an area with a high rate of burnout, such as ICU, NICU, or oncology, you can find another outlet to express yourself professionally by offering to teach within the hospital, work in skills fairs, or become an instructor for BLS, ACLS, etc. This option works well for some, and can offer a much needed break from the intensity of your chosen specialty.
You could also consider cross-training in another unit or area. Stepping outside of a comfort zone can be daunting, but can also provide empowerment as new skills and proficiencies are honed. Some might think that new practice areas would only add to burnout, but speaking from personal experience, it can be a nice change. You may even find your “niche” in a different area.
In an ideal world, one solution would be to simply relocate or to find a new job! However, you may be limited by travel restraints, seniority, insurance needs, family schedules, etc. Additionally, you may simply love your specialty area, but simply feel overwhelmed by long hours, heavy patient loads, or the intensity of emotions involved in caring for critical patients.
Whatever the limitations, I encourage you to think outside the box, and see what options are available within your workplace. Some employers (such as Tenet or Kaiser here in the southeast USA) even have multiple facilities in the same area, and allow personnel to transfer from one facility to another without losing benefits or seniority!
Would you like to share some of your ideas to prevent burnout? What has worked for you? Leave a comment below—we would love to hear from you!
~Post co-written by Beth, RN