Burnout may feel like just a buzzword given the heightened awareness over the last few years, but it’s certainly not a new concept. In 1997, the Maslach Burnout Inventory Manual defined burnout as “a syndrome of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of low personal accomplishment that leads to decreased effectiveness at work.”1 The same study also indicated that “burnout seems to occur mainly in professions involving interaction with people, such as physicians, nurses, social workers, and teachers.” Of course, this finding comes as no surprise for anyone who’s worked in a bedside healthcare setting.
The best way to overcome the dreaded cycle of burnout (professionally AND personally) is to take some small, manageable steps toward preventing it – before things escalate into a full-blown meltdown:
Learn to say no when necessary and establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Avoid overcommitting yourself and allow time for rest and rejuvenation. As a nurse, you’ll likely find this feels almost impossible to avoid 100% of the time, and that’s okay. Some people find they are more successful in sticking to their guns by establishing some soft and firm boundaries. The important takeaway here is that it’s impossible to pour from an empty cup, and only YOU get to decide when to stop pouring.
Make sure to prioritize your physical and mental well-being. Take breaks, get enough sleep, eat healthily, exercise, and engage in activities that inspire you and bring you joy. Don’t be afraid to treat yourself to a deep-tissue massage, mani-pedi, or facial occasionally. It might feel like a shallow or selfish splurge at first, but doing something restorative for yourself can be considered an investment in your mental health and overall wellness.
>> Check out our list of nurse-approved self-care essentials!
Connect with colleagues, friends, or support groups who understand the challenges of healthcare work. Share your experiences, vent your frustrations, and seek advice. Seeking professional support, such as therapy or counseling can also be beneficial.
Engage in stress-relieving activities that work for you, such as meditation, exercise, listening to music, or journaling. Find healthy outlets to release stress and recharge.
Recognize and appreciate the efforts and contributions of your colleagues and other healthcare workers. Even if you’re only working in a given facility for a few short months during your travel assignment, do your part to maintain open communication and support among everyone in your unit. Celebrating the big and small achievements of everyone on your team helps create a supportive atmosphere.
It’s tempting to use scheduled break times to catch up on charting – we’ve all been there. However, it’s important to utilize your break times to do just that – take a break! Step away from work-related tasks and engage in activities that help you relax and recharge, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Even listening to an upbeat song can go a long way in lifting your mood through the rest of your shift.
Identify healthy coping mechanisms for managing stress, like engaging in hobbies, pursuing creative outlets, or spending time with loved ones. If you don’t already have an established coping mechanism, know you’re not alone. Many adults still struggle to find the best coping mechanism that works for them, and it varies from person to person. Start simple and try different tactics that align with your interests and lifestyle. Like most situations, the “practice makes perfect” mantra also applies to effectively managing your anxiety throughout tough situations.
Delegate some of your mundane or tedious responsibilities when possible. Chores like grocery shopping or house cleaning can be handled by someone else, thanks to the growing availability of online shopping and service apps like Angie’s List, Amazon Prime and Instacart. It may add a few extra dollars to your household budget, but it will help reduce overwhelming workloads and create a more balanced schedule.
Regularly assess your career satisfaction and align it with your values and goals and consider making the necessary changes to maintain fulfillment in your work. Travel nurses are in the unique position of making this assessment every few months or more, which creates even more opportunities for skill development and career growth.
It’s important to remember that preventing burnout is a continuous process that requires ongoing self-care and attention. It’s essential to listen to your needs and proactively implement strategies to maintain your well-being.
>> Take the next step in your nursing career TODAY!
>> Treat yourself to a change of pace (and PLACE) by exploring all the travel nursing assignments we have available nationwide.
Maslach, C., Jackson, S. E., & Leiter, M. P. (1997). Maslach burnout inventory. Scarecrow Education.