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4 Tips to Prevent Nurse Burnout

Nurse burnout is a common phrase used to describe an overworked nurse. It goes beyond the stress of a long work day. The Cleveland Clinic Wellness Enterprise describes three specific factors of nurse burnout which include: 

  • Emotional Exhaustion 
  • Depersonalization 
  • Dissatisfaction with personal achievements 

Emotional exhaustion is the state of having no motivation to get up and move. Sometimes, on the job, it’s experiencing no motivation to finish the last note in the chart. You might also notice that the lack of motivation deepens as time goes on. 

You probably remember a time when nursing was a happy place. However, when you’re struggling with depersonalization, the feeling of excitement and happiness might be diminished or nonexistent. Nothing makes you happy or sparks the passion within you. When working as a nurse, there are always opportunities to grow and learn. Those experiencing depersonalization have no desire to do either. 

Dissatisfaction with personal achievements affects life outside of work. Losing interest in things you usually enjoy is a sign of burnout. This goes beyond dreading going into a patient’s room, it can be as far as not wanting to go to your son’s soccer game. 

Coping with Burnout 

If you feel like you are experiencing nurse burnout, there are ways to cope that may help. Four tips to effectively deal with nurse burnout include: 

  1. Breathe – Stop and breathe at work, even if it means you need to go to the restroom for a mental health break. Take a few large, slow, deep breaths, which lower cortisol levels and help to clear your mind. 
  2. Delegate – Choose tasks that make you feel overwhelmed, and ask for help. You might be given a big assignment every day you work. Try to collaborate with your nurse aides and other co-workers to lighten the load. 
  3. Unplug – It’s common these days to walk around with our cell phones. Check your phone throughout the day, but try to put it away so you can concentrate on your assignment and the tasks in front of you. 
  4. Take a walk before heading home – You probably can’t wait until the next shift comes in, but sometimes after report, you just need to sit and chat for a few minutes. It’s okay to relax before heading home. Try to take a 15-minute walk to de-stress before the usual stresses of home life happen. 

How to Prevent Nurse Burnout 

Know that all areas of nursing can lead to burnout. Many nurses think working in the labor and delivery unit isn’t as stressful as a med-surg floor — but that’s not true. The same goes for same-day surgery departments where patients are in and out day-after-day. It can be exhausting wherever you work, especially if you’re not caring for yourself. Like every emotion in life, you have to deal with it in a healthy way. 

4 Tips to Prevent Nurse Burnout 

  • Before taking a nursing job, ask if you can job shadow. This should be part of the interview process so that you can see how well the team works together. It gives you insight into how your days might look if you take the job. 
  • Prioritize your diet and water intake on your shift. If you’re feeling emotionally drained, physical health can suffer too. Bring a water bottle to work and fill it often. Snack on healthy fruits and vegetables for extra energy throughout your long day. 
  • Ask for support from your co-workers, especially emotional support. Ask how they feel, if they have ever felt burnout and what helped them recover. You might be surprised to hear that every nurse feels some sort of burnout at some point in their career. 
  • Take time for you. As a nurse, you might have family or loved ones you care for on a daily basis. This means you offer care at work, and then again at home. But how often do you care for yourself?  

You make a good wage, so set aside a budget to take yourself out to dinner, or get pampered with a massage or shopping spree. You deserve it for the hard work you do.  


4 Tips to Prevent Nurse Burnout
Janine Kelbach

Janine Kelbach, RNC-OB is a freelance writer and owner of WriteRN.net.