Healthcare personnel have always played an important role in peoples’ lives. Whether it is a primary care physician or that nurse or doctor you see in an emergency visit, they are responsible for saving lives each and every day. And while everyone is aware of how critical these first responders are, it’s 2020 that has really brought nurses and doctors to the forefront and highlighted what they do for society in general.
As a nurse, you are used to stressful days and moments in your career, but it’s a good chance this year has proven to be more trying than any other. With that said, burnout is common, and you may even be feeling trapped and wondering how you can get the most out of your career when it can feel so overwhelming on a daily basis.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some tips, advice, and even steps you may want to take that help you to get more from your career, help you to feel more balanced with work and home life, fight the burnout, and even advance your career if that’s the path that interests you.
Know the Signs of Burnout and Act Promptly
The first tip for nurses is to be well aware of the early signs of burnout so they can act promptly. Allowing that burnout to grow and hang around intensifies the negative effects, so it’s not something that should be ignored. Burnout is completely normal and probably more common than you would expect, so there is also nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed of.
Nursing is a very high-stress job and can absolutely take an emotional and physical toll. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the career, or have been doing it for decades, anyone can start to suffer from burnout.
As for the early signs to watch for, they can include:
- Exhaustion no matter how much sleep you get
- You feel as though you are “checked out”, not there in the moment mentally
- You often call in sick and skip your shifts
- You refuse to adjust to changes in your routine
Now obviously each of these signs can signal another issue, and may just be temporary. Watch for these signs to linger and have no known cause or specific reason for occurring.
The next question is what to do if you recognize you are suffering from burnout? The first thing is to make sure you acknowledge it and act on it. Tips to help fight it include making sure you get enough sleep each night, eating a healthy well-balanced diet, getting regular physical exercise, and learning how to create balance between your work and home life.
How to Separate Your Work Life from Your Home Life
Learning how to create that healthy balance between your work and home life is important for everyone, but when you’re working in a high-stress job it becomes absolutely essential for your physical and mental health. No matter the stress of the day, it can’t come home with you and start taking over your entire life. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Just turning off your mind isn’t like flipping a switch; there is usually effort involved.
The first tip is to find a hobby or activity that allows you to be in that moment. It can act as that mental escape that forces you to turn off all other thoughts and focus strictly on the task at hand. This activity could be something like painting, scrapbooking, dance lessons, cooking, gardening, anything that interests you. It could even be an opportunity to learn a new hobby or skill.
Next, it’s important to leave shop talk at work, meaning you don’t talk about your shift the entire time you’re home.
You want to be sure you also aren’t bringing physical work home, meaning paperwork or data entry. Those activities need to be done during your shift, not at home.
And finally, spending time with your family, loved ones, and friends and sharing laughs – even remotely during these times – is important to your mental health.
Be a Patient Advocate
In terms of what you can do in the workplace to make it more rewarding, it’s always great to take the position of patient advocate. This means you speak up and you work on behalf of your patient. You do all you can to ensure they receive the top level of care, their questions are answered, and they feel confident that they are being looked after.
Advance Your Career and Step Into a More Advanced Role
It may be that the best way you can help and make a difference in your community is to advance your career and stepping into a more senior role. For those who already have their BSN, looking into a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner, for example, could be exactly the solution. You can earn your Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which would then allow you to offer primary and acute care for children.
Pediatric nurse practitioners are becoming more and more popular in countries, cities, towns, and villages where there is a lack of pediatric-specific care. Nurse practitioners are able to step in and fill that gap in a specialized manner. Your role as a pediatric nurse practitioner will be to provide primary healthcare to children and teens addressing chronic, complex acute, and critical illnesses.
As for where you can work, this varies depending on location as you may be working in a physician’s office, hospital, or a clinic. There is a lot of flexibility here, which can act as another big advantage in following this path.
Getting More from Your Job
Each of these tips and pieces of advice can help you to get more out of your nursing career, even during these particularly trying times, and make you extremely aware of just how big of a difference you are making in peoples’ lives.