As a former nurse, my heart aches as I imagine the long nights, difficult patient conversations, and the deep burnout in nursing that must be taking root one year in. As each evening’s newscast brings images and testimonies of the many doctors, nurses, and health care workers risking their lives to provide care to those suffering. Their faces are tired and weary day after day, as the continuous stream of patients fill hospitals and clinics around the country.
The relentless wave of this crisis has wreaked havoc on the healthcare sector, leaving more than just a physical impact in its wake. Nurses, doctors, CNAs, hospital cleaning crews, etc. are leaving this year tired, lacking joy, and unsure of what to do about it. Maybe you’re here because this is exactly how you feel.
Do you have physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward yourself and others? According to the American Psychological Association–you might be burned out.
But how can we differentiate a really rough day from true burnout in nursing?
We’re all familiar with tough days. But burnout goes beyond a single day. How do you know when you’re tired, and when you’re truly burned out? Take a moment to read through the following list of symptoms associated with the classic definition of burnout (while not an exhaustive list, this will help you understand burnout in nursing):
You may have more than visible symptoms if you’re burned out. You may find yourself feeling or thinking…
- Work and accomplishments are your life, you can’t make time for leisure activities
- You are unable to delegate tasks
- You are the only one capable and competent to get the job/task/etc. done
- Negative feedback makes you feel frustrated or angry
- Faults and mistakes are a sign of weakness
What can you do about burnout in nursing?
Life was never intended to be lived this way. Our bodies need work, play, and rest. In short…our bodies need balance. We know our cars need proper maintenance and care, yet we drive ourselves into the ground. We would never expect our cars to perform efficiently without gas, oil changes, tire rotations, and routine maintenance. Why, then, do we feel any differently about ourselves?
As humans we need:
Fuel – What are you giving your body in order for it to run? Likely, if you’re reading this, you’ve sat in at least one nutrition class and I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. But let me ask you this, have you made any exceptions because of the craziness of this year? Are you living on fast food and vending machines? What would it look like for you to re-prioritize food?
Oil changes- The average car requires an oil change every 3 months, what about you? Are you seeing your doctor, dentist, optometrist, etc. on a regular basis? What about checking in with a therapist for issues that may be on your mind? Our bodies and minds need regular check-ups–you can still provide quality care for others while prioritizing care for yourself. .
Tire rotations- To ensure balance and alignment, we get our tires rotated. How is your balance lately? As a counselor, I know that this question can be filled with nuance. And as a former nurse, I know how painful this question might actually feel. But the nitty-gritty truth of it is that you NEED balance or you will burnout. How are you actively creating room in your schedule to balance work and leisure?
Burnout in the Bible
Scripture doesn’t just point to Jesus for our rest, it shows us how He did it. Mark 1:35 describes early morning solitude where Jesus spent time praying to the Father, while Mark 4:38 tells us he slept in the boat while the disciples weathered a storm.
If God in human flesh prioritized rest…you, healthcare hero, cannot do life without rest.
Nursing was an incredibly hard job before a pandemic and will continue to be so long after we’ve moved on. I would encourage you to do a true, honest, and deep self-reflection about your own burnout in nursing. Are you experiencing it? Like Jesus, are you giving yourself room to heal it?
To all of you nurses, healthcare workers, CNAs, hospital staff, doctors, residents, and so many more, I want to say we see you. This past year has been incredibly difficult. It may be more than just a bad day, and that’s okay. I pray that you would be able to see and care for your burnout and that you would be able to find deep, fulfilling, soul-rest in the midst of the storm. If you, or someone you know, are experiencing the effects of burnout, our team would be honored to work with you to help you restore rest and balance into your life.
Author: Amber vigueria
Amber is one of our talented Christian counselors who used to be a nurse. She now loves to come alongside individuals and couples to work through things like life transitions, body image issues, parenting, and spiritual development, and more.
If you’re interested in counseling with Amber or another one of our other amazing counselors, click here to view our line-up.