One of the best compliments I received came from a nurse a few weeks ago. It was during nurses’ week, when she heard my keynote, “Celebrate Nursing: Human by Birth – Hero by Choice.” She told me that she had been feeling burned out in her role as a nurse lately, but that while listening to me talk about nurses as heroes, she was reminded of why she choose nursing in the first place.
That reminder, and apparently my enthusiasm for what it truly means to be a nurse, re-energized her. She thanked me for making her feel passionate about being a nurse again and that she couldn’t wait to go back to work on Monday.
Wow. Although I was taken aback by her compliment, it made me think about the passion it takes to be a nurse and how quickly that passion can swing to burnout.
I can remember the very first paycheck I received as a new nurse. This was my first full-time job, so when I opened the paper envelope and saw the dollar amount I couldn’t believe my eyes. Nine hundred dollars! Wow! I thought I had just won the lottery.
It wasn’t very long before I would get my paycheck and think, there isn’t enough money in the world to put up with the things we do as a nurse sometimes. Thankfully, those moments were buffered by the days when I felt elated and even thought that I would gladly be a nurse for free – that you couldn’t buy that kind of satisfaction in making a difference in somebody’s life.
HOW BAD IS IT?
Did you know…
- A 2012 study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that stressful jobs were just as bad for women’s health as smoking and obesity?
- 60% of all healthcare employees report feeling burned out. There are over 3.1 million nurses in this country. If you do the math, that represents over 2 million who feel burned out!
- Nurses are tireless advocates when promoting physical health and well being to our public but more than 50% of us report our overall health as poor.
But how do some of us just ride the pendulum from passion to burnout, knowing that it swings both ways while others get stuck on the burnout side?
I know it’s not simple, and there’s not a simple solution.
However, if you find yourself stuck right now, consider these 4 steps:
Remember Why You Became a Nurse
When you ask most new nurses why they decided to become a nurse, there is some element of “I want to help people and make a difference in their lives.”
Nurses are in the service industry. We are inconvenienced every day we come into work. However, with that service comes great responsibility and great opportunity. Nurses do have the ability every day they walk into work to change somebody’s life for the better – every day. I don’t know of many other professions that can say that. I know it comes with a price, but try to remember why you became a nurse and repeat those words in your head like a mantra.
Discover Childlike Curiosity
If you ever watch kids play, they are fascinated by the little things – bubbles blown out of a plastic circle, an ant carrying a cookie crumb, or even a cartoon underwater sea creature teaching them simple math. Children are veracious and amused learners. Adopt childlike fascination of the human body. Just think, the normal pH of your blood is 7.35 – 7.45. Below that or above that means you are in serious trouble. It’s a miracle that any of us are alive with a 0.10 normal range. Medicine is changing at rapid speeds. Find ways to gobble up new information and be fascinated with the complexities of the human body. After all, we are in the body business! Become a vivacious and amused child again.
Inject a Dose of Fun in Your Work
Find ways to inject humor into your work. Although nursing is serious business, human beings are not serious creatures. We are designed to be humorous, to laugh, and to play. They say laughter is the best medicine. I do believe that laughter cannot only help people heal but it can also medicate the nurses suffering from burnout.
My friend worked on a unit that had low VRE swab compliance. To improve their scores, the manager tried everything from encouragement to disciplinary action. Nothing worked until one of the nurses came up with (excuse the term) “Butt swab Mondays.” During the Sunday night shift, the staff would take turns bringing in chips and salsa to celebrate the event. The staff wasn’t allowed to partake in the festivities until all of the swabs were done. They’ve been 100% compliant ever since. According to Daniel Goldman, workplace jokes and laughter improve communication and trust.
So, what are you waiting for – have some fun!
Our work involves handling one crisis after another. If we don’t find ways to celebrate our profession and each other, we lose our ability to keep up with the demands of nursing.
Celebrating doesn’t have to be a big award ceremony but can be the little things.
Recognize a nurse who goes out of their way to help you. Promote nursing as a positive career when you have students. Celebrate any continued educational efforts. Nursing is the only profession I know that it’s never about you. It’s always about the patient. Therefore, we have to take care of us. Don’t wait for somebody else to do it for you.
We celebrate with humans when life is brought into this world and mourn with them when life is taken away. Nurses are the common denominator from beginning to end. We are the glue that helps close the loop on the circle of life.
If you’re one of the 60%, forgive yourself. It’s not your fault.
However, it’s time that you recognize you are burned out and DO something about it.
We have a lot more work to do. Many more lives to save, hands to hold, and caring memories to make for our public. Maintaining your passion for nursing requires effort and deliberate action to prevent burnout. There’s no doubt that it is requires effort on your part but it is so worth it!
If you are exhausted, burned out and just plain overwhelmed day after day, and you are READY to do something about it, I invite check out my newly released course: From Exhausted to Extraordinary: Strategies to Reverse Nurse Fatigue.
As nurses, we have the opportunity every day we go to work to make a difference in the lives of millions. With that huge responsibility, we are sometimes left with nothing to give to our families, our friends and ourselves.
In this mini-course, you will discover 3 primary strategies embraced by the nurses who seem to thrive despite the burdens. Each has a specific purpose – to provide you with a solution to the most common causes of fatigue and burnout in healthcare so that you are able to leave work feeling really good about the work you’ve done and still have the energy required to be a mom, dad, sister, brother, friend, or neighbor.
You can click here to purchase the course and get started today!
Be kind. Take care. Stay connected.
Helping you create a healthy happy workforce,