Nurse burnout is a real and growing problem within the U.S. healthcare system due in part to long hours, increased responsibilities and low pay.
We’ve all heard the statistics that RNs are leaving the profession at an alarming rate largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent ramifications of that, resulting in increased rates of burnout. In fact, The International Council of Nurses warned that there could be a shortage of 13 million nurses by 2030.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, we encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional. Next Move provides mental health benefits, we encourage you to take full advantage of them.
10 Signs You’re Experiencing Burnout
Signs of Burnout: You’re Having Health Problems
Whether or not you’re aware of it – burnout (aka: intense stress) can have incredible negative effects on your body as a whole. And the way burnout rears its ugly head will be different for everyone. Some of these physical symptoms seem obvious: things like migraines, obesity, or back pain.
But did you know burnout can also look like extreme weight loss? Gastrointestinal issues? Trouble sleeping? Getting sick a lot?
If you’re experiencing physical ailments that you weren’t experiencing a few months or even a few weeks ago – it could be time to consider the effect your job is having on your physical well-being and take some steps to get yourself in better health.
Signs of Burnout: Cognitive Difficulties
Keep in mind – throughout this article – that “nurse burnout” easily translates to “stressed the F out.” And stress can affect basically every part of your body – but research has shown that stress has a huge negative impact on the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that allows you to remember things, make decisions, have control over your emotions, and maintain focus.
Do you find yourself misplacing your keys often, or walking into a room and forgetting why? Bursting into tears for no reason? Feeling a surge of anger at the smallest thing, or making really poor decisions? Chances are – you’re in the midst of nurse burnout.
Signs of Burnout: Declining work and personal relationships
Did you used to pop into your hospital with a little pep in your step, were able to easily get along with everyone, and always kept a positive attitude, but now: not so much?
One sign of burnout is declining work and personal relationships. This can take the form of snapping at others, losing your cool, or getting involved in meaningless work politics. It can also look like withdrawal from all interactions, both personal and professional.
Did you used to socialize with your co-workers both on and off the clock: and now barely ever talk to them? Do you find yourself having to say “sorry” more often than not for little unexplained outbursts? Are you hermit’ing away all your free time – refusing to do anything other than eat, work, sleep? Chances are – you’re experiencing burnout.
Signs of Burnout: Taking Work Home
Another sign of burnout is not being able to let go of the job when you leave work. Are you laying in bed at night worried about whether or not you charted correctly, gave the wrong dosage, forgot to check on a patient?
When you can’t stop thinking about your job, even when you’re not at said job: this could be a sign of burnout.
Signs of Burnout: Fatigue
Do you feel tired when you wake up even though you got plenty of sleep? Do you feel like you need large amounts of caffeine to make it through the day? These can also be signs of burnout – because being constantly stressed to the max is exhausting.
Signs of Burnout: Negativity
Do you feel like you used to be a pretty positive person? But now, you find yourself struggling to find the light at the end of any well-lit tunnel?
Do you feel like you’re focused on the negative possibilities rather than the positive? Do you feel like you’re a bit ‘judgy’? Cynical? These too – are all symptoms of burnout.
Signs of Burnout: Not Satisfied
Do you feel a growing lack of satisfaction in not only your job, but in your personal life as well? Do those activities you used to do, that brought you joy, no longer satisfy? Do the people around you that used to fill you up – make you feel depleted, even upon the simplest interaction?
These are all signs of burnout.
Signs of Burnout: Lack of Motivation
When you started your current job (or assignment) do you have big dreams of progressing your career, perhaps getting a MSN or traveling to parts of the country you may have never been. Or was more simple than that – and you just were on a personal mission to make every patient feel as well taken care of as humanly possible. Have those dreams, desires, goals – slowly disappeared over time?
Every job will have a honeymoon phase – but if you’ve done a 180 and have no desire to do anything other than the bare minimum – this could be a sign of burnout.
Signs of Burnout: Decreasing Performance
Chances are, if you are experiencing burnout, it’s likely because you’re a high performer – who’s always gone above and beyond the call of duty. Work extra hours? Check. Take on another patient or two? Check. Call your floor supervisor to check-in on your days off? Double Check.
It can be the case that high performers will burn at a level that is not sustainable, making high performers more susceptible to burnout.
If you’re a high performer – it’s also very likely that no one will notice if you start to slack a little – so these are the questions you will need to ask yourself. Am I performing at the same level I was a month ago? 6 months ago? A year ago? Was that performance level realistic – and should I reasonably be able to maintain it? If the answer is yes and yes – chances are – you’re experiencing burnout.
Signs of Burnout: Declining or Non-existent Self-Care
Because burnout will affect so many aspects of who you are as a human being, such as lowering your confidence or decreasing your motivation – burnout can also show up as a total absence of self-care.
This can look like eating fast-food every night, spending your days off on the couch with nothing other than a remote control, not giving yourself any “me” time (away from your familial responsibilities), drinking 1, 2, 3 (or more) glasses of wine every single night, or abusing prescription and nonprescription drugs?
All signs you could be getting burnt out.
I’m Experiencing Burnout – What do I do?
If you are struggling with feeling burnt out, there are things you can do to help ease those feelings. Whether you are a staff nurse or a travel nurse, here are five things you can do to combat nurse burnout. But did you know that making the switch from staff nursing to travel nursing can help to alleviate some of the causes of burnout? Here are 5 ways the switch from staff to travel nursing can help combat nurse burnout.
Please note: The above is not a comprehensive, burnout can show up differently for everyone. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, we highly encourage you to reach out to a mental health professional. If you are a Next Move clinician, we encourage you to take full advantage of our mental health benefits.