02.01 Self Care & Avoiding Nursing Burnout

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Included In This Lesson



Avoiding burnout is important because we need nurses to keep working as nurses so take care of yourself to avoid this.

Nursing Points


  1. The problem
    1. 33.5% leave first job within 2 years
    2. Burnout
      1. A syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment
      2. 92% of nurses report moderate, high, or very high levels of work stress
  2. How are nurses handling stress
    1. 75% <8 hours sleep
    2. 69% no exercise
    3. 63% poor diet
    4. 22% binge drinkers
  3. Results
    1. Compassion fatigue
      1. An extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create a secondary traumatic stress for the helper.
  4. Self care and avoiding burnout
    1. You can only do what you can do
      1. We do not control outcomes
    2. Develop healthy habits
      1. Exercise
      2. Diet
      3. Read
      4. Meditate
      5. Hobby
      6. “Treat yo’ self”
    3. Find a place to vent
      1. Journal
      2. Friend
      3. Family
      4. Co-worker
    4. Sleep
      1. Make it a priority
      2. Tell family and friends
    5. Seek help
      1. Counseling
      2. Medication
    6. Say no
      1. Sometimes the money sounds good, but extra shifts can burn you out
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Hey guys, we’re going to talk about self-care and avoiding burnout. As a new nurse, this is a really important topic because 92% of nurses say that they feel like they’re under a lot of stress or an extreme amount of stress at work. So it’s really important that we understand this, and we help you guys understand how you can conquer this stress and take better care of yourself. Now, why is this such a big problem? Well, that 92% of stressed-out nurses actually lead to 35% of new nurses leaving their first job within two years. I don’t want that to happen to you guys. I want you guys to find a job, learn how to embrace it, learn how to love it, and have a lot of success. So all of this leads to burnout. Now, I know you guys have heard of burnout, but let me give you a little definition of burnout, so we can understand exactly what it is that we’re dealing with here. 

Burnout is a syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. How can we defeat this? How can we overcome burnout so that we don’t have that extreme emotional exhaustion and ended up in that 92% that feel massively overwhelmed or that 35% who leave our job. Now, I want to show these numbers with you because I think it’s important we understand how it is that nurses normally cope with and handle these challenges. In one study, 75% of nurses reported that they’re getting less than eight hours of sleep. 69% reported that they’re doing little or no exercise at all. Another 63% said they have a poor diet and as many as 22% would be classified as binge drinkers. So we have this problem. We see that so many are leaving, and then we realized that as a, as a whole, as a group of nurses, we’re not dealing with this problem very well. 

Now, all of this ultimately leads to something called compassion fatigue. I believe we all went into this profession because we care deeply. We want to help people. We didn’t go into this for the money. We didn’t go into it for the glamour. We went into it because we care. But all of that and all these stresses lead to something called compassion fatigue. Now let me read you a definition of compassion fatigue. It’s an extreme state of tension and preoccupation with the suffering of those being helped to the degree that it can create secondary traumatic stress for the helper. We’re here because we care. The problem is we do care so much and that can actually lead to secondary traumatic stress. And then we see that we cope with it very poorly. So let’s move on and let me give you guys some tips, specifically six tips for overcoming this burnout, this compassion fatigue, and for taking care of yourself. 

The six tips are you can only do what you can do. Number two, develop healthy habits. Number three, find a place to vent. Number four, sleep. Number five, seek help. And number six, say no. Let’s talk about each one of these individually. And I want you guys to whether or not you take notes, I don’t care, but I want you guys to to pinpoint one or two of these that you can start practicing today. Because I think it’s going to bring you a lot of help. Number one, you can only do what you can do. This one was really hard for me to learn. I’m quite a perfectionist. I want to do a good job and I care a lot about my patients and one night I was assigned a patient who had already fallen out of bed multiple times on multiple shifts, nearly every single shift. 

He had fallen out of bed. He climbed over and fell to the floor, so I did everything that I could. I set a bed alarm. I had a spouse sitting next to him. I had a sitter sitting with him. I had the lights on in his room. I did all that I could to make sure that he was safe. Welcome. Three o’clock in the morning, bed alarm goes off. I go in the room and he’s lying on the ground. He’s falling on the ground. Once we got him safe, once we got him back in bed, I felt terrible. I went back to the nurses station, just how could this have happened? How could one of my patients have fallen on the ground? And I started really beating myself up trying to think of everything that I could’ve done to make sure that that didn’t happen. 

And as I was thinking that there is a tech that I worked with, his name was Josh, and Josh came up to me and he said, John, you can’t control your patients. You can’t control the outcomes for your patients. You can do all that you can do, but you can’t control ultimately what’s going to happen. I can take care of my patient, but I can’t control how the disease process takes place. I can’t control it. Ultimately, they choose to do with their own free will. I can do all that I can do. And that’s the end of that. So I want you guys to understand that as you’re practicing, as a nurse, realize, yeah, you need to do everything that you need to do and you need to take the best care of your patients that you possibly can. But that’s all you can do. 

You can’t control the outcomes for your patient. Number two, develop healthy habits. We all know what healthy habits are, so I’m not going to beat this one too much. A couple of habits you could develop are exercise, diet, read or meditate, develop a hobby and treat Joe self. If you watch parks and rec, you know, treat yourself. But first of all, exercise. Look, obviously I don’t exercise all the time, but I do enjoy walking when the weather’s nice. Even something as simple as that allows your body to get moving, get you out of the house, get you out of your job and get your mind in a different space. So do any sort of exercise, whether it’s just walking or whether it’s actually something more intense. Then diet. Look, you don’t have to be a vegan, you don’t have to do anything like that, but just try to take a little bit better care of yourself. 

From that study that I mentioned earlier, very few of these nurses were getting any sort of vegetables or fruits in their diets. We know these things. We’ve been trained in these things. We actually teach these things to our patients, but we then let go of ourselves and don’t take care of ourselves. So take the time to eat a vegetable. Drink some fruit juice. Do something to just take a little bit better care of yourself. It will make you feel better about yourself and it’ll actually make you healthier. Then reading or meditating, just getting your mind out of that space of being a nurse for a moment. Read a good book. Meditate, pray, do things that get your mind in a bit healthier spot. And then number four, develop a hobby. Look, I didn’t say get perfect at a hobby or become a professional. Just develop any sort of hobby that engages your mind and engages your hands. Something that really shuts your mind off from nursing and let you have a different identity from John, the nurse. And the last one is to treat yourself well. Be responsible with your money. Be responsible with your time, but it’s okay to indulge every now and then. Get a massage. Have a mill that you really love. Go to a concert and do things that really you enjoy that make you feel better. 

All right. The next one we want to talk about is finding a place to vent. This one’s really important. We see some really traumatic things as nurses, and it can be really difficult to deal with, especially because a lot of people don’t see that in their jobs. So even just getting a journal or starting a blog, some of you can write about your feelings, you can write about your thoughts, talk to a friend. Even if it’s a friend who’s not a nurse or someone who doesn’t work in healthcare. Just talk to somebody and say, look, I had a really bad day today. I just need to talk. Maybe a family member or even a coworker, a good coworker buddy. You can text or you can talk to and say, look, this is really hard. I’m having a hard time dealing with this. That can really help, whether it’s talking about death, whether it’s talking about a difficult patient all within HIPAA compliance of course, or whether it’s talking about a manager or another coworker. 

It’s good to be able to vent and get these things out of our minds. And the next one is sleep. Look, sleep is really hard to come by as a nurse, especially if you’re working night shifts. For me, for example, when I worked night shift, we actually develop this little kind of sleeping pod inside our master bedroom closet where I would go in and I would sleep between shifts. The lights were out, it was completely silent. The kids wouldn’t come in the room. I could have a little fan on and I could really actually get some sleep and not saying I slipped really great, but I got better sleep than I would have tried to just sleep in a bed or try to keeping up with a normal sleep schedule. So make sleep a priority, find things that help you sleep, whether it’s blackout curtains, a little melatonin, whatever it is, prioritize sleep. 

And with that it’s really important that you tell family and friends your sleep schedule. Say, look, I can’t be here. I can’t go to family dinners if we do them at this time. I can’t go on dates and we do them at this time. I have to sleep and it’s really important that I do that for me and then I do it for my patients. The next one is seek help. If it gets to the point that you need help professionally, whether it’s through counseling or through medication, do that. This goes back again to the same thing with diet. With nurses, we, we provide all this care, we do all these things to take care of people. What we so often forget to take care of ourselves, realize it’s okay to need help. It’s okay to seek counseling. It’s okay to seek medication, but a year or so ago I actually started on Lexapro myself because I was having a lot of time dealing with a lot of anxiety and depression. 

It’s okay to need help and it’s okay to be open about that, so if you need it, this is your permission to go get that help that you need. The last one is say no. Look when they offer bonus shifts, when they offer extra money for coming in, it can be really hard to turn that money down, but you are more important than that money if you don’t have the time, if you don’t have the capacity, if you don’t have the bandwidth, be okay saying no. Turning that money down and taking care of yourself. You guys, those are the six tips I want to share with you for taking care of yourself and avoiding burnout. We really need you in this profession and we know that you can do this with that. Guys, go out and be your best self today. Happy nursing.

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