A Different Approach to Avoiding Burnout
Nurses everywhere have been stretched to the limits. Not enough hours in the day, not enough energy to do it all, and everything on our list is a top priority. Burned out—defined in “Self-Care for the Caregiver” by M. Wei as “a condition marked by irritability, fatigue, problems with sleep, weight gain, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, and social isolation.” We feel it, and it’s robbing us and those in our care of our best selves. In a recent Psychiatric Times article, APNA member Sara Robinson, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC along with Jonathan E. Hickman MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC propose looking externally for solutions, rather than adding unrealistic goals for exercise and sleep to maxed out schedules.
The authors explain, “Burnout is frequently spoken about and written about, and the onus is on the individual for ways to navigate – but there is a lack of accountability at an organizational level for addressing factors contributing to burnout.”
Pointing to the number of clients seen per day, the authors see an opportunity to reduce stress. “We would urge any provider to look at how long are they able (or allowed) to spend with their clients… Seeing fewer patients may seem counterintuitive, as most providers want to help as many individuals as possible. However, seeing fewer patients can be protective of your own mental health and enhance the quality of the care you provide to the patients you are seeing.”
An honest assessment of your current position and employer is a step toward finding a balance. “Take inventory and identify your high-priority, nonnegotiable items, and the items that are not as important for you in a role. You can protect yourself against burnout by ensuring you feel prioritized when you evaluate your current or future position,” according to Robinson and Hickman.
Happily, taking stock of your personal needs should not be another isolating activity. Get input from others around you – coworkers, family members and friends. “They may be seeing signs of burnout you are not recognizing – or may be rationalizing or normalizing. What are your priorities? How does your current role align with those priorities, or not? What aspects are non-negotiable for you? This will be different for all of us.”
The familiar analogy of the oxygen mask rings true now more than ever. Think about the alternative to ignoring your needs in terms of how it impacts those you serve. The authors remind us, “As advocates, we need to advocate for ourselves to ‘put on our oxygen mask first’ so we can continue our important work on behalf of others.”