Meditating Nurse

In the last blog we talked about compassion fatigue which is the emotional residue or strain of exposure to working with those suffering from the consequences of traumatic events. It differs slightly from burnout but can co-exist. Compassion Fatigue can occur due to exposure on one case or can be due to a “cumulative” level of trauma. Burnout is a cumulative process, marked by emotional exhaustion and withdrawal associated with increased workload and institutional stress, NOT trauma related.

Even Mother Teresa understood compassion fatigue and burnout as she would ensure a mandatory year off for her nuns, every 4-5 years to allow them to heal from the effects of their care-giving work. It would be nice if that policy could be adapted into the health care setting today as it may decrease the turnover and burnout rate that is influencing all areas of care today.

Sometimes it is difficult to spot job burnout, you may be feeling tired and deflated each day. The first way to combat burnout is to identify the risk related to it. The following factors may contribute to job burnout:

  • You have a heavy workload and work long hours
  • You struggle with work-life balance
  • You work in a helping profession, such as health care
  • You feel you have little or no control over your work

Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Ask yourself these questions to identify if you have burnout symptoms:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers, or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you may be experiencing job burnout and it can affect your overall health. Fatigue, insomnia, sadness, anger or irritability, alcohol abuse, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and vulnerability to illness have all been linked to burnout.

Strategies to decrease job burnout start with communicating your concerns with your manager to try and find a solution or a better balance. Seek out the support of co-workers, family, and friends because the collaboration may help you cope and “vent.” Like our physical body, our mental health needs care too so explore programs that can help with stress such as yoga, meditation, or tai chi. Regular physical activity can help us deal better with stress. Sleep is also important as it restores and charges up your battery and helps protect your health. Finally, mindfulness which is the act of focusing on your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling every moment. This practice involves facing situations and patients with openness, and without judgment.

This month we can start to find ways to show others we love them and find a way to show yourself some of that love. Don’t let burnout and compassion fatigue steal your job satisfaction and passion for caring.

Below are resources to learn more about recognizing, preventing, and overcoming burnout in the workplace.

Nurse Burnout: Everything you need to know about nurse burnout

Preventing Nurse Burnout Starts with Understanding Causes: Leaders can observe, identify signs