Recognize What Leads to Nurse Burnout


As nurses, we are exposed to all sorts of situations that can affect our health. Nurses care for the many illnesses that present in the ER and are at risk of contracting those illnesses.  We are constantly at risk for physical harm from lifting patients to needle sticks or cuts to an agitated hostile patient.  Nurse burnout can be the worst affliction since it progresses slowly and the signs are not as obvious.  As a traveler, you are not as likely to have others around you who can notice the changes and support you.   Learn to recognize what leads to nurse burnout.

We know that as nurses there is the potential for “Nurse burnout” and how it can affect our ability to do our job.  There are a few things that can set burnout in motion as you work to care for others.  The nursing profession attracts people who want to fix everything as we save the world.   None of us think we will become one of those grumpy old nurses who act like they should retire and hang up their scrubs.  None of us ever think the job can be so bad as to affect our whole attitude about this great profession.

Most nurses enter into the field with an excitement and eagerness to heal those that are sick and provide the best care possible.  We jump in with both feet and get busy saving the world.  There are 12-hour shifts and overtime and heavy workloads.  Too many patients and too little time. As time goes by we begin to realize we can’t fix everything and we become part of the burn out crowd.

There is hope.  Take a look at the things that can take you down the path toward becoming one of “those” nurses and a solution to prevent it.

All Consuming Anger

We all have had that day when something or someone made you so angry that it just ruined your day.  The problem is that you didn’t let it go at the end of the day.  Before long you don’t even know why you are still angry and it becomes a part of your personality.  The anger becomes the wall you hide behind to survive from day to day.

Solution:  Consider forgiving and forgetting.  It is not always easy to do but it will lift a huge weight off your shoulders.  Placing blame does not give you an answer to the problem.  Life is short and spending energy on negative situations is a waste.  Stand up for what you believe and work to find solutions to issues beyond your control.   Get help if you need it to solve the situation.  Be willing to move on if the issue is one that can’t be solved and you can’t live with the outcome.

Bullied or Beat Down

You feel you have no support and no one has your back.  As a traveler, this can be an issue that makes work miserable. No matter the person coworker, manager or administrations anyone can be the bully.  You may feel you are fighting the good fight alone and you’re being ignored.

Solution: Stand up for yourself and stand your ground. Don’t tolerate passive-aggressive behavior. Try to resolve conflict in a professional manner using facts. Remain calm and maintain your integrity.  Make sure you are in the right before you raise an issue and stir the pot.

Tired and Overworked

As a nurse you know we are constantly fighting the nurse-patient ratio issue.  Staffing issues are an everyday problem in most facilities.   How many times have you had to work in unfavorable conditions?  At times you feel things might be bordering on unsafe.  Then when you feel it is as bad as it can get someone mentions “mandatory overtime.”

You begin to feel tired physically and mentally but have to keep working.  The hours are long and too many in a job you are enjoying less.  You are drained emotionally. Life just seems to have more bad days than good ones.

Solution: It is easy to confuse being overworked with being over-stressed. Look for a balance between work life and life after work. Money is important and overtime is a great thing but don’t let it become the most important thing.  Find time to spend away from work as often as you can.

As nurses, we often tell patients families to take care of themselves so they can be the best caregiver.  We just never seem to follow our own advice.  You need to take care of yourself so you can be the best caregiver at work. Your life is not just that of a nurse. Take care of your physical health and get rest and relaxation as needed. Remember your job can be more fun if you are well rested and healthy.

Are you cut out to be a nurse?

When you decided that your dream job was nursing did you realize how difficult it could be?  Did you have a clue when doing your clinical rotations what life would be like on your own? Your nursing school didn’t seem so bad so why is this so hard?

You didn’t know people could be so mean and unappreciative.  What have you gotten into and are you headed for burnout? How can you avoid becoming an old grumpy nurse?  Unfortunately, you will become old as time moves on but you don’t have to be grumpy.

Every nurse will find themselves at a crossroad at some time in your career.  What will make the difference in you and those that burnout will be your attitude.  At that point, it is important to remember why you chose to become a nurse.


You always have a choice.  Don’t let the small stuff consume you, choose to rise above it.  Choose the path that meets your needs.  Spend time evaluating yourself honestly to remember why you chose to be a nurse.  What is important. hour, pay, benefits, travel or career options?  The sooner the better for finding your answer.  Look for the place that meets your needs.

Not everyone is cut out for nursing.  Nurses have changed careers and gone into law, real estate and many other career paths.

The bottom line is to find what makes you happy. Learn to recognize what leads to nurse burnout and make changes.   You will get more out of life if you enjoy your work.  Don’t let your career burn you out.  Talk with other nurses and you will see you are not alone.

Keep your light burning bright by learning to recognize nurse burnout.



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Cheryl Roby, RN

Cheryl J. Roby is a Registered Nurse and retired US Army Reserve Nurse Major. She has more than 30 years of nursing experience and 26 years of military experience in the Army Nurse Corp. During her nursing career, she has traveled as part of her military experience visiting many of the 50 states and to South Korea. She was trained as an Army Medic during the Vietnam era and later as an OR tec. She went on to become a Licensed Practical Nurse and then completed her nursing training as a Registered Nurse. She was then commissioned as an officer in the Army Reserves. She appreciated the challenge of working in various specialties and expanding her clinical and professional skill sets. Her time in the Army Reserves and California National Guard gave her the opportunity to travel to most of the 50 states and work in other medical facilities. During her career, she had the opportunity to work in several specialties to include, OR, Occupational Health, Hospice, Sexual Assault Team, Forensic/ Correctional Nurse, Nurse Case Manager for developmental disabilities, Parish Nursing as well as a Nurse Entrepreneur.

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