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Nurses: Are You Happy and Healthy?

Updated: Mar 19

So you’re stressed. I get it. This job isn’t easy. It never was. That’s not why you became a nurse. You never wanted the easy route. You wanted to help and connect with people. Or, you just felt a strong calling to the medical profession.


And with that feeling leading the way, it’s easy to forget about you. In the middle of a 3 hour long med pass, it’s easy to forget to take a break. Who’s thinking about eating lunch when you’re in the middle of an emergency in the ED? Is using the restroom at the front of your mind when you’re responding to code?


These small moments add up. And if you’re not careful, you can get burned out. In fact, close to two-thirds of all nurses will experience burnout in their lifetime.


So what can you do to keep sane and prevent burn out?


Nontraditional Nursing Roles

If you feel like you just need a break from the bedside, I understand. That was me several years ago. Sometimes you just want to walk away from the whole system.

If you’ve had enough, you should check out nontraditional nursing roles. These roles still allow you to use your nursing license, but they are low-acuity and you won’t be at a hospital. You’ll have the chance to tap into those nursing skills, while nurturing a different career path.


Check out some of these nontraditional writing roles:

  • Health writer

  • Medical editor

  • Consultant

  • School nursing


You can always go back to the bedside. Those healthcare facilities will always need competent nurses. And sometimes you just need a reset. There’s nothing wrong with pivoting your career.


Self-Care Routines

Self-care routines are incredibly important. Do you do something every single day that makes you feel good? Do you have something you look forward to?


Those little moments can make or break your day. When you have a really hard shift, your self-care routine can help you pull through. And they don’t have to be long, drawn out routines. A few moments here or there can be a grounding presence.


Not sure what you could add to your busy day?



Consider some of these:

  • Morning or night yoga routine

  • Mindfulness recording in the car

  • Candlelit bath

  • Reading before bed

One of my favorite self-care moments is using my favorite peppermint chapstick and drinking ice water after. It’s a nice, refreshing combination that helps me center myself during those hectic shifts. It’s also a very easy routine to build into almost any moment


Balance

Balance is something you can apply to all aspects of your life. Check in with yourself. If you had a wild shift, take it easy the next day. There’s no need to climb a mountain every day of your life.

Ask for help. If you’re struggling for a week, see if you can delegate some aspects of your personal life. Do you have someone that can make dinner for you this week? Can someone drop off groceries so you can nap? Tap into that network.

And if you feel really unbalanced, ditch the job. You shouldn’t have to let it creep into your outside life day after day. Once in a while is understandable. We all have bad weeks. But you don’t need to have bad months or bad years. Know when to walk.


Saying No to Shifts

Know your limits and stick to them. Say no to shifts that are outside of your already busy schedule. Did you agree to 20 -32 hours a week? Then stick to that. That extra shift may just push you over the edge and burn you out.

It’s not your job to worry about what your job will do if you don’t pick up. You’re not responsible for the wellbeing of your coworkers and patients on your day off. Your facility is.

And if you keep just plugging those holes, they’ll never find a better, more sustainable solution. Let your administrators deal with their mess, not you.

If that extra shift is doing to send you into a downward spiral, it doesn’t serve you. Keep your inner peace. Maintain that balance. Say no to the shift, every single time. You don’t owe anyone anything extra than you already do.


Meeting your Physiological Needs

Make sure your basic needs are met. What are your physiological needs? They’re the basic needs you need to survive.


They include:

  • Hunger

  • Food

  • Safety

  • Warmth

  • Sleep

If you aren’t meeting these basic needs, you can’t do your job.



Check in with your needs, frequently. At the start of the shift, every hour, at the end of your shift. Are these basic needs being met?


If they aren’t, you need to take a break. Right now. And you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself at the most basic level. How are you supposed to thrive if you are barely surviving through your shift? And you deserve to thrive. Every single shift.


Having a Solid Support Group

No person should be an island. You don’t have to carry your emotional burden on your own. Make sure that you surround yourself with a solid group of people you love. These are the people you will turn to on your hardest days. This can include coworkers, friends, and family.

If something happens at work, the best place to talk about it is at work. Make sure you’re having a debriefing moment with coworkers or managers. Holding a meeting will help you process your emotions and find solidarity with your peers. It will also prevent you from taking your emotional workload home with you.

Nothing beats stress better than a good day with friends. If you’re feeling down, make sure you call your group together. Get outside of your head by bringing your friends together. Laugh, create, distract, heal. Do what you love with the people you love. You’ll end up going back to work a refreshed person.


Summary

Burnout is an occupational health hazard. Nurses are at a high risk for developing this mental condition. But there are ways you can protect yourself. Make sure you know your own signs of burnout. It can creep up slowly and silently.

Make sure you’re seeking balance in your life. Say no to those shifts. It’s not up to you to fix the world. And if you still feel like you’re stressed, it may be time for a career move.


Looking for more tips? Ready for a more balanced life? You can find my course here.


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