A 2017 study from RNnetwork, one of the largest, travel nursing companies in the country, shows nearly half of the nurses they surveyed are considering leaving the field altogether. RNnetwork provided an email poll to more than 600 nurses across the nation to assess their views on hot-button issues like the national nursing shortage, increasing workloads, the struggle to find work/life balance, and how respected they feel in their current jobs. Most of the survey’s participants work in hospitals and range in age from 25 to 55. Following are the main reasons nurses are contemplating leaving the profession.
1. They feel overworked.
The feeling of being overworked is the primary reason 27% of the respondents give as to why they want to leave. In fact, almost half the nurses polled report an increase in their workloads compared to just two years ago, likely due to the growing nursing shortage. However, their pay isn’t reflective of the greater workplace demands employers expect of them.
2. They no longer enjoy the job.
This study identified some key factors that contribute to a lack of enjoyment of the job. First, 32% of nurses disclosed they feel disrespected by their administration. Additionally, several nurses revealed they had been the target of workplace bullying and harassment. According to RNnetwork:
- 45% of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by other nurses.
- 41% of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by managers or administrators.
- 38% of nurses have been verbally harassed or bullied by physicians.
More than half of the employees who experienced this negative job environment are considering quitting the profession. Workplace bullying and harassment seem to be a strong catalyst for why some nurses may feel it’s time to exit this career path.
3. Their place of employment isn’t conducive to a healthy work/life balance.
As stated in the study, 43% of respondents conveyed their workplaces don’t support a healthy work/life balance. Although nurses didn’t report working more hours than two years ago, the additional workload without further compensation is one possible obstacle to cultivating that delicate balance between work and personal activities. Furthermore, 45% of participants are taking extra jobs to augment their current income.
But the study showed some good news as well. A reported 65% of nurses feel respected by physicians in the workplace. Moreover, 63% of participants believe they spend the right amount of time at work, and 61% say they have the same amount or more free time now than they did two years ago.
While there are many more reasons nurses end up leaving their jobs, one question needs to be answered: What can employers do to keep more nurses in the profession?
Do you feel exhausted, anxious, or dread the thought of going to work each day? In last month’s article, we discussed these subtle signs (and more) which indicate your body may be headed for burnout. Already feeling burned out? Let’s look at some steps you can take to overcome this chronic, stressful state and begin thriving again.
1. Identify the source of the stress.
The Mayo Clinic offers this tip for pinpointing the circumstances that are causing you to feel overwhelmed: “Once you’ve identified what’s fueling your feelings of job burnout, you can make a plan to address the issues.” If you have trouble recognizing the cause, try tracking your job responsibilities for a few days, and write down how you feel after you’ve done each activity. Tracking your feelings will help you concentrate your efforts on the areas that are truly quelling your passion for nursing.
2. Minimize your time with these stressors.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests you may need to consider reducing your workload or taking a vacation as ways to recover from burnout. HBR also recommends limiting your interaction with people who leave you feeling drained and delegating the tasks that don’t require your personal touch to other people. Furthermore, they advise to disconnect from your work when you finish your shift and on your days off. Bottom line: Don’t take your work home with you. What happens at the hospital (or another facility), stays at the hospital.
3. Find a support network.
Perhaps you have supportive colleagues, friends, or family members who can help you through this challenging time. However, for some nurses, the level of burnout requires the assistance of a professional. Try not to view your quest for help as a sign of weakness, but rather, a bold step forward toward creating the life and the working environment you want. Additionally, many employers will offer an Employee Assistance Program to help you resolve personal and work-related problems. Take advantage of whatever services are available to you.
4. Practice self-care.
An article from Sanford Brown College makes this observation regarding workplace burnout in nurses, “Even the strongest nurse who puts too much devotion into her work faces the risk of ‘compassion fatigue.’” It’s easy to get caught up in taking care of others and neglecting your needs. But cultivating a balance between work and your personal activities will go a long way in helping you heal from burnout. Sanford Brown offers these pearls of wisdom for struggling nurses:
“Good self-care for nurses includes eating well, getting enough sleep, avoiding harmful substances and staying physically active. You may be on your feet all day at work, but the rest of your body needs a different kind of workout. Maintaining strong mental and spiritual health (if appropriate) is also essential. Whether it is meditation, yoga or prayer, set aside a part of the day to find a calming moment that belongs only to you.”
5. Find a creative outlet.
When you’re in a state of burnout, you’re more prone to making mistakes, losing focus, and feeling unhappy. Research suggests creative endeavors can enhance your mood, increase your energy, boost your immune system, lower stress levels, and provide a positive distraction from the things that are weighing you down. Been itching to try a writing class? Maybe you’ve been eyeing a community pottery class for several months. Now, is the perfect time to tap into your creative side and reconnect with the joy and wonder of life.
6. Consider your options.
Have an honest talk with yourself. If you’ve tried the above tips to no avail, it might be time for you to consider a job change. While it’s not an easy decision to make, you may find you’re more fulfilled in a less demanding job that supports your values and beliefs.
The Mayo Clinic defines workplace burnout as “a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.” While burnout can happen after a traumatic event, often, it’s the discrete signals your body gives you that go unnoticed as you strive to care for others. In other words, you may not even notice you’re headed for burnout until it’s too late. Let’s examine some of the subtle signs of workplace burnout before it poses a threat to your health or your employment as a nurse.
1. You’re tired all the time.
Initially, you may feel lethargic and lack energy on most days. However, as burnout progresses, you’re likely to experience a constant state of depletion and have difficulty mustering up the stamina you need to stay attentive on the job. Furthermore, you’ll find it takes a long time to restore your energy reserves from one day to the next.
2. The idea of going to work each day seems dreadful to you.
As burnout progresses, your sense of optimism diminishes, and your mental state is more likely to be negative. If you feel dread settling into the pit of your stomach whenever you think about work, it’s a good indicator you’re in burnout mode.
3. You have an increase in physical symptoms.
In a November 2013 article in Psychology Today, author Sherrie Bourg Carter, PsyD, notes a range of physical symptoms linked to burnout. These symptoms include (but aren’t limited to) insomnia, loss of appetite, chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal pain, dizziness, fainting, and headaches. However, Bourg Carter acknowledges these complaints can overlap with other medical problems, and she recommends being medically assessed to rule out other factors besides burnout.
4. You’re forgetful or have difficulty concentrating.
Does your usual, sharp memory seem a little fuzzy? Perhaps you’re not able to do as much during your shift as you used to do. When your work drains you, it becomes more challenging to concentrate and remember specific details. Your focus decreases, and you may feel overwhelmed as your nursing duties suddenly seem more taxing to manage.
5. You feel anxious.
Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, restlessness, and tension. If the mere thought of work invokes worry and makes you unable to relax, this could be your mind and body giving you a much-needed wake-up call if you don’t make some serious changes.
The good news is that you can prevent workplace burnout. Bourg Carter offers this sound advice regarding this condition, “Its nature is much more insidious, creeping up on us over time like a slow leak, which makes it much harder to recognize. Still, our bodies and minds do give us warnings, and if you know what to look for, you can recognize it before it’s too late.” The key to preventing burnout is to notice how you’re feeling each day, regularly practice self-care, take inventory of the priorities in your life, set boundaries, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Knowing a few simple breathwork strategies can be a valuable tool for nurses during a hectic workday. While you’re probably most familiar with the pursed lip breathing technique you use on your patients who are short of breath, other types of breathwork can be beneficial to you, the clinician, as an active self-care activity. Breathwork can help you feel more relaxed, lessen anxiety, energize you, and experience an overall reduction in stress–all things you need when your job places you in intense situations from time to time. Since breathing can be both an unconscious and conscious activity, a common belief among various mind-body practices is that breathing is a way to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the nervous system, enhancing your sense of well-being. The following breathing techniques are easy to use while you’re on the go, and they will help you inhale and exhale your way through challenging situations.
1. The Five Count Breath
This breathing technique is borrowed from Pilates as a way to oxygenate your body and diminish muscle tension (particularly in your rib cage and thoracic spine). Begin with a long inhale through your nose as you count to five. As you take a breath, picture your lungs filling up with fresh, restorative air. Next, count to five as you slowly exhale all the air out of your lungs. Imagine wringing the stale air out of your lungs. If possible, close your eyes while doing this exercise to envision the inflation and deflation of your lungs. Repeat this cycle five to 10 times as needed to reduce stress.
2. Belly Breathing
When your body is tense, your breathing has a tendency to become quick and shallow. Whereas, when you’re in a relaxed state, your breath flows more deeply from your abdomen. The belly breathing technique helps to bring your body back to a state of calm and can be used in settings where you’re trying to remain inconspicuous. In his book, The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, clinical psychologist, Dr. Edmund J. Bourne, PhD, lists some benefits of belly breathing, such as:
- Enhancing the connection between the mind and body.
- Better concentration.
- Increased feelings of tranquility.
- A quieter mind.
Belly breathing isn’t difficult to perform. To begin, Inhale through your nose and let the breath first fill your lungs with air and progress to filling your abdomen. If you were to place your hand on your belly, you could see it rise during inhalation. Next, slowly exhale your breath through your nose emptying out as much air as possible. If your hand was on your abdomen, it would now be falling toward your spine. Do this sequence 10-15 times, and you should feel an increased sense of serenity.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This yogic breathing technique may look a little silly doing it in front of others, but it’s meant to bring harmony to your body, integrate the right and left sides of your brain, energize you, and encourage focus. It’s a caffeine boost minus the caffeine. To start, use your thumb to press your right nostril closed while you inhale deeply through your left nostril. When your lungs are full of air, press the left nostril closed using your ring finger and exhale through your right nostril. Continue this cyclical pattern of inhaling through your right nostril and exhaling through your left for approximately 30 seconds to reset your body. Although it might take a few tries to get this breathing exercise right, once you’ve got the hang of it, you should feel more at ease and settled.
It’s no secret a busy nurse will spend most working hours indoors. During the winter months, you will probably arrive at your job as the sun is coming up, and you leave when the sun is going down. However, remaining in the same environment every day can lead to feeling bored, tired, or unmotivated. With just a few minutes a day, going outside can improve your mental and physical well-being and help you take on any challenge. Here are a few reasons to get outside each day.
1. Enhanced immune function
A recent study published in Scientific Report by Georgetown Medical Center proposed exposure to sunlight may strengthen your immune system by way of mechanisms that are entirely independent from Vitamin D. Researchers suggest the visible, blue-light from the sun might trigger critical immune cells and increase their motility. While this is still an emerging area of study, it looks like your immune system would certainly benefit from some regular time in the sun.
2. Reduced stress
Are you feeling burned-out and overwhelmed? Depending on the setting you work in, it can be challenging to find convenient, green spaces to get some fresh air. However, heading outside at least once during the day is worth the effort. Research shows even a five-minute nature fix helps lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Can’t get outside? As you’re walking by a window, stop and gaze out for a moment. Reports show that viewing nature through a window can also lower your stress levels.
3. Increased PMA
Positive mental attitude: Who doesn’t want to approach life with more positivity and less negative thinking? One study found that more frequent exposure to natural elements correlates with lower feelings of depression, greater workplace satisfaction, and commitment. Furthermore, a brisk trip outside boosts your mood and increases your creativity, which, when dealing with a variety of personalities, can come in very handy.
4. Better sleep
If you have trouble sleeping, that’s all the more reason to make stepping outside during the day a priority. A study conducted by St. Louis University demonstrated the power of natural sunlight to help set your body’s internal clock to signal when you need to eat and sleep. If your sleep problems are severe, you’ll require more exposure to sunlight than the five-minute stress relieving recommendation mentioned earlier. In fact, the study suggests you’ll need 30 to 60 minutes of direct sunlight for sleep patterns to change drastically.
5. Improved energy
Are you feeling drained during the work day? The answer to feeling depleted may lie in getting outside your physical workplace. Studies show that people who connect with nature tend to feel more energized and revitalized–two key factors to help make your job easier. Furthermore, the energizing effects of going outside seem to be amplified with social interaction. So, whenever possible, grab a colleague and head outside for a change of scenery.