15 Simple Ways To Successfully Prevent Nurse Practitioner Burnout
Written By: Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC
Burnout. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. But why? And what is it? Is burnout a clinically recognized condition or is it just another word for stress? More specifically, what is nurse practitioner burnout? As caregivers, we put a lot of our energy into other people and this can leave us with little left for ourselves, but we’re people too, and caregivers need care. Here we will go over 15 simple ways to successfully prevent nurse practitioner burnout.
What Is Nurse Practitioner Burnout?
Before we can get into the ways we can prevent nurse practitioner burnout, we first need to talk about what it is. Burnout is essentially a special type of stress that relates to your work
. Nurse practitioner (NP) burnout is this special type of stress related to your job as a nurse practitioner. This type of stress involves extreme physical and emotional fatigue that impacts your ability to function day to day and work. While the Mayo Clinic
notes that burnout is not a medical diagnosis, some countries acknowledge it as such, and even when it’s not a clinical diagnosis they may recognize the existence of burnout syndrome
and provide measures to help citizens navigate it within their profession. Burnout is different from excessive or routine stress in that it directly relates to your work- in this case, being a nurse practitioner.
What Are The Typical Symptoms Of Nurse Practitioner Burnout?
Nurse Practitioner Burnout symptoms
include but are not limited to:
◦ Low motivation to go to or do work
◦ Lack of energy that affects productivity at work
◦ Irritability with coworkers and patients
◦ Lack of work satisfaction
◦ A change in sleep
◦ Physical symptoms such as headaches, change in appetite, or nausea
◦ Concentration issues
HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY PREVENT NURSE PRACTITIONER BURNOUT?
(Following 15 simple ways will help you successfully prevent burnout as a nurse practitioner.)
1. Keeping a work-life balance
One of the main reasons people get burnout at work (including NPs) is that they lose sight of having a work-life balance. Don’t get me wrong, I know work is important, but there is a line between working hard and putting your job before everything else in your life. Having time and energy (mentally and physically) for activities and people outside of work is not just fun, it’s healthy. We need time to decompress and enjoy our life. One of the ways we do this is through engaging in meaningful activities on our own or with the people we care about.
2. Identifying and avoiding toxic work environments
One of the factors that contribute to nurse practitioner burnout is having a toxic work environment
. This means working with people and organizations that not only do not prioritize your wellbeing, but that may actively take advantage of you, or in extreme cases emotionally abuse you. Toxic work environments can occur in any place of employment. Being self-reflective and observing how your coworkers and supervisors respond when you go to them for help or support in moments of stress can help you identify these situations and thus help you avoid them. If you are interviewing for a job, see if you can talk to another NP working at the practice to see what their experience has been like. It may be even more informative if you can talk to an employee of the same gender, as gender dynamics can play a role in toxic work environments.
3. Knowing your role expectationsKnowing what is expected of you
is the first step to meeting your employer’s expectations. When you are unclear about what is expected of you, or if you are not sure how autonomously you can practice in your current clinical setting, you are at risk of experiencing undue stress when you feel like you are not meeting expectations.
4. Identifying and utilizing your support systems
Both inside and outside of the workplace it is important that you know who you can go to in times of need. What is even more important is that you leverage these support systems before you become burned out. Nurse practitioner burnout can be avoided when you have coworkers, supervisors, family, and friends who can lend an ear, offer advice, and share the workload when things start to become too much.
You’ve probably heard it before (but that’s because it’s true): exercise is a great way to relieve stress. Getting into an exercise habit before your job becomes too stressful means you will be regularly releasing stress and not letting it build up. Remember, burnout is when the stress from work becomes so excessive that you reach a point of unmanageable exhaustion.
How many times have you heard that you should aim for 8 hours of sleep per night? I know, probably a million. The research supports it though. When you are not sleeping well
or not sleeping enough, your brain isn’t able to recover from all the hard work it’s done while you worked all day as a nurse practitioner.
7. Practice mindfulness Mindfulness
is a practice that involves focusing on breathwork and being present. Mindfulness can help you reduce stress, and it has multiple physical and mental benefits. There are many apps and websites out there that can help you learn and practice it, you don’t need to pay for an expensive or time-consuming course.
8. Get professional support
Nurse practitioners spend all of their time caring for others, but we need care too. If you feel like you are getting too stressed out and not able to manage your job demands well, consider professional support like mental health counseling. Not only can this provide you with an outlet to release some of the stress you’ve been experiencing, but it can arm you with effective tools to reduce stress and prevent burnout.
9. Eat well
What you put into your body affects how you feel. Eating a well-balanced diet
can give you the energy you need to work as an NP during the day. Avoiding putting excessive amounts of unhealthy things (like sugar, caffeine, and alcohol) into your system can also prevent you from feeling unwell.
10. Prioritize self-care
As a nurse practitioner you work hard all day to care for others, and if you are going to effectively be there for them, you need to prioritize yourself as well. Remember, if you get burnout, you will be no good to your patients, your colleagues, and yourself. Take time to prioritize your wellness daily, and let that include non-work-related activities that make you happy.
11. Connect with your colleagues
Having meaningful relationships with the people you work with not only gives you a support network but also can help you WANT to go to work every day. If it feels right in the context of your work environment, try connecting with your colleagues outside of work. Sometimes these professional and personal relationships can make work feel less stressful.
12. Talk to other NPs
Do you work with other NPs? Do you have nurse practitioner friends outside of your work? Talk to them! Nurse practitioner burnout is not uncommon
, and neither is stress. Talking to others and recognizing that you are not alone can help you feel supported and help you manage stress. These connections can also help you learn from others about what they have done to manage stress, prevent burnout, and what they wish they had done differently.
13. Get outside
Fresh air and sunshine can do wonders…especially when you are cooped up inside all day. Identify a time every day when you can be outside and just be present. This can be a walk with a friend or some designated time for self-love and mindfulness practice.
14. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
Some of us like to have a drink at the end of the day or go out with friends. That’s all well and good and there is certainly a time and a place for this. However, if you are feeling stressed alcohol may not be your friend
. Drinking at your problems doesn’t work and will often make them worse (you’re an NP so you know alcohol is a depressant).
15. Look for a new job
Finally, if you have tried the above measures to prevent nurse practitioner burnout, and you don’t think it’s working, maybe it’s time to look for a new job. The nurse practitioner demand is high and only expected to grow, so don’t hesitate to look elsewhere if your current place of employment is no longer healthy for you.
So, what is nurse practitioner burnout? In short, this is when nurse practitioners experience excessive and unmanaged stress in their work environment that leads to a point of intense physical and mental exhaustion and leaves them unable to perform well at work. Anyone in any job can get burnout. The mental, emotional, and physical demands of being an NP can create a ripe environment for stress. If you are feeling stressed working as an NP, try these 15 simple ways to successfully prevent nurse practitioner burnout, and hopefully, you will find the enjoyment and fulfillment in your career that many NPs do.
Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC
Lauren Jacobson is a registered nurse and women’s health nurse practitioner who is passionate about global health and gender-based violence prevention. She is Editor and an Advisory Board Member for the Global Nursing Caucus and volunteers with Physicians for Human Rights as a medical evaluator for asylum seekers.