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15 Effective Strategies To Survive A Stressful Nurse Practitioner Job


Written By: Lauren Jacobson MS, RN, WHNP-BC

Are you wondering how to survive a stressful nurse practitioner job? Working as a nurse practitioner can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be incredibly stressful. Long hours, challenging patients, and a heavy workload can quickly lead to burnout and exhaustion. However, there are ways to manage stress and prevent burnout. In this blog article, we will explore 15 effective strategies to survive a stressful nurse practitioner job.


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ARE ALL NURSE PRACTITIONER JOBS STRESSFUL?


The short answer is no, not all nurse practitioner jobs are stressful. While working as a nurse practitioner can be a demanding job, the level of stress can vary depending on the specific role and work environment. For example, a nurse practitioner working in a busy emergency room or intensive care unit may face more stress and pressure than someone working in a primary care clinic or a specialty practice.

Additionally, the workload, patient population, and support staff can all impact the level of stress in a nurse practitioner job. That being said, no matter the job, all nurse practitioners must manage some level of stress in their work to ensure quality patient care and maintain their own well-being.

My NP job was pretty low-stress. I worked outpatient, my colleagues were like family, and I enjoyed the work. That doesn’t mean it was stress-free though. I still needed to utilize most of the strategies listed here to feel good.



5 MAIN REASONS WHY SOME NURSE PRACTITIONER JOBS CAN BE STRESSFUL


NPs play a crucial role in healthcare, providing primary care, specialized care, and other vital services to patients across the country. However, the job of a nurse practitioner can be extremely stressful. Here are the five main reasons why some nurse practitioner jobs can be stressful:

REASON #1: High patient volume

One of the primary reasons why some nurse practitioner jobs can be stressful is due to the high patient volume. Many nurse practitioners work in busy healthcare settings, such as hospitals or urgent care clinics, where they may see dozens of patients each day. This can result in long working hours and a tight schedule, with little room for breaks or rest. A high patient volume can also increase the risk of medical errors or oversights, which can be stressful for NPs who are committed to providing the best possible care to their patients.

To manage the stress of a high patient volume, nurse practitioners may need to prioritize self-care and time management, such as taking breaks when possible, delegating tasks to support staff, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.


REASON #2: Complex cases

Another significant source of stress for nurse practitioners is working with patients who have complex medical conditions. Many NPs specialize in caring for patients with chronic or acute illnesses, which can require extensive medical knowledge, collaboration with other healthcare providers, and ongoing follow-up care. This can be both physically and emotionally exhausting for NPs, as they may need to manage a range of symptoms, medications, and treatment options. Additionally, complex cases may require more time and resources, which can impact an NP's workload and overall stress level.

To manage the stress of complex cases, nurse practitioners may need to prioritize self-care, collaborate with other providers, and seek support from colleagues or supervisors when needed. Additionally, ongoing education and training can help NPs stay up-to-date on the latest medical treatments and best practices, which can help reduce stress and improve patient outcomes.


REASON #3: Staffing shortages

Staffing shortages can have a significant impact on the stress levels of nurse practitioners. When there are not enough staff members, NPs may need to take on additional responsibilities or work longer hours to keep up with demand. This can result in fatigue, burnout, and a higher risk of medical errors. Additionally, staffing shortages can impact the quality of patient care, as NPs may not have the resources or time to provide the level of care that patients need.

To manage the stress of staffing shortages, nurse practitioners may need to prioritize their workload, delegate tasks to support staff, and advocate for additional resources or staffing when needed. Additionally, seeking support from colleagues or supervisors and practicing self-care can help NPs manage the stress of a demanding workload.


REASON #4: Administrative duties

The administrative duties associated with a nurse practitioner job can also contribute to high levels of stress. NPs are responsible for a range of administrative tasks, such as managing patient records, handling insurance claims, and coordinating care with other healthcare providers. These tasks can be time-consuming and require significant attention to detail, which can add to an already busy workload. Additionally, administrative tasks can be frustrating and may not directly contribute to patient care, which can cause NPs to feel disconnected from the purpose of their work.

To manage the stress of administrative duties, nurse practitioners may need to prioritize time management and organization, delegate tasks when possible, and seek support from administrative staff or colleagues. Additionally, finding ways to connect administrative duties to the bigger picture of patient care can help NPs stay motivated and engaged.


REASON #5: Emotional demands

Finally, the emotional demands of a nurse practitioner job can also be significant. NPs often work with patients who are dealing with chronic or life-threatening illnesses, which can be emotionally challenging. Additionally, NPs may need to manage the emotional needs of patients' families, which can add an additional layer of stress. Providing compassionate care to patients who are struggling can be both physically and emotionally exhausting, which can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue.

To manage the emotional demands of a nurse practitioner job, NPs may need to prioritize self-care, seek support from colleagues or supervisors, and set boundaries to prevent emotional exhaustion. Additionally, ongoing education and training can help NPs develop the skills and strategies they need to provide effective emotional support to patients and their families.



HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY SURVIVE A STRESSFUL NURSE PRACTITIONER JOB?


(Learn about the 15 effective strategies to successfully survive a stressful nurse practitioner Job.)


STRATEGY #1: Prioritize self-care


About the Strategy:

Taking care of oneself is crucial for managing stress and avoiding burnout. This may involve engaging in regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and taking breaks when needed.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

NPs who take care of their physical and mental health are better equipped to handle the demands of their job. Exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep can help reduce stress and increase energy levels, which can improve job performance.

Additionally, taking breaks when needed and engaging in stress-reducing activities can help you recharge and refocus on the reasons you love your job as an NP.


STRATEGY #2: Seek support from colleagues or supervisors


About the Strategy:

Working as an NP can be isolating, especially when dealing with complex cases or difficult patients. Seeking support from colleagues or supervisors can provide a valuable outlet for discussing challenges and finding solutions. Additionally, working as part of a supportive team can help NPs feel more connected and motivated.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Seeking support from colleagues or supervisors is a crucial step for anyone in any field who has a stressful job. Working in healthcare can be an isolating experience, especially when dealing with high-pressure situations and complex medical cases, so it is even more important for NPs to lean on each other.

By seeking support from colleagues or supervisors, you can receive valuable feedback, insights, and guidance on how to manage stress and overcome challenges. Additionally, working in a supportive team environment can provide a sense of camaraderie and mutual support that can help you feel more connected and motivated. This strategy can minimize stress and create a more positive and fulfilling work experience.


STRATEGY #3: Set realistic expectations


About the Strategy:

It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the demands of a nurse practitioner job. Setting realistic expectations for workload and time management can help NPs avoid feeling like they are constantly playing catch-up.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Setting realistic expectations is an essential strategy for surviving a stressful nurse practitioner job because it helps NPs avoid feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. Nurse practitioners have a demanding job that requires them to manage complex medical cases and handle a high volume of patients.

Without setting realistic expectations for workload and time management, it can be easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you are constantly playing catch-up. This can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, and burnout, which can ultimately impact job performance and patient care. By setting realistic expectations, you can set boundaries with yourself and others that promote self and patient care.


STRATEGY #4: Practice time management


About the Strategy:

Managing time effectively is crucial for avoiding stress and preventing burnout. NPs may need to prioritize tasks, delegate responsibilities to support staff, and avoid overcommitting themselves.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Practicing time management is crucial for preventing stress and burnout in nurse practitioner jobs. By prioritizing tasks and delegating responsibilities, you can avoid feeling overwhelmed and stay on top of your workload.

Effective time management can also help you avoid overcommitting yourself which can lead to working long hours and feeling constantly behind. By setting realistic expectations for workload and managing time effectively, you can reduce stress.


STRATEGY #5: Use technology to streamline tasks


About the Strategy:

There are many tools available to help NPs streamline administrative tasks and manage patient care more effectively. Using technology can free up time and reduce the stress associated with paperwork and documentation. Paperwork is not the reason any of us decided to become an NP, but it can definitely contribute to stress at the end of a long day.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Using technology to streamline tasks - can make a significant difference in surviving a stressful nurse practitioner job. Administrative tasks, such as filling out paperwork, documentation, and scheduling appointments, can be time-consuming and overwhelming. By using technology tools, such as electronic medical records (EMRs) or scheduling software, nurse practitioners can automate these tasks and free up more time for patient care.

Workflow management tools, such as Trello or Asana, can help you manage your tasks and stay on top of deadlines. In addition, mobile apps can be used to access medical references, drug information, and other clinical resources, providing quick access to information that can help you make informed decisions. This not only reduces the administrative burden but also allows you to focus more on providing high-quality patient care.

Additionally, technology tools can help you work more efficiently and effectively, leading to increased job satisfaction and a better work-life balance. Overall, using technology can help you survive a stressful nurse practitioner job and ultimately provide better care to your patients.

In addition to using technology to help you with administrative duties, try to negotiate administrative time into your employment contract. These are a few hours a week that are designated to administrative work such as completing charts, reviewing labs, and calling patients. During admin time you won’t have patients scheduled.


STRATEGY #6: Maintain a healthy work-life balance


About the Strategy:

Finding a balance between work and personal life is essential for surviving a stressful nurse practitioner job, avoiding burnout, and maintaining overall well-being. This may involve setting boundaries around work hours or making time for hobbies and other activities outside of work.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for avoiding burnout and maintaining overall well-being. Nurse practitioners who prioritize their personal life and set boundaries around work hours are more likely to feel fulfilled in their career and have a greater sense of control over their life.

Engaging in hobbies or other activities outside of work can also provide a valuable outlet for stress and help NPs recharge and refocus. By maintaining a healthy work-life balance, NPs can avoid feeling like they are constantly on call and create a better sense of harmony between their personal and professional lives. This, in turn, can lead to increased job satisfaction and improved job performance.

No job, no matter how rewarding you find it, is worth sacrificing the rest of your life and your health for. In my positions as an NP, RN, and other health-related fields, I have been faced with the work-life balance struggle. Sometimes, I have burned the candle at two ends. Other times I have struck the balance right. Never have I regretted the times when I set boundaries with myself and others and found balance.


STRATEGY #7: Engage in stress-reducing activities


About the Strategy:

You know how we counsel our patients on stress reduction? Yes? Well, it’s time to take a bit of our own medicine. There are many activities that can help reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature. Engaging in these activities can help you recharge and refocus, which can improve job performance.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Engaging in stress-reducing activities, such as meditation or yoga, can make a significant difference in successfully surviving a stressful nurse practitioner job.

These activities help to reduce the levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress, in the body. By reducing cortisol levels, the body is better able to relax, and the mind can focus. Engaging in these activities can also help you recharge and refocus, allowing you to approach your work with renewed energy and perspective. Overall, incorporating stress-reducing activities into your daily routine can help you manage stress.

By the way, you don’t need to spend all your hard-earned NP money on a hot yoga studio. I have been doing Yoga for years, both inside and outside of a studio and have come to love Do Yoga With Me. They have numerous high-quality free videos on their website.


STRATEGY #8: Develop coping skills


About the Strategy:

Again…how many of you have advised patients to seek out therapy? How many of you have done it yourself? I am a firm believer that we all need a little therapy sometimes. If you’re not ready to take that plunge yet, the internet has plenty of ways to teach you coping skills. Learning effective coping skills can help NPs manage stress and prevent burnout. Coping skills may include deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, journaling, among others.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Developing coping skills is an important strategy for successfully surviving a stressful nurse practitioner job. Coping skills refer to the mental and emotional strategies that individuals use to manage stress and prevent burnout. When you encounter challenging situations, such as a difficult patient or a complex medical case, having effective coping skills can help you remain calm and focused.

Coping skills may include techniques such as deep breathing exercises, visualization, or talking to a therapist. Coping skills are an important tool for any nurse practitioner to have in their toolkit.

Additionally, I have been to therapy myself and while you should think before sharing personal details with patients, I have found that letting some patients know that I have been to therapy can help motivate them to go. This is particularly for patients who feel stigmatized for their mental health conditions and are resistant to therapy. Of course, you need to decide for yourself what is safe to share with people and when, and it’s important to avoid projecting onto your patients.


STRATEGY #9: Practice mindfulness


About the Strategy:

Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and paying attention to one's thoughts and feelings without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can help NPs manage stress and avoid feeling overwhelmed.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Practicing mindfulness can be a powerful tool for managing stress in a nurse practitioner job. By practicing mindfulness, you can cultivate a greater sense of awareness and perspective, which can help them manage stress more effectively.

Mindfulness can also help you avoid becoming overwhelmed by the demands of your job and develop greater emotional resilience. Ultimately, incorporating mindfulness into one's daily routine can make a significant difference in managing stress and avoiding burnout.


STRATEGY #10: Stay organized


About the Strategy:

Being organized can help NPs manage their workload more effectively and reduce the stress associated with missed deadlines or misplaced paperwork. I know you may think you are already organized…but trust me, being an NP will put your organizational skills to the test.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Staying organized is an essential strategy for surviving a stressful nurse practitioner job. Being organized means having a system in place for managing tasks, deadlines, and paperwork. When NPs are organized, they can focus on patient care and avoid feeling overwhelmed by administrative duties.

Additionally, being organized can help you manage your workload more effectively, which can reduce stress and prevent burnout. For example, having a system for managing patient files and medical records can help you quickly access information and make informed decisions about patient care. Overall, staying organized is a valuable tool for you to manage stress and successfully navigate the demands of your job.


STRATEGY #11: Practice effective communication


About the Strategy:

Clear and effective communication is essential for managing stress and preventing misunderstandings. NPs may need to communicate with patients, families, and other healthcare providers, and developing strong communication skills can help avoid unnecessary stress.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Effective communication is essential in any workplace, but it is especially important in the field of healthcare. Nurse practitioners are responsible for communicating with patients, families, and other healthcare providers, and effective communication skills can help avoid misunderstandings and prevent unnecessary stress.

When you communicate clearly and effectively, you can build trust and rapport with patients, which can improve patient outcomes and reduce the likelihood of medical errors. Additionally, clear communication can help you feel more confident and in control, which can reduce the stress associated with feeling overwhelmed or unprepared.


STRATEGY #12: Take breaks when needed


About the Strategy:

Taking breaks throughout the day can help you recharge and refocus, which can improve job performance and prevent burnout.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Taking breaks throughout the day may seem like a small strategy, but it can make a big difference in successfully surviving a stressful nurse practitioner job. Working in healthcare can be fast-paced and demanding, leaving little time for breaks. However, it is possible.

When you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, taking a few minutes to step away from your work can help you clear your mind and return to your tasks with renewed energy and focus. Additionally, taking breaks can help prevent physical discomfort associated with sitting or standing for extended periods, which can improve overall well-being.

Though not ideal, sometimes for me, this has looked like going to the bathroom and taking a few deep breaths. If possible, I advise you to take a bit more of a break than this.


STRATEGY #13: Stay up-to-date on best practices


About the Strategy:

Staying current with the latest medical treatments and best practices can help you provide high-quality care and avoid feeling overwhelmed or unprepared. There are many ways to stay up to date…not least of which is using Up To Date. If not already included, see if you can negotiate an Up To Date subscription with your employer.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Staying up to date on best practices is crucial for managing your workload effectively and preventing burnout. With new medical treatments and best practices being developed regularly, staying current ensures that you can provide high-quality care to your patients. By staying up to date, you can feel more confident and prepared to handle complex cases, reducing stress associated with feeling overwhelmed or unprepared.

It also shows a commitment to ongoing education and professional development, which can help you build a successful career and stay engaged in your work. Overall, staying up to date on best practices is essential for nurse practitioners to provide optimal care and manage stress in a demanding job.


STRATEGY #14: Seek ongoing education and training


About the Strategy:

Continuing education can help NPs develop new skills and stay up to date on the latest developments in their field. This can improve job performance and help you survive a stressful nurse practitioner job.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

This can make a significant difference in helping nurse practitioners successfully survive a stressful job. It is also often required to maintain licensure and/or certification.

Additionally, continuing education can help you develop new skills and build confidence in your abilities, which can reduce stress and prevent burnout. Ongoing training can also provide NPs with a sense of purpose and motivation, helping them stay engaged and passionate about their work. Ultimately, seeking ongoing education and training can help NPs provide better care, improve their job performance, and reduce the stress associated with feeling overwhelmed or unprepared.


STRATEGY #15: Find a mentor


About the Strategy:

Finding a mentor who has experience in the field can provide valuable support and guidance for managing stress and building a successful career as a nurse practitioner, as well as help you survive a stressful nurse practitioner job.

How Following this Strategy Makes a Difference:

Having a mentor who can provide guidance, advice, and support to help you navigate the challenges of your job makes a significant difference in successfully surviving a stressful nurse practitioner job. A mentor who has experience in the field can offer valuable insights and knowledge, which can help you build your skills and confidence. How do you find a mentor? Looking at your colleagues and former preceptors is a good place to start.

Additionally, a mentor can provide emotional support, which can help you manage stress and avoid burnout. Having a mentor who is available to listen and offer advice can help you feel more connected to your profession and more motivated to continue to grow and develop your skills.



MY FINAL THOUGHTS


Are you still wondering how to survive a stressful nurse practitioner job? You will never have a job that will be 100% stress-free all the time. Being a nurse practitioner is no exception, in fact, there are many scenarios where you may find yourself highly stressed as an NP. A stressful nurse practitioner job can be challenging, but there are many effective strategies that can help NPs successfully navigate these difficulties. By implementing the 15 effective strategies to survive a stressful nurse practitioner job discussed in this article, you can reduce stress, improve job satisfaction, and provide high-quality patient care.

If you haven’t noticed, all these strategies are interconnected. You don’t need to master them all at once. One will likely lead to another. Whether it's taking time for self-care, finding a mentor, or using technology to streamline administrative tasks, there are many practical steps that you can take to survive a stressful nurse practitioner job. By prioritizing your well-being and using these strategies, you can not only survive but thrive in your profession.


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.