• 29 August 2019
  • 13 min read

What is Nursing burnout and can we manage it?

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

In this month’s video Chloe talks from personal experience to explore what burnout means for Nurses, how to recognise the symptoms and how Nurses can address it in their job. This video is really about observing burnout while next month’s video will look at how to prevent it and find your way back afterward.

Play video: Chloe explains what Burnout means for her and how it can impact Nurses at work

Topics covered in this video

00:43 - Nursing isn’t all sunshine and rainbows

01:48 - What is burnout?

03:10 - How burn out affected me

04:40 - We need to support one another

05:41 - Recognise burnout early

07:22 - How it can affect our work as Nurses

08:59 - How can we alleviate burnout in nursing?

Watch more videos by Chloe

00:43 - Nursing isn’t all sunshine and rainbows

Today I thought we would go ahead and talk about burnout.

I usually try to cover much kind of happier and more positive topics here on my channel. But I don’t want to sugarcoat things for you guys.

Nursing isn't all sunshine and rainbows.

As much as I love my job you know nursing is a hard career.

I’m not gonna lie to you guys I try to ensure that my nursing videos are the right kind of balance between being optimistic and positive and sharing with you guys my love for my career.

But also you know a healthy dose of realism because I'm not helping anyone if I just convince you guys it’s all gonna be great because in reality we all struggle at times and I think burnout is something that every nurse will face at least once in their career.

If you haven't seen my face before then I am a mental health nurse and I graduated almost a year ago now.

Wow I literally can't get over that I have been a qualified nurse for a year.

I paid my NMC renewal fees last week and it was a bittersweet moment!

01:48 - What is burnout?

Let me tell you so what is burnout if you want a dictionary definition it is a state of emotional physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress.

So stress is part of burnout but they are definitely different things.

The way I would describe it is everyone that's burnt out has been stressed.

But not everyone that's stressed is burnt out, if that makes sense?

For me these difficulties will start and then it'll kind of keep going and growing until it becomes burnout.

And how does being burnout actually make you feel?

Obviously this is gonna vary from person to person but the kind of general consensus the general themes are a sense of being really overwhelmed and kind of emotionally drained.

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The way I would describe it is that kind of like desperately trying to keep your head above water when you're not a strong swimmer.

But no matter how you want to describe it I think we can all agree it's not a good feeling it's not a good place to be.

And if all the stresses that are making you feel burnt out continue then you're likely to lose all interest and motivation in the thing that's making you feel burnt out.

Which is probably gonna be your nursing which is why I think it's so important to talk about these kind of things and recognize that as a nurse it is normal to get burnt out at times and that's okay.

It doesn't make you a bad nurse it doesn't make you a bad person. It doesn't mean that you’re not good enough or you're not resilient enough.

It is okay to get burned out.

03:10 - How burn affected me

The important thing is to recognize it early and deal with it in the right way so this video is much more gonna be about like what burnout is what does it look like: recognizing it and normalizing it.

I think we as nurses need to give ourselves a break!

And then my video next month is gonna be more about how to prevent burnout and how to get back from it when you are burnt out.

And obviously there are loads of different things that can make you feel a burn out.

It can be family stress stress within your relationships friendships school, university career anything.

But obviously since I am a nurse I can best speak about burnout as a nurse.

And to be honest with you the main reason I wanted to make a video on this topic this month is because I have been feeling really quite burned out recently and it's left me feeling, you know, quite disheartened thinking I'm only a year into my career and I'm already feeling burnt out.

But I wanted to have this conversation with you guys know you guys that it is okay and that we can get through this together.

Being burnt out reduces your productivity, squashes your energy, leaves you feeling hopeless and helpless and in fact carries on.

Then you're gonna wind up in a situation where you're feeling cynical and resentful.

I can almost guarantee it that anybody watching this that is student nurse or qualified nurse will come across at least one nurse that's incredibly cynical, perhaps they even seem like they resent their job or resent their patients.

And whilst as somebody who's new to the field that can be really frustrating because you want to come in with all this energy and enthusiasm and what you're getting back is this kind of like double downer.

04:40 - We need to support one another

As I said I think we need to give ourselves as nurses a break.

So try not to be too hard on nurses that have got that negative outlook.

It’s certainly not gonna help them change their negative outlook.

If you're also being quite hard on them I can almost guarantee that they were not like that when they first got into nursing.

Nobody gets into this career because they want to be burnt out and stressed and resentful.

I think we as nurses need to recognize that what we do is difficult.

It is really difficult at times, particularly with the way the NHS is at the moment with underfunding and staffing issues.

If nobody's told you this recently you are doing a great job!

Okay, I'm certainly not saying it’s acceptable for nurses to let their practice be affected by their cynicism whether that comes from a place of being burnout or not.

But I don't think we should be turning on each other.

I think we should be supporting each other and we should be challenging these kind of negative attitudes within nursing.

But there is a supportive and understanding way of going about that which is much more likely to have the outcome you're looking for.

05:41 - Recognise burnout early

A really important thing for me in terms of burnout is being able to recognize it.

If you can recognize it early then hopefully you can nip it in the bud before it gets any worse.

The trouble comes when people don't know how to recognize it until it's too late and then it feels like you've just been smacked over the head with a frying pan.

And it's like where is this coming from - it’s come completely out of the blue.

Well in reality it hasn’t.

You just haven't recognized the early signs and I think that is exactly what happened to me a couple of months ago.

Just out of nowhere I felt so burnt out and yet in hindsight it didn't come out of nowhere.

Like the signs were there all along; I just weren't picking up on them and acting on them.

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So I've mentioned a few times now the signs that someone's becoming burnt out but what are they?

There's all different kinds of ways that stress and becoming burnt out manifest itself.

These can manifest themselves in physical, mental and behavioural signs.

Some of the physical things that you want to look out for include:

• being exhausted and drained all the time

• I'm talking coming home from work exhausted

• having eight hours sleep and still waking up exhausted

You might also find that you're getting ill more often because being quite stressed (as I'm sure many of you know) reduces your immune system.

So if you find you're just getting loads of coughs and colds and bugs that could definitely be another physical sign that you’re becoming burnt out.

A change in your appetite or your sleeping pattern is also something to watch out for and frequent headaches and kind of muscle aches and pains that can't be explained away - all things to be aware of.

Those are things that you might be spotting yourself but also that you can kind of easily spot in other people as well if you know them well enough.

The emotional signs are obviously a little bit harder.

07:22 - How it can affect our work as Nurses

It's much more likely that you're going to notice them in yourself than you would in other people.

But it can be things like a sense of failure, self-doubt.

You know, that kind of ‘I'm not a good nurse’, ‘what am I doing in this job’ - feeling really helpless and trapped and becoming really kind of like detached and disinterested from your job and your life in general.

And then a lack of motivation and interest particularly in your job is something that I really look out for.

And then some behavioural signs might be becoming a bit more withdrawn or isolated.

I am so good at time management but when I'm feeling really stressed I procrastinate like anything.

Also taking your frustrations out on other people. Not an ideal thing to be doing and definitely a sign that something's wrong.

So what causes burnout is usually a combination of different factors which again can come from multiple areas of your life and it's gonna be different for everyone.

Some people might have a slightly high threshold, some people a slightly lower threshold. And that's okay: we are all individuals; we're all human.

I couldn't imagine robots ever taking over the job of a nurse because it relies on us being human and that can sometimes be hard.

The factors in particular to look out for though are feeling like you've got no control in your workplace.

So this could be due to the doctors or the consultants in your team, or due to management.

There’s all kinds of reasons why you might feel like you're not in control when you're at work.

08:59 - How can we alleviate burnout in nursing?

I think if I ever end up in management that's one thing that I will really really instil within my team that I wouldn't want my only interactions with people to be when they've done something “wrong”.

I feel like we should be praising people for when they're doing a really good job in quite often difficult circumstances.

Overly demanding work expectations which I think is something that a lot of nurses will be facing, particularly when you're quite short-staffed.

Make sure a lot more isn't expected of the staff you have got.

Working in a chaotic or a high-pressure environment isn’t going to be great for your stress levels and trying to avoid burnout.

If you've got all these kind of work stresses and then you couple that with some things going on in your personal life (not getting enough sleep, not eating very well, not having time to your friends, not exercising) you're gonna wind up getting burnout.

So that's everything I wanted to talk about in this video.

I hope you guys didn't think it was too negative, but I think it's really important for us to be talking about this as nurses - to recognize that it is okay to be stressed and the becoming burnt out does not mean you're a bad nurse.

It doesn't mean you're not resilient enough. It doesn’t mean you're not good at your job.

What’s important is being able to recognize it early which hopefully you'll be able to do a little bit better after this video.

And then, as I said, in the next nursing video that I do it's gonna be all about how to avoid getting burnt out.

And, if you do end up getting burnt out, how to pull yourself back from that.

As I said it wasn't that long ago that I was feeling burnt out myself, but I’m feeling much more motivated now.

I’m starting to enjoy my job again and having been burnt out once I can tell you that I don't want to be burnt out again!

Watch more videos by Chloe

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About the author

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in August of 2018 and started as a newly qualified nurse shortly after. On top of nursing I juggle creating content for both my YouTube channel and blog.

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  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

About the author

  • Chloe Lawrence
    Registered Mental Health Nurse

I qualified as a Mental Health Nurse (RMN) in August of 2018 and started as a newly qualified nurse shortly after. On top of nursing I juggle creating content for both my YouTube channel and blog.