Signs of burnout and prevention tips everyone should learn in nursing school

Workplace burnout is not a new phenomenon, but it is rising, especially in the healthcare field and at all levels ranging from doctors and nurse practitioners to registered nurses and physician assistants. Researchers at Mayo Clinic report more than half of U.S. physicians are now experiencing some level of professional burnout*. If doctors are feeling the burn, there’s a great chance that many of the world’s more than 19 million nurses are as well.

When beginning a career in nursing, the focus is often on how best to help others and not necessarily on how to help oneself. As a result, many nurses face the unfortunate and sometimes inevitable burnout. Nurses are invaluable assets to their organizations yet remain proud members of an increasingly demanding profession. Long shifts, poor staffing, the fast pace, and a lack of autonomy are common complaints. And aside from these daily stressors, many nursing professionals also worry about budget cuts, departmental changes, and issues with the economy. As a result, job fatigue can overwhelm the workplace.

Signs of Burnout Everyone Should Learn in Nursing School

Nurses are some of the most stressed-out health care workers in the industry. If not dealt with properly, high levels of stress can lead to not only burnout, but significant health problems. Stress can effect one’s mood, body and behaviors and when ignored, it can contribute to a number of issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.§

Some of the most common visible signs of nurse burnout include calling in sick, arriving to work late or leaving early, not meeting deadlines, having relationship issues, problems with relationships, and more.**

Tips to Avoid Burnout During Your Nursing Career

Getting back to basics can help realign your mental and physical health. Burnout may seem inevitable, but here are five ways nurses can avoid complete burnout.

  • Exercise. Exercise has the power to improve your health and well-being while decreasing stress. The key to exercise is the boost to your endorphins that help you feel good. When you feel good, your mood improves and the stress melts away.††
  • Eat. Drinking water and eating vegetables, fruit, and oil-rich fish while reducing your intake of sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate can positively impact mental health. With a balanced diet, stressful times can be less impactful.‡‡
  • Meditate. A common technique used for reducing stress, meditation can do wonders to improve your mental health just when you need it. It’s easy, free, and anyone can do it whenever the need arises, whether it’s during a difficult shift, waiting on line, or riding the train.§§
  • Sleep. Sleep is a powerful combatant to stress, and a lack of sleep can cause people to feel more stressed. While we sleep, our bodies rest, muscles repair themselves, and all of the day’s thoughts consolidate into memories. Without good or enough sleep, we have difficulty remembering things, our mood swings, and our decision-making waffles.***
  • Pivot. Sometimes a change of scenery or specialization can help relieve burnout. Today, nurses work in a variety of settings and have the ability to focus on numerous areas critical to nursing, including nursing informatics, adult/gerontology, leadership and management, and becoming a nurse educator. Nurses with a master’s degree in nursing have the best chance to pivot into less stressful environments to avoid complete burnout.

Another great way to learn how best to destress is by fully understanding how biological, psychological, and motivational components work together to create this feeling of burnout. Learn several recovery strategies to recover from this situation during a free webinar hosted by Walden University. This webinar is hosted by Walden University, the no. 1 in Master of Science in Nursing graduates in the U.S.†††. Nurses who attend and complete the evaluation will earn 1.0 Contact Hours for Continuing Nursing Education.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online nursing degree programs, including the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with eight specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


*T. Shanafelt et. al, Changes in Burnout and Satisfaction With Work-Life Balance in Physicians and the General US Working Population Between 2011 and 2014, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, on the internet at www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(15)00716-8/abstract.

† Minority Nurse, Avoiding Workplace Fatigue, on the internet at www.minoritynurse.com/avoiding-workplace-fatigue/.

‡USF Health, Signs You’re Experiencing Nurse Burnout, on the internet at www.usfhealthonline.com/resources/career/signs-you-are-experiencing-nurse-burnout/.

§Mayo Clinic, Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior, on the internet at www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987.

**Medical Solutions, Manager’s Guide: Seven Signs That Your Nurses May Be Suffering From Burnout & How to Prevent it at Your Hospital, on the internet at www.medicalsolutions.com/wpmedia/2012/05/eBook-Preventing-Nurse-Burnout.pdf.

††Mayo Clinic, Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress, on the internet at www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469.

‡‡W. Lawson, Eat Right to Fight Stress, Psychology Today, on the internet at www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200302/eat-right-fight-stress.

§§Mayo Clinic, Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress, on the Internet at www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858.

***American Psychological Association, Stress and Sleep, on the internet at www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/sleep.aspx.

††† Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Retrieved July 2017, using CIP code 51.3801 (Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse). Includes 2016 preliminary data.

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