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Spotlight on Walden // Nov 14, 2017

Taking Care of the Caregiver

A nurse speaks with a patient.Though not a new phenomenon, workplace burnout is hitting the healthcare industry now more than ever. Nurses, which make up the largest group of the global healthcare workforce at more than 19 million strong, are feeling the effects of a demanding profession coupled with a nursing shortage. Burnout is often described as mental or compassion fatigue and has the ability to affect a nurse’s performance and personal life. “In this critical time in global healthcare, it’s equally important for nurses to promote their own health and safety as they do for their patients,” explains Dr. Andrea Lindell, dean of the School of Nursing at Walden University.

While some nursing specialists—including palliative care, emergency room, and oncology nurses—experience more burnout than others, the reality is that all nurses are susceptible to the unfortunate and sometimes inevitable burnout. According to Medical Solutions, a healthcare staffing company, some of the most common visible signs of nurse burnout include calling in sick, arriving to work late or leaving early, not meeting deadlines, and having relationship issues.

As hospitals and other healthcare centers continually educate nurses on practicing self-care, nurses should also practice the same measures they teach and research, according to the Code of Ethics. To avoid burnout, it’s recommended that nurses:

  1. Eat a healthy diet. Drinking more water and eating more vegetables, fruit, and oil-rich fish are components of a healthy diet. While alcohol, sugar, and caffeine may seem to alleviate stress in the moment, they can otherwise impact mental health.
  2. Exercise. Exercise is a common stress-reducer because it boosts the feel-good endorphins. It’s important to make time to channel job stress that can realign mental and physical health.
  3. Get sufficient rest. According to the American Psychological Association, sleep helps our bodies rest, repair muscles, and consolidate the day’s thoughts into memories. Lack of enough quality sleep makes it difficult to remember, can create mood swings, and makes it harder to make decisions.
  4. Maintain family and personal relationships. A supportive network of loved ones is key to avoiding burnout. When nurses feel the burn and need it most, friends and family can provide a reality check with real-world insights.
  5. Engage in adequate leisure and recreational activities. Nurses work up to 12-hour shifts, and having an escape from work to look forward to can help quell the feeling of burnout. Whether it’s yoga, volleyball, knitting, or painting, engaging in a hobby or activity provides a much-needed mental and physical break.
  6. Attend to spiritual or religious needs. Nurses encounter critical healthcare situations on a daily basis. Seeking guidance and connecting with those who can offer perspective can help nurses address intense feelings and thoughts related to burnout.

“Work-life balance differs for everyone, but it’s critical for nurses to undertake measures that put them within reach,” reminds Dr. Lindell.

Examine the biological, psychological, and motivational components that contribute to being “burned out” and learn recovery strategies with this on-demand webinar.

—Jen Raider