Nursing Burnout Reality and How To Deal With It

Not feeling your best lately? Dealing with the stress of everyday life and life in the healthcare industry can be a tall order. As healthcare providers are pushed to new limits and stressful workplaces become more common, "burnout" has become widespread and tricky to handle. In this article, we discuss what burnout is and the symptoms to help you identify it. We also cover a few strategies to help you prevent and fight burnout in your own life.

What is Nurse Burnout?

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome caused by chronic workplace stress resulting from exhaustion, mental distance from one's job, and a sense of ineffectiveness.
Nurses fulfill many roles including caretaker, interpreter, educator, and emotional support leading many to become prone to mental, physical, and emotional strain. With the increased reliance on nurses as a result of the COVID-19 virus, nurses are facing enormous mental health pressures.
In fact, the ANA reports, that 76% of nurses reported exhaustion and burnout during 2020, and ICN data reports that the proportion of nurses reporting mental health distress has risen from 60% to 80% since the first wave of the pandemic.

Common physical symptoms of burnout include:

  • Exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Frequent illness
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in sleep behaviors

Common emotional and behavioral symptoms include:

  • Detachment
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Isolation
  • Procrastination
  • Poor judgment calls

What Causes Nurse Burnout?

Most of us experience days when we feel overwhelmed and exhausted, you know the days when you really don't want to get out of bed? There is no shame in needing rest however if you are having more days like these than normal you may be burnt out. Experiencing burnout happens gradually over time and the warning signs may be subtle at first. Here are some red flags to look out for that often lead to worker burnout.

Long Hours

Long hours and irregular shifts can be harmful to both nurses and patients. Nurses working consistent 12-hour shifts are at risk for burnout and poor performance.

Poor Work Environments

Poor work environments such as management issues and lack of teamwork can burden nurses and contribute heavily to burnout.

Greater Workloads

Balancing patient care with administrative responsibilities in the face of a global pandemic and increased nursing demand can result in greater workloads for each individual nurse. As nurse workloads increase it can become frustrating to maintain high levels of care as nurses are faced with increased hours and overtime to solve staff shortages and high rates of turnover.

Death and Sickness

Taking care of patients day-in and day-out means experiencing death and sickness as part of the job. This exposure over time can become overwhelming and lead to burnout across all nursing specialties.

What You Can Do To Prevent and Help Burnout

Nurses and medical professionals are nothing short of superstars. Today's healthcare industry can be grueling, especially to face on your own. Here are some of the best ways to help prevent burnout by practicing self-care and mindfulness. You got this!

Support System

Creating strong support systems with co-workers and others outside of work play a crucial role in balancing personal and professional pressures. These relationships with human resources, supervisors, co-workers, friends, and family help nurses deal with high-stress situations and provided the necessary emotional support needed to feel present and prepared.


Managing boundaries between work and personal life is another key to ensure a healthy work-life balance. By focusing on time spent outside of work and activities that you enjoy you can remain more present and mindful throughout the day.


While nursing schedules are demanding, the importance of good sleep for nursing professionals is crucial to improving alertness, concentration, motivation, and mood. It is recommended that medical professionals fit in at least 8 hours of sleep each night or day. Working an overnight shift? Check out our tips and tricks for surviving your night shift here.

Staying Healthy

To help with sleep and stress management nurses should also try to maintain a regular exercise routine. Making time to focus on physical health and diet helps refresh your body and take a mental break from work-related stress.

Additional Resources

Lastly, you can explore your human resources department to see if they offer therapeutic or counseling services. These resources can help provide mental health tools and emotional support outlets. Nomad wants to ensure nurses feel safe and appreciated at work and provides all nurses with 24/7 counseling services with unlimited, confidential telephone consultation, and in-person or telemedicine mental health session options. Additionally, legal and financial assistance is available to anyone experiencing difficult times.

For more mental health resources check these out:

  • Alo Moves: Offers free intro classes that target a variety of health issues through yoga, meditation, and flexibility.
  • BetterHelp: Offers resources to help users find mental health providers based on individual needs.
  • HealGrief: Offers programs and resources for those dealing with depression and grief.
  • Sidran Institute: Offers Sidran's Help Desk which helps connect those in need to a Trauma Resource Specialist and nearby mental health resources.
  • Nurses Together: Connecting Through Conversations: Offers a judgment-free safe space for Nurses to talk 7 days a week, via Zoom.
  • Headspace: Offers information on stress reduction, an active lifestyle, and better sleep patterns.
  • Calm: Offers sleeping, meditation, and relaxation tips and resources.
  • Happify: Offers tools, information, and resources on how to combat stressful situations.
  • Aura: Offers assistance and tools to become your best self and deal with emotional issues.
  • Sleep and Relax ASMR: Offers a Spotify hosted podcast to help listeners relax through sensory sounds.
Last Updated
August 18, 2021

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