~When Nurse Burnout is From Pure Exhaustion~
I am the queen of over-scheduling, over-doing, and burning the candle from multiple wicks at once. When I became a nurse in 2005 I started off running in a busy, busy ER. Within two years I was the charge nurse (yeah yeah, I know…too early). As the years passed I participated in bunches of committees, became the day shift scheduler, and popped out a couple more kids.
I worked lots of overtime. The shifts I worked were insanely crazy. Even though I don’t live in a huge city we saw our fair share of typical ER stuff. I worked (still work here) in a department that was ALWAYS short-staffed. Lunches and breaks rarely happened and we had maybe one tech (CNA or EMT) for the entire department of 20+ beds. I’m sure this rings true for most nurses no matter where you work. We all know we are overworked big time.
With my second child I even went into labor at 24 weeks while at work….the night before, I had done a 15 hour charge shift with no breaks. Thankfully, with 3 months of bed rest, my son was born healthy and at the right time.
7 years into my nursing career I was just plain exhausted and I had lost my reason for being a nurse. Of course there were a hundred other things contributing to my burnout but I think that my pure exhaustion is what eventually put me over the edge. In June of 2012 I decided to quit after working several shifts where I thought I was going to literally pass out.
I was having a bout of Adrenal Fatigue that I couldn’t kick. I was so tired that I couldn’t even take care of myself the way I should. Eating healthy takes actual work. Resting in general takes effort. Exercise was out the door completely. And hobbies or “me” time – well I’m still trying to remember what my hobbies use to be.
There were other issues going on at the time too (like learning my daughter was on the autism spectrum) but that has nothing to do with how I was feeling as a nurse. I felt like no matter what I did, it just wasn’t good enough. And frankly, I know it wasn’t as good as it could be because I was dragging myself around the department like a cranky zombie. Do you ever feel like this?
The several month break I took was very refreshing.
Fast forward to NOW…
I have put in extra hours this summer with the peak of my crazy work schedule this last couple weeks…right before homeschool starts.
Thankfully I have learned when it’s time to put the brakes on. I am also only on-call (per diem) and can say NO and make my OWN schedule…IT ROCKS!
In the last two weeks I have worked several 12 hour shifts between PACU, ER, most of which I haven’t gotten home until after midnight and some shifts are seriously lacking breaks. I even had to do three SANE exams back to back in one day!
Now, to give my primary per diem job a break…the ER…they have greatly improved on getting breaks and lunches in for their staff. But staffing still isn’t that great. Throw in a couple back to back head bleeds, a code, STEMI, and a couple less than pleasant, verbally abusive crazies…all in one day…and that “lack of staffing” sucked all the life out of me.
Now, at the end of my shift cramming session before homeschool starts, my blood pressure is 85/60 after a quad mocha! Looks like exhaustion…or my adrenal issues are creeping in once again.
I am hopeful that things will continue to improve in my ER. However, I know a lot of nurses who do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. More and more work is getting thrown at us. We spend more time charting than doing pt care and the charting we do is getting increasingly ridiculous with computer software that doesn’t even seem to be designed by someone who knows anything about real patient care….sore subject for me
Really, it only seems like it can get worse. Since I am not a proponent for throwing in the towel, what the heck are we suppose to do instead? Whining and nagging the boss don’t really work because most of the time their hands are tied.
We can do some things for our selves that doesn’t need any type of “approval” from anyone but ourselves. Here are couple things to get you thinking.
- First off, if you are a dragging, cranky zombie like I was, please try to take a break or cut your hours down. You can go here or here to read my two-part story of how I went from 40-60 hours a week too much less.
- Secondly, we nurses need to start taking care of ourselves! I now so many nurses who are very unhealthy people. It seems their issues are related to stress and overdoing it. This is a very broad concept but lets break it down a little.
I see so many nurses were are running all day long. Some of them even decline their breaks or put off taking lunch because they fear getting behind…I wonder if there is an ego thing going on too. STOP THIS! If you get offered a break then take the darn thing. Go out side, enjoy that sun and get your mind on something else. Support your co-workers on this too. If you see someone dragging, help them out. Rest is good.
Stop eating crap like what’s above…especially at work. The above picture was recent on one of our many busy days. Yes that is two different boxes of donuts, three different things of cookies, and several bags of chips. There is some processed humus and fruit hiding in there but for some reason they were the last to get eaten. Hmmm… Food is fuel and we know this but we aren’t eating the right foods. Our coping skills are lacking a bit.
Don’t over schedule yourselves. Heaven forbid I say this but STOP saying “yes” every time someone asks you to “help out” because there is short staffing. If you want to last til retirement you need to cool it on this front. Playing “Super Woman” for everyone will only get you so far and then you will deflate like a popped balloon – suddenly and without warning.
When you do go to work, get a good night sleep….this should be a no brainer but I think we need to be reminded on this.
- Thirdly and most importantly, don’t leave God at the door. He does not want you running yourself ragged. He wants you to be healthy, alive, and capable of fulfilling your purpose for His will and glory.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
The Lord promises to give you the strength you need. You will walk and not be faint. All you gotta do is ask
What things have you done to deal with utter exhaustion from work? When did you start to feel this way in your career?
Want to know more about burnout? Go here to read an introduction to it.