Thursday, July 17, 2008

Take Care of You to Avoid Burnout

Nursing is extremely challenging. It’s a physical job and emotionally draining. It’s also a profession that requires constant replenishing in order to keep going and giving. The rewards can be the best, but sometimes you have to dig deep to find them.

As we know, patients are not at their best. They are more concerned with getting well than with saying “thank you” to those helping them along the way. Families and friends are usually too stressed to be grateful either. It isn’t even likely to occur to them that the nurses would appreciate being thanked.

Today more than ever before, patients are going home earlier and sicker. Nurses are less likely to see the patient get well as a result of their efforts. Even home health nurses may not see the patient all the way through to wellness either. This takes its toll on feeling rewarded. Patients are expected to assume responsibility for their own health status and this often makes them even less likely to credit nurses for helping them achieve their goal.

In addition to being short handed and overworked, nurses may not always have a clear cut feeling of accomplishment. It’s important to pay attention to the little things. What did your new diabetic patient learn today? Did your patient with chronic pain actually have some relief today from your massage? How many hands did you hold? How many fears did you listen to and try to explain away? How many tears did you wipe dry? How much hope did you offer?

Being a nurse requires giving each and every day. In order to continue giving, nurses must replenish themselves. One way to begin this process is to spend a few minutes each day on your way home to review and take credit for the little things you did that made a difference for your patients today. Don’t berate yourself for what you didn’t do, but take stock of how you can improve tomorrow. Go home with a sense of accomplishment.

Once you get home, take a few minutes each day to do something for you. Take a few deep breaths, take a virtual mini vacation to your favorite spot, take a relaxing bath or shower. If you walk straight into a household and family with all sorts of demands, be sure to take a couple of minutes alone before you go in the door.

Be sure to take time for yourself, eat right and drink plenty of liquids. When you’re really stressed, arrange for a day off just for you. Take your vacation time off even if you don’t go anywhere. You need a break periodically. Take care of you so that you can continue to give to your patients!

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