By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
Burnout is a huge buzzword right now in the nursing community. Honestly, it is nothing new to the field of nursing but it is new that we are learning how to recognize and talk about it more. This is so important because it is bringing this common issue to the forefront of discussions between leadership and making nurses more aware of how to recognize burnout in themselves and others. We need nurses who feel passionate about their jobs and want to show up to work every day, not nurses who are clinging to their position because they simply need an income.
Travel nursing is actually one way a lot of staff nurses attempt to combat burnout. The ability to be flexible with your location, change up types of units, and stay out of hospital politics is often a needed reprieve for nurses who are feeling worn down. But does this mean you can’t get burnt out as a travel nurse? Absolutely not. Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you aren’t sure if you are suffering from nursing burnout:
Do you dread going to work for every single shift?
Sure, there will be days that you would rather be at home binging Netflix or out at the beach instead of working twelve hours in the hospital. But overall you should feel okay with going to work and handling whatever the day will throw at you. If you are at a point where the day before a shift you spend at least 50% or more of your day thinking about how much you don’t want to go to work, you probably need to reevaluate.
Is every bump in the road met with a lack of surprise?
When you are feeling burnt out, it can be easy to think “of course” every time a doctor is rude to you, you’re running late for work, or you miss out on the contract you were really wanting. It is almost like the extra tension from work spills over into your reaction to everyday things. This can be exhausting mentally to be in such a negative space, so if you are feeling worn out, check how you are handling small upsets.
Do you have compassion fatigue?
Compassion fatigue is common among healthcare providers because we are exposed to so many tragedies on a daily basis. If you are feeling like it is hard for you to be sympathetic towards your patients, or you are just going through the motions of your basic nursing tasks for the day, it may be a sign that you are suffering from compassion fatigue. Most people become healthcare workers because they want to help and care for others, so feeling this way isn’t normal if you are a caregiver.
Are your relationships outside of work affected?
All of the exhaustion that comes along with negative inward dialogue and compassion fatigue can bleed over and cause stress in your relationships as well. Whether it is with a friend or a loved one, they may get weary of constant complaints or lack of empathy when they come to you to talk about something important. This can be tricky to identify because someone close to you may not come right out and say you are being negative, or they may assume you are upset with them and be less inclined to talk about the changes they are noticing. However, if you are noticing that it seems like all of your relationships have hit some rocky times, it may be time for you to reflect and see if there is something affecting your interaction with those you care about most.
Are you dreading moving or finding a new assignment?
When you are working as a travel nurse, part of the excitement is figuring out where you want to go next. Researching fun new neighborhoods, looking up the best local restaurants, and figuring out what to do on your time off is part of the fun. If it comes time to find your next assignment and you are stressing about needing to pack, clean, and move–it may be a sign that you are a little burnt out on the travel nurse lifestyle.
Whew. That is a long, heavy topic to cover but once again, it is so important when it comes to longevity in your career and the quality of care you provide your patients. As nurses we give so much to others, and it can be easy to lose track of what we as human beings actually need to make us perform our best.
Next week we will dive deeper into how to address burnout once you realize you are feeling overly worn down. Spoiler alert: it does consist of more than bubble baths and pedicures on your days off.
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