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Recognizing nursing burnout

Though stress is part of the reality for healthcare professionals, investing in your work should never come at the expense of your health. Difficult working conditions and chronic stress they create can lead to nursing burnout. 

The COVID-19 pandemic added a great pressure on healthcare workers, which is not without consequences. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, 7 out of 10 healthcare workers reported a deterioration in their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How can we identify the signs of nurse burnout? How do you treat it? In this article, we will tell you all about it and also give you a list of tools to help you.

What is burnout?

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is characterized by “a feeling of intense fatigue, loss of control and inability to achieve concrete results at work”.

Nursing Burnout

Burnout among nurses is a common phenomenon. Though it has been exacerbated by the pandemic, it existed long before. It is more important than ever to know how to prevent and recognize it. Don’t be the poorly shod shoemaker! If you want to continue to care for your patients with a smile, you must first take care of yourself.

Learn more about nursing burnout

Recognizing the Warning Signs of Burnout

In nursing, just like in other professions, burnout happens insidiously and takes years to develop, which is why it’s important to pay attention to certain warning signs:

  • repeated absences and lateness, 
  • decrease in productivity/performance, 
  • increase in the number of errors, 
  • decrease in motivation, 
  • increase in work-related accidents, 
  • concentration and memory difficulties, 
  • fatigue, 
  • neglect of your appearance or personal care,
  • impatience, 
  • increase and unusual irritability,
  • lack of cooperation, 
  • crying,
  • isolation, 
  • interpersonal problems, 
  • inappropriate work postures.

If you experience several of these signs, do not hesitate to consult your doctor. You can also contact the occupational health and safety department of Placement Premier Soin, which will be able to advise you and direct you to available programs and support services.  

Possible treatments

The purpose of treating burnout is to get you back to health and find a way to do your job as a nurse in a satisfying way, without burning out. The different options are:

– a work stoppage to allow you to rest, but rest alone is not enough;

– a change of work environment;

– a change in lifestyle;

– a change in the meaning you give to your work;

– therapy to help you discover what is causing you stress and how to deal with it.

It is important to get to know your body and stop while you still can. Never forget that besides your job, you have a life, a family, and children. Taking care of yourself should be your priority. How can you take care of others if you are not well yourself?

In this regard, I invite you to read this book that has quickly become an international bestseller: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. It was written by Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who worked for many years in palliative care. Over the years, she has asked her patients about their biggest regrets at the end of their lives. Here are the 5 that came up the most:

1- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4- I wish I had kept in touch with my friends.

5- I wish I had allowed myself a little more happiness.

It makes you think, doesn’t it?

Tools to help you get better

Getting better… my way    

Developed by the Laboratoire Vitalité of the Université du Québec à Montréal, the organization Relief – The Road to Mental Health, and the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de l’Est-de-l’Île-de-Montréal., this is a free tool that helps identify ways to get better and take care of your mental health. It was initially designed for people experiencing difficulties related to anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder.

Learn more about the Getting Better… My Way tool 

Mental health Meter  

This tool was developed by the Canadian Mental Health Association and consists of a series of questions under 5 headings: 

– ability to enjoy life

– resilience

– balance

– self-actualization

– flexibility

Please note that this is not a diagnostic test. For that, you must consult a professional.

Discover the Mental Health Meter 

The Helpline of the organization Écoute Entraide

Open 7 days a week, from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., this helpline is available to anyone who is going through difficult times: anxiety, depression, separation, sadness, loneliness, suicidal thoughts, family problems, etc.

Montreal area: 514 278-2130

Outside of Montreal, toll free: 1 855 365-4463

Learn more about Écoute Entraide 

Placement Premier Soin is committed to the health and well-being of its resources

Placement Premier Soin considers the prevention of burnout among its nurses and all its other resources to be of great importance. Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes. With this in mind, several measures aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of its resources have been put in place:

– the freedom to choose your schedule, which allows for a better work-life balance;

– the creation of an occupational health and safety department whose mission is to ensure your health and well-being; to advise you and inform you of the services available according to your particular situation;

– the obligation not to exceed 40 hours per week, because it is important to take time for yourself and your family.

Nursing burnout is real. Being able to detect it can prevent serious consequences. Remember that investing in your work should never be at the expense of your health.