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February 05, 2008

More Thoughts on Dealing with Nursing Burnout

Beka - Before attending nursing school, I was planning on going to art school. After all, I had taken every art course offered in high school and even won several awards. However, my father stepped in, saying “No“ to art school, pointing out that "nursing is a better career, offering job security." He proved to be right, as parents usually are!

Signs of nursing burnout include no longer finding enjoyment in areas of your job you once really liked, becoming cynical or bitter about your job, and starting to experience problems in relationships with co-workers, friends or family, as a result of the conflicts of your job. Other important signs to watch for are looking for excuses to not go to work, calling off or asking to go home early on a regular basis, becoming easily annoyed with co-workers and envious of those who do enjoy their work, and not caring if you do a good job or not. Physical and emotional exhaustion are not uncommon in burnout. Burnout can create incredible havoc on a nurse's personal life as well.

To reduce the risk of burnout, after working in the ICU setting for 21 years, I just began learning “How to Watercolor.” My mother had always done oil painting, selling some of her works, and donating the profits to dystonia. As I read the opening chapter about the supplies required to begin water-coloring, I realized that it actually would be FUN! Something new and different.  No hemodynamics involved!   

Ervik0806091_2 My kit includes a sketch pad, basic watercolor paints, and pencils, along with ideas on perspectives. Soon I found the first picture that I wanted to paint. The colors simply attracted me. My upstate Spring garden pansies!

As the New Year gets underway, how do you plan on avoiding burnout in nursing? Any other nurse-artists out there?

February 5, 2008 in Beka | Permalink


I am feeling wiped. I go to work everyday (I work an acute medical floor), with 5 patients daily that need total care. The families, doctors and the patients make it dreadful to return. If I didn't have bills, I would quit and I regret taking nursing to begin with. I thought that as nurses we received respect and dignity by the end of the day. I am sorry to say that I feel exhausted as opposed to exhilarated. I've worked nursing for 4 years and I am at the limit already. I've asked nurses of 20+ years how they managed to keep it together. They responded that changing nursing careers helps, but doesn't solve the nursing crisis of being fatigued. I am a walking zombie. Any suggestions to how I can manage a less stressful life? I am literally falling apart.

Posted by: BurntNurse2 | Jun 18, 2010 8:05:37 PM

I've been in health care (mainly OR) for 39 years. I've switched jobs 4 times this year. Currently doing my 2nd home health job and fighting to stay part time. For the life of me I can't figure out why I should wake up in the AM and do it all again. I wish I could go on a 72 hour hold just so someone would take of me. I'm past burnt, I'm fried. Help!

Posted by: Maddy | Mar 21, 2010 11:29:52 PM

I also am an artist/nurse! I utilize my creativity in many ways. I currently write poetry and paint. I must say that I even worked as a graphic artist for years before becoming a nurse. I love still love my job, just 3 years into it but I do feel burned out sometimes already. I will keep on writing and painting!

Posted by: Jane | Dec 25, 2009 10:05:32 PM

I can totally relate to some of your complaints. I've been a nurse now for over 20 years. I graduated with my RN very young, and have been everything from a staff nurse to a DNS so I know the ins and outs of the nursing profession. I have several comments to make.
First of all, nurses burnout and quit because management has no idea how to treat their staff. My last job has been with VA. They offer no compressed work schedules, no bonuses, no job recognition. In mental health, we were treated like bodyguards to the rest of the hospital. Security was not allowed to put their hands on patients, which left the nurses at high risk for injuries because the patients were typically men. Their excuse was "women can do what men can do." Well, because of that, I am now disabled and on workmans comp.
Secondly, new nurses are not being made to work the floors when they graduate. I've had new grads come in telling me they will not do hands on patient care, rather, they want to work the computers and be in management positions. How can they ever relate to what the patient and staff needs are if they have never worked the floor? The arrogance of newer nurses is unreal to me. In my nursing program, my instructors made us do patient care. These nurses only do case studies. No wonder they never make it past 3-5 years.
Lastly, nurses will not leave if they are offered alternative working schedules. Yes, ICU and ER nurses get these nice incentives, however, the floor nurses do not. Psych is especially difficult when you have to be on the job 5 or more days straight, with split days off. Why does management not recognize this?
This old nurse {46} is done. I will medically retire and sell on ebay. Good luck to my sister nurses.

Posted by: melb | Oct 26, 2009 4:50:47 PM

I, too, have been a nurse for more years than I will admit. I am middleaged and very tired and lately feeling very indifferent about my patient care. I realize that it is wrong for my patients not to receive the very best of me and the best care that they should have. It seems as if I have lost me some place along the way. I am tired of spoiled doctors and hospitals catering to them alone. They cannot do their jobs by themselves.

Posted by: maryanne | Sep 14, 2009 11:23:59 PM

I, too,wanted to be an artist before I became a nurse. I also used art to overcome burn-out about 15 years ago. This year, with two nurse friends, one of which is also a nurse-artist, I founded Nurse-Artists International. Here is the website address: www.nurseartistsinternational.org. Check it out.

Posted by: Kathy Iwanowski | Sep 8, 2009 12:29:30 AM

this last year was one of the toughest years of my life. I found myself crying for no reason and having physical symptoms such as jaw pain and eventually I suffered a painful injury. prior to the injury it felt as if though I gave too much, voluntering for exra duties and precepting what felt like everyone, and it still wasn't enough, i realized it would never be enough.Then I fell apart.
It is neccessary to develope boundries and stick to them, it is also important to treat onself with the same kind of kindness the is freely given to everyone else. I am planning to go into my future in nursing with my eyes wide open and my heart no longer on my sleeve. growth tempered with wisdom and support will make the difference. I am treating my self kinder, I am moving into the future motivated and wiser. I know I AM NOT SUPER WOMAN, and who want to run around in tights any way.

Posted by: darla | May 22, 2009 10:07:15 PM

I've only been a nurse for 2 years but on the floor where I work, which is supposed to be acute care, we have many, as in 4, long term residents as well as poor staffing and many incompentent night shift nurses that we must follow. I have also seen such abuse of the healthcare system by the pt's families all for the sake of keeping the pt's pension or social security check coming each month, and these are people that should die, they are just suffering and as a floor nurse I tend to them day in and day out. I find myself not wanting to go into work and asking for the day off when I can. I don't want to be burnt out and I pride myself on providing the best care that I can but it is becoming harder and harder each day to care. I am not blind and I see this in many other nurses especially the older nurses who will not go the extra mile to clean a pt. or help them out, Lord knows I hate to be asked over and over to do the same thing for each of my pts. but I do it because it must be done and that is my job, but I am starting to wish that it wasn't.

Posted by: A. D. | May 14, 2009 10:16:02 PM

I am scared and need someone to talk to... I am being pushed to 14 hour days... and precepting..have considered the worst... been an rn 20 years ...

Posted by: katie | Feb 15, 2009 2:08:23 AM

Great to see you found a way to deal with a sad, but unfortunately common problem.

Posted by: Jeff | Feb 8, 2009 11:54:46 AM

Good to hear nurses and artists are not incompatible......
I have been a nurse for 39 years, and worked both full time and part time. I also had an art gallery for 9 years and still see art as part of my daily life. I started and organize an art studio tour every other year in my small Sierra Nevada foothill town. You can read about the studio tour at http://www.threeriveresartstudiotour.com.
I also teach a retreat workshop on nursing burnout, and use art as part of the experience. I know that the cure for nursing burnout is inside ourselves, that we must be the ones who re-invent nursing itself. It sounds like a daunting task, but when taken one person at at time, one day at a time. I work as a home health nurse, which is something you might consider. I would advise working part time at it, but you might have to go full time at first. It is sad that as we get older and have the experience of our maturity to use on our jobs, that we are not valued. What you are experiencing is happening to many nurses your age, not that knowing you are not alone, can change your situation, but maybe it will give you strength. My workshop is called "Re-Membering the Healer's Spirit" and you can read about it at http://www.thedeeperwell.com; eventually I will have a shorter online version of it, with things you can do at home. It seems to be hard for people to allow themselves to get away and come to it, they come in small trickles.

Posted by: Elsah Cort | Jun 14, 2008 12:03:11 PM

I am currently out of work ( R.N.) and cannot even muster the effort to search for another nursing position. I am burnt out and middleaged with no other skills to utilize. I have worked for years in nursing homes..seen such lack of care,neglect and abuse of residents and staff that the thought of entering into one again makes me feel ill.I would like acute care but because of being out of that loop so long I find hospitals won't hire me without 2 years recent acute care experience. I recently took a vacation away from my usual surroundings and spent the time on a adventure, immersed in a foreign culture..while there I felt revived. However when I returned home the reality again struck that I must return to work and if I don't I cannot survive financially. It has been a nightmare for nearly 4 months now..I feel paralyzed and unable to move forward. I have been told I have excellent skills, have performed well in my jobs..but just feel I have no more to offer..The enviornment I left 4 months ago was so negative and so stressful I would dread each shift. I spoke to management to no avail and finally just quit. Any insight..suggesstions?

Posted by: dee | Apr 30, 2008 12:23:24 PM

Sounds nice...photography is my niche to escape. With Nursing burnout so prevalent and this story of 'escape' - I would venture to suggest hospitals consider Nursing Art Shows. Proceeds could go towards a good cause and afford staff the opportunity to network with each other on other than clinical topics.

Posted by: George Giannakos | Feb 13, 2008 7:46:30 AM

I was a fine arts student too and tried to be an artist. I had a husband who made enough to let me follow my dream. Last year he lost one of his biggest clients and are finances went down hill fast. I took it upon myself to start making a living for our family, I went back to school to be a nurse. I am working at the hospital as a nursing assistant while going through school. I just wanted you to know that the grass wasn't greener for me. I really never got more than personal satisfaction from my painting. I am jealous that you listened to your parents and became a nurse. My father told me the same thing, but I wouldn't listen to him to save my life. You will probably enjoy painting so much more now that it is on your terms. Also here is a great site for painting, you can learn a lot from this forum: www.wetcanvas.com

Posted by: S. Anderspn | Feb 7, 2008 9:08:56 AM

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