If you feel fatigued on a regular basis, have trouble empathizing with patients like you used to, no longer enjoy or look forward to work, are getting sick for no reason, and have trouble concentrating, you might be suffering from burnout. In this case, you should get help as soon as possible. The earlier this condition is treated, the less likely you’ll suffer from long-term consequences. Let’s have a closer look at the telltale signs of burnout.
9 Increasingly Common Symptoms of Nurse Burnout and Stress in Nursing
1. Constant Fatigue
As burnout progresses, many people find it harder and harder to sleep because their body is constantly in fight-or-flight mode. They might worry about the next day at work as well as their long-term outlook. Insomnia compounds the problem of constant fatigue and makes it harder for burnout sufferers to recover, even once their schedule becomes manageable. This is one of the reasons why the problem should be addressed before it spirals out of control.
2. Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue is a type of extreme tiredness and desperation that most commonly happens to people who witness traumatic situations on a regular basis. You might no longer be able to empathize with your patients like you used to if you’ve been working in a particularly difficult department, such as the ED or the ICU, you haven’t had access to enough resources, or you’ve worked excessive hours.
This can not only negatively affect your performance at work, but it can also reduce your self-confidence and make you feel insecure. Many people who experience compassion fatigue believe that there is something wrong with them or that they have suddenly become a “bad person.” Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Once their schedule has returned to normal and they’ve practiced self-care, many nurses regain their natural compassion and love for their work.
3. A Dread of Going to Work
When you first became a nurse, you wanted to do everything you could to help patients recover from their illnesses. You worked tirelessly and made sure that everybody was as comfortable as possible. But as time went on, your work started to feel more and more like a chore and not something you do out of passion. Eventually, you started dreading your shifts.
A fear of going to work is a clear sign of burnout, and it stems from your fatigue. Some of the most common risk factors are a toxic work environment, an unappreciative boss, unsustainable work hours, and the repeated trauma that comes with treating severely ill people. Although you might recover by taking some time off, switching to a less stressful department could be a great way forward.
4. Unexplained Sickness
The first symptoms of burnout are usually related to your mental health. You might feel anxious about going to work, tired all the time, and detached from things and people you used to love. But over time, your constant stress begins to manifest in your body, as well. Two of the most common physical burnout symptoms are regular headaches and stomach pain.
Additional problems could be heart palpitations, low immunity, or pain in other areas of the body. If you’re suffering from any of these issues, you should see a doctor to rule out other medical conditions. Once you know you’re not suffering from a physical illness, you can begin to address your burnout.
5. No Interest in the Job
6. Doubting Yourself
Often, people who feel burned out no longer perform as well at work as they used to. As a result, they might get in trouble with their boss or their colleagues, and they might not be able to provide the high standard of care they would like to. This can make nurses feel insecure and incompetent. Their self-confidence suffers, and they are no longer able to assert themselves like they used to.
If this describes your situation, it’s likely that you’re suffering from excess stress in nursing. Nurses who have a considerate superior should seek out a meeting and discuss their struggles. Your boss or supervisor can reassure you that you are a competent, valued employee, and they can help you gain access to resources and figure out some strategies to reduce your symptoms of nurse burnout.
7. Emotional Detachment from Private Life
When you come home from work, do you have trouble being affectionate with your partner, or do you dread spending time with your children instead of looking forward to it? Are you no longer enjoying activities you used to love? If so, it’s likely that you’re suffering from extreme fatigue. Don’t hesitate to speak to your loved ones about what you’re going through. It will be easier for them to be supportive if they understand the struggles you’re facing.
8. Trouble Concentrating
Over time, burnout changes the way your brain functions, so it can be very hard to regain your level of focus and efficiency, even after an adequate period of rest. You might be more easily distracted for the foreseeable future, so you should be gentle with yourself. Don’t overload your schedule immediately, and make sure to give yourself plenty of breaks as you recover. You should also think about how you can minimize distractions and sensory overload in daily life.
9. Turning to Addictive Substances
Nurses struggling with substance abuse shouldn’t try to fix the problem by themselves. Instead, they should talk to a trusted friend or family member, then get the professional help they need. If your symptoms of burnout are so severe that you have started self-medicating with addictive substances, you should consider taking some time off work while you heal. You will be able to cope much better once you’ve fully recovered from your burnout.