9 Increasingly Common Symptoms of Nurse Burnout

Nursing has always been a challenging profession, but it’s become even more difficult since the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical professionals are more in demand than ever, so they are working longer hours and getting less rest. Stress in nursing is common, which is why more and more people are suffering from anxiety, depression, and burnout. The first step to resolving this issue is recognizing the symptoms of nurse burnout early.

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

One of the most common symptoms of burnout is constant fatigue. Nurses are particularly prone to this because they often work long shifts, and some of them work at night. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been more demand for medical care, so the stress placed on nurses has been multiplied. Therefore, they are more likely to experience lengthy work periods without enough rest and disrupted sleep patterns than people with a regular schedule.

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

In nursing school, you spent hours learning about diseases, treatments, medical procedures, and more. Then, you started your career, and you found out just how hard the long hours are. COVID didn’t help matters because your workload increased, and the new safety standards made it harder for you to do your job. You started to lose your joy in working with your patients, and nursing became more of a drag.
If you’ve lost all interest in your work and you’ve been thinking about switching to a different career, you should consider whether you’ve truly changed your mind about nursing or whether you’re simply suffering from burnout. Countless people have already left the nursing profession, but you don’t have to. Before you make a career change, you can try reducing your hours, transferring to a different department, changing hospitals, or getting professional help.

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

So far, we’ve discussed the burnout symptoms you might experience at work, but this condition doesn’t only affect your professional life. In fact, countless nurses find that their work-life imbalance places a huge amount of stress on their personal lives. People who are suffering from burnout often have trouble displaying regular emotions, and they might not be able to interact with their loved ones as they used to.

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

An inability to focus on your work doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re suffering from burnout. There are many reasons why people can’t concentrate, including a lack of sleep, personal issues that are distracting them, a hormone or thyroid issue, a low red blood cell count, or the natural effects of aging. But if none of these factors are a possible cause of your concentration issues, you should think about whether you might be overworked.

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

Sadly, many nurses who are struggling under the weight of their responsibilities and workload turn to addictive substances that get them through the day. Some start to drink alcohol to help them relax in the evening, while others consume large amounts of caffeine throughout the day and still others take up smoking. These unhealthy habits take the pressure off at the moment, but they cause more severe issues later on.

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.

Unfortunately, stress in nursing is more common than ever before. If you or members of your team are suffering from the first symptoms of nurse burnout, you should act now. Get in touch with WaistedRN to find out how Dr. Feyi could help you or your staff combat burnout. She will be happy to speak to small or large groups about topics such as self-care, building up resilience, and juggling various responsibilities.