What to Do About Nursing Burnout

What to Do About Nursing Burnout

Before entering a discussion on what to do about nursing burnout, we need to understand the etiology and phenomenon of nursing burnout. Let’s go back to a simpler time.

The Evolution of Nursing Care

Prior to the explosive modernization of healthcare technology and delivery of the 20th century and beyond, nursing roles and responsibilities were of a comfort and supportive nature: changing bedpans, giving oral medications, dressing wounds, cleaning up bodily fluids, daily bedbaths and nightly backrubs.

What existed then might more appropriately be called, “caregiver fatigue”- the exhaustion experienced by one responsible for the physical care of another. Just ask any CNA today.

Nurses are now elbow-deep in every facet of high tech care from placing central lines to intubating neonates and running codes. Administrative duties have also been placed on their shoulders. Their roles and responsibilities increased exponentially. Nurses require sharp critical thinking skills and the ability to make life and death decisions quickly. They also struggle to find 24 hours in a 12-hour shift. Nursing burnout can be directly traced to the mental and professional stressors placed on modern-day nurses.

What to Do About Nursing Burnout Beyond Just Coping

I’ll save the causes of nursing burnout for its own blog post. Suffice it to say that nurses are being pushed to their breaking points, with many putting their stethoscopes down to cry out, “enough is enough!”

There’s a point when using “coping strategies” to deal with the dysfunction of modern healthcare delivery becomes downright insulting. Why should nurses be made to feel as if they are the failures because they can’t adapt to the mishandled business model of a dysfunctional healthcare system? (Oh, was that my frustration showing?)

For any nurse at the end of her rope, as I was several years ago, 4 options present themselves:

  • Transfer to a different unit or facility
  • Leave clinical practice for a non-clinical nursing role
  • Leave nursing altogether for another career
  • Self-employment as a nurse entrepreneur

Transferring to a different unit or facility is the most expedient way to get away from it all, but do you really? The causes of nursing burnout will follow you anywhere you go in traditional, government regulated healthcare settings. Crummy option.

To leave clinical nursing for a non-clinical role is a good choice for some. The deciding factor in many cases will be whether you possess the education, credentials, or experience needed to make the switch. Keep in mind, though, that if the new role is also in a traditional, government regulated healthcare setting, you’ll run into the same frustrations. Same wall, different bricks.

The third option is attractive, especially if some other profession called your name prior to you choosing nursing. It may have been an allied health field or had nothing to do with health and wellness at all! Consider the need to go back to school for more education and training. Is that in your budget and life plan? Can you “cope” for that long?

If any of the above-noted options don’t work for you, perhaps you should consider self-employment.

Nurse Entrepreneurship as a Viable Response to Nursing Burnout

Self-employment doesn’t naturally come to mind when someone is pondering what to do about nursing burnout. Let’s face it- most nurses haven’t given a second thought to starting their own business! Luckily, many have, and the world is a better place for it.

A lot of nurses have, in fact, invented better mousetraps. Being a foot soldier on the floor has its advantages when using supplies and equipment that can be improved upon.

Take my friend, Sarah Mott of Nurse Born Products, for example. She saw a need and filled it, jumping into the business of selling physical products created by nurses after inventing her own Koala~Qlip stethoscope holder.

If you think you might have what it takes to start your own business, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there something about my nursing specialty that I particularly enjoy?
  • Is there a need within my specialty for which a product or service might be developed?
  • Are there ways I can serve others using my personal or professional interests, knowledge, skills, and passions?
  • Is now the time to pursue that business idea that’s been tickling my mind?

Whether your business venture would be nursing, or non-nursing related, it’s a step in the right direction if you’ve been faced with what to do about nursing burnout and nurse entrepreneurship gets you excited.

Take a look at my post, “First Steps for the New Nurse Entrepreneur” for tips on getting started if you’ve already decided that business is for you.

If you think entrepreneurship might be right for you, you may want to start by completing a self-assessment to see if you have, or can develop an entrepreneurial mindset. Once you’ve determined that you can switch from a nursing mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset, you’ll need to start clarifying and testing your proposed product or service, as well as your audience.

Take my FREE course, “From Clinical Career to Nurse Entrepreneur” to find out if you’re the entrepreneurial type, and to help get you started choosing YOUR product or service offering!

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