Being a nurse requires incredible resilience. They wake up each day, put on their jogger scrubs, and go to work to care for other people while leaving their own families behind. With grueling days, hectic schedules, and the emotional toll of working with patients, nursing is an exhausting career that often leads to fatigue. To make matters worse, most healthcare facilities in the United States are drastically understaffed, forcing nurses to work even more hours and carry far heavier patient loads than they should.
When nursing fatigue sets in, you could experience physical and mental exhaustion that won’t just go away after a good night’s sleep or a weekend off. It persists for days, weeks, or even months, and, unfortunately, it’s something that nearly every nurse experiences at some time in their career. However, the good news is that there are some creative ways to avoid nursing fatigue and stay on top of your game. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Change Your Environment
Where you work can have a significant impact on your physical, mental and emotional well-being. While nurse shortages are affecting nearly all hospitals and clinics throughout the U.S., some facilities are downright dangerous. If you work in a facility with an abysmal ratio of nurses to patients, it might be time to look for a new job. This is especially true if there aren’t any systems in place for helping nurses during these challenging times.
If you do not feel supported in your workplace and are becoming increasingly burnt out, don’t be afraid to look for a new job. Feel free to explore different settings, too, to see if there’s a work environment that works better for you. For example, if the constant stress of working in a busy hospital is wearing you down, you may be more comfortable working in a slower-paced clinic or long-term care facility.
When you really need to get away, consider travel nursing. As a travel nurse, you’ll get to travel throughout the U.S. for assignments and work in a wide variety of healthcare settings. Most assignments only last around 13 weeks, so this career path is ideal for nurses who love change or are feeling “stuck” working in just one facility.
2. Leave Work at Work
Sometimes it’s hard, but if you want to avoid fatigue, you need to train yourself to leave your workday on the job. When you clock out for the day and leave the facility, permit yourself to leave your work and your patients behind mentally. Doing so is essential in avoiding the compassion fatigue that’s all too common among nurses. No matter how much you care about your patients, you can’t let your concern for them take over your life.
Spending your time feeling guilty or worrying about what you could have done differently does not help anyone. And spending your time caught up in feelings of guilt and self-doubt prevents you from getting the rest you need before your next shift.
3. Use Your Vacation Days
Your employer gives you vacation days for a reason. Use them. And when you use them, don’t feel guilty about it! Taking time off work is an essential step in preventing nursing fatigue because it gives you a chance to relax and unwind. Even if you don’t have any big vacation plans in mind, be sure to get your days off on the books instead of letting the time go to waste.
Remember that you don’t have to go on an actual vacation. Sometimes, a staycation is exactly what you need. You’ll be able to relax at home, spend time with your family and enjoy some downtime without the stress of traveling. That sounds like a pretty great vacation!
4. Find a Specialty You Love
You are much less likely to feel burnt out when doing a job you love. If your current job isn’t cutting it, consider switching to a specialty that makes you enjoy going to work every day. There are hundreds of different specialties from which to choose, so there is something that is right for every nurse. Explore your options to find a position that reignites your passion for nursing.
5. Practice Self-Care
As a nurse, you probably spend your entire shift taking care of other people. And then you probably go home and take care of other people too. When was the last time you took care of yourself? Practicing self-care is critical, and it’s one of the most effective ways to keep nursing fatigue at bay.
Self-care comes in many different forms. A few of the many options include enjoying a long, hot bubble bath, taking a relaxing stroll in nature, or starting a meditation practice. Even investing in some nice new scrub jackets for women can be a form of self-care. Taking care of yourself doesn’t have to be expensive or take a lot of time. Anything that is healthy and makes you feel good is a great option.
Nursing shortages, a global pandemic, and extended shifts combine to form a perfect storm for nursing fatigue. While burnout is often regarded as a normal part of the job, it’s essential to take steps to avoid this all-too-common problem. When you are fatigued, you cannot provide exceptional care to your patients. Exhaustion puts you at risk of making mistakes or getting hurt at work, too.
As a nurse, it is up to you to be proactive and take control of your health and happiness. Try the suggestions above to avoid nursing fatigue and its associated problems. If all else fails, there are resources to help you combat stress and overcome burnout.