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BurnoutCompassion FatigueNurse Burnout

Nurse Burnout: Risks, Causes, and Precautions for Nurses

burnout in nursing

What Is Nurse Burnout?

Nurse burnout is a common occurrence marked by a loss of energy, which displays as emotional tiredness, a lack of enthusiasm, and emotions of dissatisfaction, as well as a decrease in work efficacy.

Causes of Burnout in Nursing

Burnout is a psychological condition that affects many nurses, especially during the COVID pandemic. It’s defined by a loss of physical, emotional, and psychological energy as a result of work-related stress, which leads to cynicism toward patients and coworkers.

Work overload, a lack of control due to COVID-19 related mandates and policies, resources, and control, conflicts of values, and a lack of a feeling of community can all contribute to and are signs of burnout.

Burnout among nurses is an expensive problem for both employers and employees because symptoms of burnout, such as decreased psychological and physical energy, sleeplessness, headaches, exhaustion, and depression lead to higher absenteeism and a high turnover rate, which have a detrimental impact on a patient’s quality of care.

Long Working Hours

Another cause of burnout is the increasing shortage of nurses as the generation of Baby Boomers get older and chronic disease becomes more prevalent. Registered nurse employment numbers are expected to go up about 12% between now and 2028, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. nurse on a break

If you’re looking for a nursing job, this is good news. However, the rapid growth of nursing has resulted in growing pains including hospitals that are understaffed, nurses that are overworked, and higher levels of burnout.

Sleep Deprivation

Chronic lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of burnout among professionals in any business. This is especially frequent among nurses who work excessive hours and extra shifts. According to a poll performed by Kronos Inc., 25% of nurses said they couldn’t get enough sleep in between shifts. Job satisfaction will suffer if sleep is deprived.

High-Stress Working Conditions

Each nursing specialization has its own difficulties, especially during a pandemic, but some of them are inherently more taxing than others. Nurses that work in an emergency department or intensive care unit may encounter patients that are combative, catastrophic injuries, ethical difficulties, and a high death rate, all of which can elevate stress levels and are predictors of burnout in nurses. “Psychooncology” published a study showing that 30% of oncology nurses said they were emotionally exhausted, and 35% indicated feeling a decrease in their personal performance, both indications of job burnout. When empathetic and compassionate nurses are so tired that they can’t see straight, their exhaustion will impact patient care and impact team cohesion.

Not Enough Support

Burnout may be more widespread in your place of employment if there isn’t a culture of cooperation and teamwork there. Shared values and a cultural fit are key to mitigating the impact of burnout.

Collaboration is crucial in many professions, but it can save lives in nursing. Poor teamwork, which is marked by poor communication, conflict, no cooperation, and even bullying amongst peers, creates an undesirable work atmosphere and can even result in medical mistakes or death.

Emotional Strain of Caring for Patients

One of the most fulfilling aspects of nursing is patient care, since you form bonds with a patient and experience the joy of seeing them improve. However, if you work with patients in critical condition or provide end-of-life care, the emotional ups and downs that come with dealing with poorer recovery and greater fatality rates can result in compassion fatigue and a higher rate of burnout. Nurses may also experience grief in the workplace, which can become disenfranchised when they are not being supported or recognized as bereaved.

Another consideration is the number of patients a nurse is responsible for. Nurses that are caring for more than four patients are more likely to have experienced burnout, with the risk going up 23% for every additional patient.

Burnout predictors

tired nurseThere is a substantial link between a heavy workload and burnout rates, with evidence that a heavy workload is linked to emotional exhaustion. Nurses are less vulnerable to burnout when they feel that they have control and influence over their job and are rewarded for their efforts. The reward does not necessarily have to be monetary. For example, it can be flexible hours or childcare.

The results are mixed regarding the effects of working nights and the number of hours worked per week on burnout in nursing. Working very long shifts of at least 12 hours has can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion. However, nurses who are comfortable with the flexibility of their schedule and have a positive work environment are not as likely to feel emotional exhaustion and have a higher rate of job satisfaction.

Burnout’s Consequences

Burnout was found to be a substantial predictor of nurses’ intentions to leave their positions, however, this does not always result in real staff turnover. Patient safety and risk factors including as medication errors, falls, and infections, have all been linked to burnout. Complaints by families increase and patient satisfaction is impacted when nurses and staff experience burnout. Furthermore, issues with job satisfaction result.

Self-Care is important

Here are four easy strategies for nurses to exercise self-care on a regular basis:

  1. Exercising regularly: improves quality of life and increases the stamina necessary for working in many healthcare settings. It will also aid in stress management and the prevention of diabetes and high blood pressure.
  2. Practicing meditation and mindfulness: both provide benefits and helps nurses cope with burnout, anxiety, ongoing stress, and anxiety, and provides a general sense of well-being.
  3. Pack food to take to work: this is particularly useful for people who work 12-hour shifts or don’t have options for nutritious and filling food at work.
  4. Wear compression socks: painful veins or vascular problems are pretty common among nurses from being on their feet all day. Some eventually even require vascular surgery to correct the problem, which can contribute to burnout.

For more information, NurseJournal has a good article on how nurses can combat compassion fatigue.


Barbara is a leading authority and best-selling author on managing burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma. As a nationally recognized keynote speaker, she motivates audiences to build their resilience and create work-life balance. Her programs help leaders and teams manage workplace chronic stressors and get over burnout at work.

Barbara's newest book, "But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide", is available now on Amazon -

• Three weeks prior to giving birth to triplets, her father died by suicide. Her story was featured in the Emmy award winning documentary, Fatal Mistakes, Families Shattered by Suicide narrated by Mariette Hartley. Many employees are grieving personal loss. She offers programs for leaders on lost productivity and performance while managing grief at work.

• As a sought-after keynote speaker who has presented to over 500 groups since 1991, including corporations, state and national associations and non-profit organizations, Barbara offers work-life balance strategies for leaders to implement right away. With clarity and humor, her speaking engagements are designed to give audiences powerful and practical strategies of work-life balance, wellbeing, and self-care that can be implemented immediately.

• Barbara is a Board-Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She received a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Arts degree in community health, with a concentration in thanatology, both from Brooklyn College.


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