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By March 18, 2009 5 Comments

Nurse Burnout: Recognize the signs


We’ve been doing some research lately about burnout and how it affects nurses. Many nurses today have been working harder and taking extra shifts for various reasons but mainly due to the economy. While all this hard work and overtime can help a family stay afloat, one cannot keep up that pace forever. It’s this pace that unfortunately can lead to burnout.

The economy has placed a lot of stress on facilities as well as families. Facilities/hospitals have not been hiring as they watch their bottom lines closely and are utilizing their perm staff rather than travel nurses to fill extra shifts. The perm staff nurses have been eager to fill the extra shifts where in many cases their spouses may be dealing with a recent layoff from their job. Of course, you can see where this situation can lead: burnout.

Here are some signs to be aware of for yourself and your co-workers. If you can catch the warning signs that burnout present, you’ll be able to “right the ship” and get back to enjoying your work:

  1. Headaches
  2. Overwhelming exhaustion
  3. Persistent sense of fatigue
  4. Digestive problems (e.g., diarrhea, upset stomach)
  5. Insomnia
  6. Dizziness
  7. Loss of appetite
  8. Sudded weight loss or gain
  9. Inability to concentrate
  10. Sadness
  11. Sense of isolation
  12. Looking for excuses to not go to work

If you begin to notice these symtpoms in yourself or others, take them seriously. They could be warning signs of burnout.

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5 Comments on "Nurse Burnout: Recognize the signs"

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  1. A twitter person referred this article saying, “I have all these symptoms, now what?” Most nurses with these sx already know that they are serious, but cannot always remove the sources of the problems. I have been concerned that during this economic job downturn that burned out nurses will find themselves in an even deeper pickle. They have a job! And they will not be so easily able to leave the job to find a new one. Plus they keep hearing from everyone else how fortunate they are to be a nurse! As a burned out registered nurse of 40 years, I often changed jobs or specialties to relieve burnout and find new energy about my work. This approach only goes so far. Sooner or later, the burnout returns……as it has a deeper evolutionary process than just being exhausted by the nature and difficulty of the practice of nursing itself. For a long while I have seen that the “cure” (not a word I am really fond of) for burnout is in the burnout itself. To see this notion as more than a poetic reference, requires openness to an assimilation of holistic views of healing and the healing professions. Burnout can be seen as a sign that “something is afoot” as Sherlock Holmes would say. What I hope is afoot is a major shift in the nursing mind-set of how to practice nursing itself, how to assist with individual healing processes in the persons entrusted to their care without imposing an out-moded, ridgid, often pharmecuetical-oriented, and even now, old fashioned, healthcare system that we continue to refer to as modern medicine. I teach burnout retreats, not so much as a way to heal nurses themselves, but as a way to re-invent the work of the nursing profession. This is a work-in-progress and is a collaborative effort. The answer I would give to the person who says, I already have the symptoms of burnout and want to know what to do next is……….look at what is in front of you at this very moment–in your mind, in your day, in your face–and don’t react in the same old way you have been doing expecting something new to happen. Stop looking outside yourself for the answer, instead look outside for fellow travelers on the burnout road and start up a conversation, but most importantly start exactly where you are right now.

  2. To learn more about the nursing burnout retreats I offer near Sequoia National Park in California, visit I offer this information not as a solicitation but as a service for nurses.

  3. Bret says:

    Thanks for the comments Elsah! Burnout is a hot topic and has been a problem for nurses for many years. Given our current economic situation, I think we may see a rise in burnout due to the scenarios I mention in the article.

    Obviously we now need to follow up this article with some strategies on how to overcome burnout. I’m glad you posted your link. It looks like a great way to rise above burnout.

  4. Linda says:

    What else can we do? Burnout several times and no more energy after 36years?

  5. Bret says:


    Thanks for the comment. I recently wrote an article about “How to beat nursing burnout, part 1” that hopefully can offer you some tips to avoid burnout. I’m also currently working on a post that deals with recovering from burnout that may be of some interest to you.

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