Some of the signs and symptoms of nurse practitioner burnout include mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. These are also the 3 pillars of health needed to overcome nurse practitioner burnout.
Many times when nurse practitioners truly become burned out, all three of these pillars are exasperated. If APRNs have one strong pillar, it can offset the others and keep from completely burning out. As nurse practitioners, we know the importance of physical, mental, emotional health. Each of these affects the other pillars.
If you have good physical health, it is likely your mental health and emotional health are reasonable. (Thank you endorphins!) If your mental health is suffering, it makes it very difficult to want to exercise. The goal is to try and do your best with one of these pillars at a time. You will see the impact it plays with the other pillars.
Lets break down each of these 3 pillars of health and determine some ways to utilize these 3 pillars of health to overcome nurse practitioner burnout.
The first of the 3 pillars of health is physical health. By increasing our physical health, we can improve our metal and emotional health. APRNs know the impact exercise has on treating and preventing multiple chronic diseases. We encourage our patients to become more physically active.
But how active are you?
A nurse practitioner in an outpatient/clinic setting rarely has the same amount of physical activity as a RN working in a hospital. It is a tough transition and can damage our mental and emotional health as well.
There are a few ways to increase physical activity such as utilizing a standing desk. I personally use a bedside table, it doesn’t have to be fancy! I also encourage some kind of physical activity over your “lunch break.” I strive to take a 5 to 15 minute walk, preferably outside, every day. It helps me to destress and energize for the afternoon.
And of course, I strongly recommend a structured exercise routine. As nurse practitioners we know the importance of physical activity. However when you are bringing charts home, already behind on patient messages/med refills/reviewing medical documentation, overwhelmed with family life, etc. it can be hard to make time to exercise.
This is why I recommend small changes that can compact one another. Set a goal to start doing 10 minutes of physical activity four days a week. Then slowly add an extra day per week or five minutes to each session. Before you know it you will be getting 30 minutes of physical activity every day and will see how your physical health has improved! Again this does not have to be hard, going for a walk with your family, exercising with a coworker after work, chasing your dog around the park counts!
The second of the 3 pillars of health is mental health. The role of a nurse practitioner is mentally draining. At work, we have to be at the top of our game- patients lives are at steak. Nurse practitioners struggle with decision fatigue. We constantly have to evaluate and decide what the best treatment plan or medication is for the patient.
APRNs constantly struggle with imposter syndrome, doubting our clinical judgements and whether we made the right decision. Nurse practitioners are bombarded by other tasks and things we have to do in addition to seeing patients.
I strongly encourage nurse practitioners to ensure we are allowing ourselves to rest. We need time away from work and give ourselves a break. Nurse practitioners should avoid bringing charts home with them (click to learn how to change your charting)!
Decompress and clear your mind on the drive home. Drop your stress at the front door. We should be allow our bodies and minds time to rest.
We also need to work on completing activities that are energizing. For example, if you are super energized by teaching patients about their diabetic diet, make sure you do this for your patients rather than sending them to a diabetic educator. If you love reading research about a new treatment plan, make sure you allow time in your day to do this.
Choose energizing tasks at home too. If you love to bake, get that apron out and do it! If you enjoy teaching sports, lace up those shoes and volunteer to coach your kids sports team. Life is too short to not do what brings you joy.
The last of the 3 pillars of health is emotional health. Emotional intelligence is the first step to addressing our emotional health. Emotional intelligence means you are aware of your feelings and what is contributing to those feelings.
Nurse practitioners require a high level of emotional intelligence. Many times, we have to keep our own biases away while we treat patients. We should listen to the patient and avoid any preconceived or judge mental thoughts. We have to keep our own emotions in check while we are at work.
But I also think nurse practitioners need time to reflect on their own thoughts. In order to overcome nurse practitioner burnout, we need to realize where our negative thoughts are coming from. If you need help with processing your thoughts and increasing emotional intelligence, I encourage you to seek help. Work with a counselor. Join The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner Facebook group. Hire a burnout coach.
How the 3 Pillars of Health has Impacted my Life
These 3 pillars of health support the other pillars to keep a nurse practitioner strong. If you think about a 3 legged stool, NPs need to build up each of these pillars to keep the stool strong. Once the legs of the stool are built, the other pillars can help support the others. I have seen these 3 pillars of health carry me through my own burnout and continue to prevent a burnout relapse.
The past five months of my life have been super busy. With kids activities, homework, and trying to be a good mom. I’ve also had increased stress at work as we are currently implementing a new charting system. I have been working on growing The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner as I am creating more charting resources for all nurse practitioners. (I’m so excited to share this with you in the upcoming months!!!!).
I am not burned-out because I am now aware of the signs and symptoms. I am aware of the triggers. I know how to prevent burnout and overcome burnout.
I am not burned-out, but I am definitely feeling overwhelmed. I have kept at least one of these 3 pillars of health strong to offset the other two. While my mental clarity and emotional health has taken a toll some days, I have continued the things to maintain my physical health.
I still work out/exercise at least 30 minutes everyday day. Sometimes it’s not much, like a walk with my dog. But I am happy to say I have continued with the physical activity. I have learned how much it helps with my mental sanity.
I have also worked on maintaining my sleep. I know I need seven hours of sleep a night. I don’t always get that when I’m on call, but I do most nights. I have kept these physical health interventions in place and it has helped me to avoid burnout.
I hope you can choose one of these 3 pillars of health and work on implementing habit changes to help you prevent or overcome burnout!
For time management and charting tips, check out The Nurse Practitioner Charting School– The one stop for all documentation resources created specifically for nurse practitioners. Learn more at www.npchartingschool.com
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