We’re almost 2 years into the pandemic and I’m feeling it.
Two years ago, I was scared. I was fearful of getting COVID-19. Scared of my family getting sick from the virus. There were so many unknowns. So many things to worry about. I can still remember the fear.
Almost two years later, there is a different kind of fear and uncertainty.
When. Will. This. End?
As nurse practitioners, we know COVID-19 is not going anywhere. We know we will be testing and immunizing for the rest of our careers. My question is, when will the overwhelm end?
I am not burned out from healthcare. I have been burned out before and it is a dark place to be. I am, however, tired. I am tired of the increased patient load. I am tired of seeing the fear in my patients’ eyes. Tired of not having a perfect answer or treatment plan for my patients. I am tired of the added stress.
Two years into the pandemic and my job has become difficult. I work in a critical access hospital doing primary care and emergency services. I have had multiple instances where I have made dozens of phone calls just to find (or not find) an open hospital bed. I feel like I am failing my patients. Not able to give them the care they deserve. I am tired.
I make the phone calls to larger hospitals begging them to take a critical patient and I hear the stress, the overwhelm, the burnout in my colleagues’ voices. My heart aches for the healthcare providers who constantly show up, day after day, to a hospital or clinic that is continuously understaffed. My heart aches for all the burnout in healthcare right now.
We. Are. Tired.
And I am beginning to question when things will “go back to normal.” I know our healthcare system, our world will never go back to normal. I am just wondering when the exhaustion will end.
While I do not have a good answer of when the added stress and overwhelm will resolve, I would like to share a few pointers to try to ease the burnout for nurse practitioners in these difficult times.
1. Know you are not alone. Look around at your coworkers. How many of them are struggling? Talk to colleagues or healthcare friends about their own struggles with burnout. Join The Burned-out Nurse Practitioner Facebook group, full of equally overwhelmed nurse practitioners. Let us open up and support each other during this difficult time.
2. Figure out what’s important. When you are in survival mode, it is difficult to care for yourself. It is difficult to have time and energy to show up for other people. All you are focused on is surviving. Let us take some time and determine what is important. If you list your family as an important component in your life then focus on that. If you have to throw out some of your 2022 goals, then so be it. Who has the energy to declutter their home when they can barely make it into work? Who has time to cook healthy meals when they’re constantly working overtime? Free yourself from any expectations. Figure out one or two things that are important to you and focus on that.
3. It’s ok to step away. There is no shame in stepping away from healthcare for a while. It is ok to take a break. It’s also ok to leave. If you are so burned out, you can’t function or care for your patients then it’s ok to step away. You don’t have to feel guilty for leaving your cow-workers behind. It is not possible to pour from an empty cup. We have to do what is necessary for our own physical, emotional, and mental health. I have talked to multiple NPs that are so burned out they need to leave healthcare. They are at the point of no return and must make time to care for themselves. Maybe they will return to healthcare in the future, but only time will tell. If this is you, remember it is ok to take care of yourself.
The current status quo of healthcare workers is burnout.
Many nurse practitioners are struggling. Let us choose to be different from the status quo. Let us know we can take control of our lives and do what we have to do to survive. Burnout mode is not a good place to be, especially long term.
What do you need to do to manage the burnout?
Whatever it is, I give you permission.
Due to the rising number of NP burnout in relation to the ongoing pandemic, The Burned-out NP is currently offering $100 off Burnout Bootcamp for Nurse Practitioners. Click for more information!
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